2017 Education Magazine

Financing a college education
By Angela Reiners

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[March 16, 2017]  Financing a college education can seem challenging since the cost of education has risen so high. The College Board says, "The average cost of tuition and fees for the 20162017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities."

When looking into financing a college education, it is good to look at many different options besides taking out student loans that may leave the student in debt for many years.

Director of Financial Aid at Lincoln Christian University Nancy Siddens says, "It is true that the cost of higher education has risen at a higher percentage than the cost of living over the last decade, but don't let the 'sticker price' alarm you as there are grants, scholarships, student loans, and savings plans that will reduce the cost that a family has to pay when a student starts college."

Jack Getchel, who worked in the financial office at Lincoln Christian University for many years, said it is better to try to avoid taking out student loans when possible.

Getchel said it is also important to know the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. With the subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest while the student is in college or when the loan is deferred. With an unsubsidized loan, interest starts accruing as soon as the loan is taken out.

When considering savings plans for college, note that it can take many years to save up the amount needed for college.

Siddens says, "If your children are young, I recommend looking into a college savings plan, such as the College Illinois 529 prepaid tuition program. They have options for attending a community college or a university. At any age, you can become a member of Upromise, where you earn cash back for college by buying groceries, eating out, and shopping."

Mark Kantrowitz of Money magazine says a 529 savings plan can help you save for at least a portion of the costs. Kantrowitz says, "If you can manage it, aim for saving enough to cover at least one-third of future college costs. For a child born this year, that means saving $250 a month from birth for future enrollment in a public four-year college."

The college savings plan is a good idea, but not always feasible. Getchel says many do not think about saving until their kids are in high school.

It is also important to realize there are fees associated with these plans and any money withdrawn from the plan and not used for education expenses will have a tax penalty.

For those who have not been able to save, there are many scholarships you can apply for.

Siddens says, "If your child is in high school, start looking for scholarships. Contact the financial aid office at the colleges you are interested in attending to see what they have available." She says "Most of the area high schools have a list of scholarships. Check with your employer. If you are a religion major, even the church that you attend might have scholarships."

Siddens also says, "There are online scholarship sites where you can enter your personal information and they will email you scholarships that are available. One reputable site is fastweb.com." Fast web offers information on scholarships, financial aid, student loans and more.

Bridget Schneider, a Certified Financial Planner with Level Four Wealth Management in Lincoln has talked to many people about saving for college education. Schneider says, savingforcollege.com is a good website she has directed many people to. The site has links to 529 plans, college savings 101, college planning, and some financial aid basics on both self-help and gift aid.

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Schneider says, "Financial planning and starting early is important. It is good to work with a professional on creating a financial plan for short and long-term goals. It will help you have a clearer picture of where you are going and how you will get there. Working with a Certified Financial Planner professional can give you peace of mind."

Schneider also says, "If you have goals for saving for your child's college education, working with a financial planner may be helpful."

Schneider says not all scholarships are based on academic performance, but it requires a lot of work to find these scholarships. They might have some unique requirements, so Schneider says to start early in looking into these scholarships.

Filling out a financial aid application is important for those who are getting ready to enter college.

Siddens says, "Every student attending college will want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid which will determine their eligibility for federal and state grants. The FAFSA can be completed as early as October 1 for the next academic year. For example, if a student will begin college in August 2018, complete the FAFSA as early as October 1, 2017."

Completing the FAFSA will be helpful for knowing your options for financing your college education and for how much aid you may be eligible.

As Siddens says, "Don't assume that going to college will be too expensive for your family. Check out all your options."


Read all the articles in our new
2017 Education Magazine

Introduction:  Massive transitions in education 4
STEM:  Academics and practical experiences inspire students 7
First grade can be fun while building dexterity, practical concepts, language and technology skills 8
NH-M 88:  Moving to the 'Maker Movement' 10
The future is now! 14
Students explore 'Food Safety' 19
New Renewable Energy course a practical fit for Logan County Students 21
New Forensics class will spark greater interest in the sciences 24
Great teachers:  Kathy Stoyak and her work with the LCHS Foreign Language Department 26
Not for everybody:  A home-schooling primer for the rest of us 30
The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) brings summer STEM Enrichment Programs to Springfield 39
ADI provides national leadership in education 42
Financing a college education 46


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