Knowledge Bound: The RSC Blog
Visit the Knowledge Bound Blog regularly for news analysis, editorials and facts about education and financial aid.
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If you were told that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t keep the United States from falling into civil war, didn’t want to free the slaves, created the country’s first income tax and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, you wouldn’t think he was our best president.
But he was.
In other words, it’s difficult to make the right decision without all the information.
The lack of good information is also driving up the cost of college. Families often get only one side of the argument.
Bad Information Affecting the Cost of College
· State schools are cheaper than private colleges. This is usually true, but they also offer less financial aid (as do community colleges). Don’t fall for the sticker price; see how big a discount a college is willing to give you. Apply to state universities and private colleges to see where you get the best deal.
· Any college degree is good. Generally speaking, a college degree will earn you more over the course of a lifetime than no degree, but how much varies by type of degree, college attended, career choice, and region of the country. Do thorough career research – with salary and career projections – to know how much a degree is going to benefit you.
· A college education will pay for itself. This argument encourages students to go deep into debt, taking out tens of thousands in student loans. Hope may spring eternal, but bank accounts don’t. A college education will pay for itself if you plan properly and cut the number of student loans you need. In general, don’t take out more in loans than you can expect to make your first year in the workforce.
· Scholarships will pay for college. Families who believe their student will get a scholarship or great financial aid package typically don’t save enough for college. The truth is, only 6% of students get scholarships and only 0.3% of those pay for everything. And Pell Grants only cover half of what they used to. Don’t count on scholarships to pick up any part of your college tab.
· All I need to do is fill out the FAFSA. The FAFSA is only the first of many forms you need to fill out. There will likely be additional government and college forms, and possibly private lender forms. Relying solely on the FAFSA is a bad idea, and it undercuts the steps you can take to get better financial aid.
Getting Good College Cost Information
Unfortunately, many of the above arguments are put forward by college admissions officers and guidance counselors operating under bad or outdated information. Get accurate information, such as college-cost estimates for every college on your list and thorough college prep strategies that help reduce your total cost of college.
You want to minimize your student loan debt, not make it the cornerstone of paying for college.
Now, there are things driving up the cost of college that you don’t control, like college administrator salaries and state budget cuts, but there are also definite steps you can take to improve your financial aid picture, including getting help from an experienced college prep expert.
In the meantime, let’s hope politicians, administrators and others remember the words of our best president, Abraham Lincoln:
“I view education as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”
Agreed. Now let’s make it affordable.
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