April 14, 2021

Paying for College

Paying for college is kind of mindblowing. Based on our high school senior’s “Target List”, she is looking at annual college expenses (that’s tuition, room & board) of $24,700 for the in-state University, on up to $52,000 for the out-of-state private school. Per year! Times 4 years. Or maybe 5 (which seems to be pretty common these days). YIKES!

For those of us with high school seniors, our window for Saving for College has closed. Right now it’s all about taking advantage of every break. To do that, you probably need some help because this stuff is complicated!

College Financial Aid Basics

First, you need to know something about how the system works. I found this at the on-line magazine Suite101.com:  “Colleges do not exist from students making full tuition payments. They can’t because most students cannot afford to pay full tuition…The federal government has a formula in place to equalize the availability of college to everyone. The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, decides what a family can afford to pay for college. The college dips into its investment funds to offer grants and scholarships to fill in the gap. The sliding scale that the FAFSA provides is how so many students and families can afford college.”

Help with College FINANCIAL Planning

Filling out the FAFSA is complicated with a lot of the information coming from your 1040 (which you will want to file in January so that you can complete the FAFSA on time). The tricky part is what counts against you –what assets of yours are added up to determine how much you should be paying for college. We got a little help with this part. There are a lot of college planners around. I had heard mostly about the ones who strictly focus on helping your child pick their schools and complete their applications. We were more in need of someone who knows the ins and outs of paying for college.

College Planning Source here in San Diego has actually helped us in both areas by first working with our student to focus in on areas of interest, career goals and then schools with the best programs to help her meet those goals — all of this without parental intervention, which is, no doubt, why it has worked so well. With the target schools list, our counselor, Michelle, took our financial information and used her expertise and software tools to calculate our Expected Family Contribution (EFC) at each of the schools. There it was in black and white with tears all over. But there was hope. She was also able to give us really specific historical information for each target school about how much aid they give and what form it takes– grants (don’t pay back), loans and work/study. Looking better……

Next she had some tips on how to get our EFC down even further, by changing some of our assets from the kind that count against us to the kind that don’t count at all. Better still.

Don’t Miss The New Tax Credit for College Students

And just this week, she sent me an email about a new higher-education tax credit, which was part of the stimulus bill signed into law in February. We could get $2,500 for EACH KID right off our taxes next year. We don’t even have to fill out any extra financial-aid applications to get the new money — just file our tax return. Get more info about this one here!

The point is, paying for college is a tremendous feat and a lot of us are paying more than we need to. Negotiating all the ins and outs of what we are eligible for can be a full-time occupation. If your time is already pretty booked, look for some help. It may be well-worth the investment. Make sure your college counselor is a member of the National Association of College Funding Advisors and/or the National Institute of Certified College Planners.



  1. Beware of going outside of the coglele student loan programs for assistance. The financial aid people are there to assist you for a reason. The school wants you to attend and will do everything to help you finance it. The other kind-hearted appearing people who are willing to help you outside of the school system are out to rip you off. It is all a scam. Remember: If it is too good to be true, then it is too good to be true.

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