Paying for College

April 16, 2015

Whether or not your student got into the school of choice, figuring out to pay for college is probably still on the list of things to do. I recently got an email from a group that claims to have a scholarship search engine. I went to the website, but found it difficult to maneuver and it did not seem to produce much. Check it out yourself at www.OutsideScholarships.org.

Several noteworthy scholarships were mentioned in the email and I will share them here:

2015 Society of Women Engineers Scholarships:
http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/scholarships#activePanels_

NSHSS Foundation STEM Scholarships:
http://nshssfoundation.org/scholarships/stem-scholarships/

2015 Green Home Improvement Scholarship:
http://www.homeadvisor.com/r/scholarships/

2015 Business Management Scholarships:
http://www.businessmanagementdegree.com/scholarships/

DIY Home Repair Scholarship:
http://www.improvenet.com/scholarships/home-repair

American Psychological Association Scholarships, Grants, and Awards:
http://www.apa.org/about/awards/

FinAid.org:
http://www.finaid.org/

The last one, FinAid, is one of the popular scholarship sites, but the others are specific. Good luck!

May 22, 2012

Vanguard hosted a Webcast today called “College Savings 101.” The two speakers, Michael Corr, a senior manager for Vanguard’s Education Savings Group, and Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author and speaker on college savings and higher education, presented some great information. Their underlying messages were understand your options, start saving now, and don’t be sidetracked by the sticker price of college. College is financially doable if you take the time and make the effort to educate yourself.

 I basically say the same thing in Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able? But today’s Vanguard discussion offered great tips. One of the best places to start is on the College Board’s Web site, which offers so much college information that it will take a few days to view it all. The Web site directs you to information on FASFA, scholarships, cost calculations, and much more.

 O’Shaughnessy explained that, as of last year, colleges and universities are now required to post a “net price calculator” on their Web sites (College Board also offers a net price calculator). The calculators vary from school to school—some take just a couple of minutes, others require you to pull out information from your last tax return and other details. O’Shaughnessy said that the more time consuming the calculator, the more accurate it is. But the point is that the calculation will give you a decent estimate of the net cost of a particular school. With that information, you and your student can make a realistic list of school possibilities.

 But long before you start using the net price calculators, Corr’s advice to parents is to start saving now—no matter what the age of your child. For every dollar you save now, that is one less you have to borrow or come up with in the future. Corr recommends 529 accounts as the best college savings tool available. The 529 accounts usually require only a small initial deposit to open (some as small as $25), has no contribution limits, and are tax free as long as they are used for qualified post-secondary education expenses, which includes room and board, and, new this year, computers.

There are, of course, other college savings options that parents should research. I recommend you carefully consider the options and get advice from a financial planner or two before choosing which option is best for you.

 While some of us have savings for college, most of the time the student will need additional financial aid, whether it is scholarships and grants, or loans. Again, this will take research and advice from financial experts. Federal Stafford loans are best to secure because once the student graduates, the repayment schedule is based on that student’s income. No job—no payment.

 Stafford loans, however, are limited and may not be enough to cover all a student’s needs. If that is the case, students and parents may need to turn to private lending institutions, which while may offer a low interest rate, has more stringent repayment schedules. Again, check out the options, get advice from a financial expert, and apply to more than one loaning institution to compare rates and get the best deal.

 Check out the College Board at www.collegeboard.org.