Concerns About College Cost: How to Find Relief

By Jessica Brauser, M.A., LSW

Concerns About College Cost: How to Find Relief

My physical therapist casually asked me what I do as she pressed her hands into my injured muscles. “College and graduate school consulting,” I replied. “Families hire me for all different reasons to help their son or daughter apply to school.”

“You have daughters, right?” I remembered from three years ago when she spoke about her kids in a Yoga class that she taught.

“Yes, two. The oldest is in 7th grade.”

I tried to abate her concerns. “So, you have at least five years before you need to think about college admissions.”

“No, I still worry about it now,” she said. “I’m scared of how much it costs.”

She need not say more. I understood what she meant because I work with so many families applying to college or graduate school. Nearly 85% of the cases involve some question or concern about money. Parents, and students, wonder, “Is it worth it to put so much money into a school?” “Can I afford it?” “How am I going to do this?”

I listened to her story about how she and her husband have savings but felt overwhelmed by the process. I told her about a New York Times article from earlier this year that investigated merit scholarships at five different colleges in the Boston area.

As my Physical Therapist pushed and prodded my muscles, I explained that college is much like buying a car; there is a sticker price on its window. You know you have to buy (or lease) a car, but there are so many cars and dealerships to consider. Colleges know this, and they want to be the one to sell you THEIR car.

I took a breath, and my PT seemed to gain inspiration. “Wow,” she said, “I’m saving your phone number. It’s a complicated process, and it’s nice to have someone who understands it.” It was a nice compliment, but it’s true. Admissions and tuition are complicated, but if you know how to work its muscles, you can get a lot of relief. 😉

So here are some thoughts and tips to consider when you are  feeling overwhelmed by the price of college tuition:

  1. Things change. Five years from now, who knows what university and college education will cost.
  2. Tuition price is just an estimate. It’s a starting point for the maximum a college will charge for admission. There are many incentives that universities employ to sweeten the deal to encourage you to enroll.
  3. You can negotiate academic college and graduate school scholarship. If you receive more than one merit scholarship offer, you can use that information to leverage a better deal from your preferred school.
  4. Assess your local colleges and universities. Sometimes going far from home means going to a far more expensive school. Could you take courses locally and still achieve your same goal?
  5. You can save money on university credits. You could graduate early by taking credits at a cheaper, more local (see above) university. Did you know that you can take nearly a quarter to half of your undergraduate credits elsewhere? Each school has a policy about what credits they will accept, so make sure you check first before you try to transfer credits!
  6. Consider graduate school. Which school will give you the better value? Undergraduate or graduate? Undergraduate could look good on your resume, but graduate school can open doors for your longer-term career goals. However, graduate schools are inconsistent with funding, and undergraduate is more lavish. I’ve helped many pre-med and pre-law students get accepted to top-tier, ultra-selective universities, and ultimately the student chose their state university for in-state tuition.
  7. If nothing else, take a deep breath. You or your kid might be the next Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, or Ellen DeGeneres- and he or she will drop out of college – or maybe never go at all!

If you have concerns about college cost and how to find relief, for your convenience, College Connections works with the most experienced and knowledgeable financial planners. If you would like to speak with someone who really understands MONEY and ADMISSIONS, give us a call.