How do I pay for College?

“What Having 8 Children Has Taught Me About College Financial Aid” – By Kirk Ashburn

As a financial professional I deal with hard economic realities every day. That starts at home with the potential million-dollar plus cost to provide a college education to my own 8 children. As a result I have become extensively educated in all the intricacies of financial aid and subsequently have made it one of the core services I provide for my clients with children… Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

The points that follow may seem counter-intuitive. As a result, year after year, billions of dollars go unclaimed by parents and students who could profit from them because they didn’t understand the rules that would allow them to qualify. So keep an open mind…

Here are just 3 of the many critical issues you must understand and address:

The most important decision is the first. To make the first decision the question you must ask, (and the one that guides everything else) is; should my child be going to school now?
I know that sounds like heresy, but hear me out. Many of our country’s greatest successes either delayed their education till they were ready, or never got a degree. A couple examples would be Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, so let’s not pooh-pooh the validity of the question.
To make an informed choice you must begin with the end in mind, which is, what does your child see him/herself doing as a career. Once that path has been identified, all the other choices such as timing and major can fall into place, with due consideration for financial concerns. But the question must be asked and considered…
Research on colleges can provide statistics on the best schools for each vocation. Then you just look for the schools with the most financial aid and the best chance for a successful job search after graduation. This will lead to more acceptance letters and, happily, too more potential aid sources.

Private schools are expensive and public universities will save you money… OR NOT. Assumption: All schools are created equal and will give you the same amounts of money.
Reality: All schools are NOT created equal and will not be able to give you the same financial aid packages. Some private schools have huge endowments and get vast sums from alumni and corporations. These schools have more money to give out and are generally able to meet most or all of a student’s financial need while they are in attendance.
Other schools, like state universities, get no private funds and rely solely on state and federal funds to help fill a student’s need at their school. It can actually end up costing you more to send your child to a “cheaper” school if they don’t have the money to meet your need.
It is very important that you know each school’s history of giving money before you ever apply so you’re not blown away when you get a bad financial aid package from your child’s top choice. With this knowledge you can actually negotiate for the aid your student should be getting. (This is an area where having professional assistance can really pay off)

The big lie. Most middle and upper-middle class parents assume they won’t be eligible for financial aid because they own a home and make of $100,000 per year. This practically qualifies as an urban myth…
There are over 130 billion dollars available each year from the Federal Government, the states, colleges, universities, private foundations and other organizations. Much of it never gets used, but you have to know how to get your “fair share”. Unfortunately, most parents give up before they even start, which is sort of by design.
Don’t believe the lie! If you fall into this category, make sure you apply; you’ll probably be eligible for some money.

There are several other key points that guide this process to a successful outcome. Most of them affect students on an individual basis, and make very dull reading, but they’re definitely things you must know.

Get all the answers.

Because we’ve helped thousands of students and parents with their financial aid packages we have developed a 20-minute process to determine what kind of assistance, if any, we can offer.
Once you have completed this call, you will have all the information you need to decide whether you will benefit from individualized professional assistance or if you can successfully go it alone.

The one thing that I want for every student (including my eight) is that they dream big!

About the author:

Kirk Ashburn has developed a separate and specialized body of knowledge on what makes for success in college planning, retirement planning, tax-free income planning and wealth accumulation. Kirk lives with his lovely wife Priscilla and his eight children in the Chicago area. When he’s not obsessing over the outrageous cost of higher education he likes to go fishing, boating and hiking with his army.

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