July 24, 2013

Is Education Reserved for the Wealthy?

Special to Role Reversal
Lael De Boer

Far before your student ever receives their high school diplomas, they are dreaming of getting in to the perfect college with its academic reputation, beautiful campus facilities, and amazing athletic teams. The acceptance letter used to be the only worry clouding that dream, but now the piggybank is beginning to
overshadow this concern with an even greater one: How will you afford college?

Photo credit: Phase3Profit.net
College tuition and expenses have risen drastically over the past thirty years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average yearly tuition has risen from $9000 to the current price tag of $21,657.  While tuition has risen greatly, the average amount of financial aid remains below $8000. This gap between the expensive bills and the available aid is creating a generation of college graduates with enormous college debt and high school students without much hope.

Those with mutual funds and mansions may be able to afford the rising costs, but as we have watched the cost of a college education rise more than more than ten times what it was 35 years ago (Bloomberg), the rest of us are beginning to wonder if education is becoming unreachable for the average citizen. 

Preserving Your Chance at Higher Education
For those of you who have been depending on student loans to pay for college, the latest events in Congress should be of great concern to you. Until July 1st, interest rates on student loans remained at 3.4%, but due to the inaction of Congress, loan rates just doubled to 6.8%. This additional burden is placing higher education further out of reach for many.

Education Week reports that student advocacy groups are looking for a one-year extension of the lower rate, but this is only a short-term fix. For those of us who want to see long-term change, it is time to get involved in the political scene, even if it is simply sending a letter to your representative urging them to take action on this issue. Politicians need to start moving towards a comprehensive solution.

Still, college and exorbitant bills are approaching quickly for many, and parents and students are desperately searching for ways to make it more affordable. With the new interest rate in mind, the best way to pay for college involves avoiding loans. Chelsea Watkins outlined some of the best steps for funding a college education without creating debt in a recent interview. The most important points boil down to being prepared, being educated on what is available, and putting your best foot forward.

1. Start Accruing Money Now – No matter where you go to college, having money saved up will help when those bills arrive. However, instead of simply saving for college, start accruing money by placing your college savings in accounts that will grow that money. Similar to how a college loan would cost you more in the long-run through interest payments, placing money in accounts like 529s, Roth IRAs, and Dividend Paying Whole Life Insurance will make you more money overtime by gathering interest, meaning you’ll end with more money than what you started with. 

2. Understand Financial Aid – The amount of aid that colleges and the government will provide depends greatly on your EFC and the college’s % of Need Met. Your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) is the amount of money that the family is expected to pay for their student’s education. This number is calculated by examining the students and parents’ income and assets. Your “need” is than determined by taking the Cost of Attendance for an education institution and subtracting your EFC. Colleges vary in the amount of need they meet. Attending an institution with a higher % of Need Met means that you will receive more financial aid and will pay less out of your own pocket.

3. Put Your Best Foot Forward—Colleges determine their financial aid packages around a variety of factors besides need. Students already know that grades and their entrance exam scores affect their acceptance into college, but should remember that these factors also affect their financial aid awarding. Colleges also examine the strength of students’ applications. Doing what you can to ensure a stellar application and entrance essay will make colleges want you, thereby making them offer more aid in order to secure your

Lael De Boer writes for Launch Education, studies English Language Arts and writes everything from research papers and literary analyses to creative fiction. She is an avid proponent of proper English grammar usage and has become a keen editor from years of academic proofreading.

Don't miss Mark's book ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, now available in the ASCD store, Barnes & Noble and at Amazon.com