Money and College
This subject is about what happens beyond home school or Christian school. Nevertheless, it is or will be a subject of great interest to many sooner or later. I’ll have some things to say about comparative costs and some of the alternatives.
Education is not cheap, but neither is ignorance. The price of learning comes high, but a lack of learning has a lifetime of negative economic ramifications. One cost to the student not generally considered is the time spent in class and in study. The time factor is worth a discussion but will not be taken up here.
The cost most of us think about is the money out of pocket for an education. This money usually goes for tuition, books, supplies and so forth. Teachers have to eat and live; buildings need to be heated and kept up. Administrative costs for keeping records and managing personnel and facilities add to the costs. Secondary costs such as transportation and clothing as well as money for various school related activities also must be added in.
Higher education costs are poised to go through the roof. The Wall Street Journal estimates that the four year cost of a college degree in the year 2000 will be $53,290 in a state school assuming the student is a resident of that state; a private school education will cost $112,451 for the four year tour. Estimates for ten years beyond that are $95,434 and $201,382 respectively. I seriously question if the costs are in line with the value of the education to be received. Certainly the institutions concerned will have all kinds of reasons why the costs are so high. I would guess they can even come up with reasons why the costs should be higher.
So what is a parent to do? Do you start saving now to meet the expense? Do you hope for financial aid? Do you pray for a benefactor to emerge from somewhere? Let’s look at some of the possibilities.
Saving is great, but it takes time and money to do so. If you set up a plan right now to generate the $95K needed for the state school in the year 2010, you would have to put away $308 per month and make an 8% return per year to have that kind of money available when the time comes. Of course, that is just for one student, and it projects 14 years into the future. Having a savings plan is excellent, but a family of four or five probably doesn’t have the assets and income to handle it. Reality is a factor.
What about financial aid? Informed sources say it is going to be tougher to come by. The well is drying up, and the number of competitors is increasing. Perkins loans are for the very needy, and only a few qualify and receive them. Stafford loans are more widely available, but the maximum an undergraduate can borrow is $17,125 over the four years. Personal home loans are now widely used by parents who have no where else to turn for the money.
Rich uncles seem to be rather scarce these days, but organizations and foundations do have lots of money for scholarships. Such scholarships can be quite helpful, but parents and students need to get that ball rolling early on. Some independent businesses exist to put students and potential scholarships into contact with one another. I used one for my daughter; we found about forty or so possible sources of scholarship money which she could qualify for. Of course, it is up to the family to follow up on such leads. Usually there are forms to fill out and essays to write, but the payoffs can be very fruitful. The best advice is for this procedure to begin early in the junior year of high school.
At this juncture we should ask if it is necessary or even desirable for your child to go on to college. Only you can answer that question. Some jobs require a college degree; that’s all there is to it. If your son or daughter wants to enter such a profession, then higher education is a must. Career choices definitely play a big role here.
Many jobs do not require a college education. The trend to home based businesses, consulting work, and downsizing in the corporate world seems to be loosening the criteria somewhat. Degrees and educational background still count for much today, so don’t totally discount higher educational experience.
The big news is that the traditional degrees can be obtained in non-traditional ways. The first two years and much of the basics can generally be obtained via the local community college or junior college. Living at home and paying minimal tuition costs vastly reduce the four year price tag. CLEP tests and ACT/PEP exams can also bring in credits cheaply; these tests are held across the country and don’t cost much relative to the savings if the student does well on them.
Correspondence schools and electronic classes via the internet, video, and cable TV can reduce the costs even more. John Bear has a couple of good books on the subject of non-traditional degrees and schools. Go to your local library and check them out. Think creatively about how you and your children will solve the college question.
MORE ON MONEY & COLLEGE
The article in the last newsletter regarding money and college sparked a number of responses. Since then I have done some follow up research and am including it below.
One question which came up a few times asked where the scholarship information for my daughter came from. The local contact has long gone out of business, but the information came from the American Educational Assistance Council. In 1989 they were located at 1601 Saratoga-Sunnyvale Rd, Department 11, Cupertino, CA 95014. I have no idea if they are still in business at that address.
For those of you who have internet access, there is now a web site which will help you do a scholarship search. That address is http://www.fastWEB.com – it stands for Financial Aid Search Through the WEB. This a free service that tells parents & students about scholarships & loans. According to my information, it takes about 10 minutes to fill out the online profile. They claim the search engine accesses a database of about 200,000 financial awards. After the search, it puts whatever information was found in the student’s e-mailbox at the web site.
Another area which I neglected to pursue in the previous article was AP courses. Ranell Curl, a home school provider in the Eugene, OR, area sent me the information which follows.
“I have done a considerable amount of research on inexpensive ways to gain college credit without attending college and have been most impressed with Advanced Placement exams. Although slightly more expensive than CLEP — $67/AP vs. $40/CLEP — it appears there are many more support programs available to prepare a student to take the AP exams. For example, Saxon’s Physics course is prep for the AP Physics’ exam. There are a myriad of other independent study programs (Barron’s is one of the largest publishers of these, with the College Board even having some). Some public high schools will allow home schoolers to come and attend their AP classes (50% of the high schools in the US are said to participate in AP), while others will allow them to come in just for the actual exams in May. The 4J school district has many AP courses on the internet (cost is about $300/course), as do some other public & private institutions. One of the Christian schools in Lane County has agreed to become a test site for home schoolers. They are going to make their high school US History course and some others into AP courses/exam preps; students can then enroll in the classes or simply sign up to take the May AP exams. The College Boards sent me samples of many of their course descriptions (cost is $12), & they are quite detailed. The other thing I discovered about AP is that it carries with it a certain recognition of academic excellence. CLEP appears to be thought of more as an alternative way for older people to obtain college credits whereas AP is for the bright highschool student who is academically superior and ready for the collegiate challenge. Passing AP exams actually raise a student’s GPA; last year one northern California student received a four year scholarship to Oxford with her 4.3 GPA, & that was a result of AP credit.”
Again, if you have access to the internet, there is a site set up by home schoolers for home schoolers which is doing AP courses over the net. This site is maintained by a statewide Pennsylvania home school group; find them at http://www.pahomeschoolers.com and see what courses they currently offer. More are being developed and added each semester. They will give you all the necessary details. (Note: this was written in 1997, so obviously some of the numbers will have changed over time.)
March 3, 2014 / Frode / 0