College is outrageously expensive. And it will only get more expensive by the time your kids are ready to apply. Here are some of the ways in which we can help you save on and for the cost of college.
Although we don’t sell or manage 529 plans, we can help current clients evaluate the options. We consider the Utah’s Educational Savings Plan, my529, the standard. my529 offers investment options from Vanguard and Dimensional Fund Advisors. And it has among the lowest fees in the 529 industry. You can open a my529 account directly, which means that an investment advisor isn’t necessary (if you do need help, we are an approved my529 advisor, which means that we can help open an account for you as well). By comparing my529 to the quality of investments, total fees, and tax credit offsets of your state’s 529, we can determine which plan is in your best interest. Despite the initial tax advantages, your state’s plan may not always be the best choice. To learn more, schedule a free consultation or visit my529.
EFC, Expected Family Contribution
The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) usually determines a student’s financial aid eligibility. Most schools use the information reported on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to calculate the EFC. Generally, a student with a lower EFC will qualify for more need-based financial aid (Need = Total College Cost – EFC). Consider the EFC the minimum that you’ll probably have to pay for college. Most schools do not meet the full need.
It’s important to get an idea of what the student’s family will be expected to contribute in order to plan better for covering the cost. There may be strategies to help minimize this value by the time you actually apply for financial aid. When it’s time for you to submit your FAFSA (and in some cases the CSS PROFILE), you will find out what your actual EFC is. To get an estimate of your EFC now, start with The College Board’s EFC calculator.
Your Custom College List
If your student gets accepted to Harvard, Stanford, or The University of Chicago, it is a wonderful achievement. These schools rank among the best in the world. However, they are extremely expensive. If they don’t qualify for aid, does it make sense for your child to graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, potentially burdening them with student loan payments into their 30s or even 40s? Of course, how long it takes them to pay off their debt does depend in part on the expected earning potential of their major. Some estimates suggest that you shouldn’t take on more student loan debt than your expected first year salary after you graduate.
To help your selection process, we can generate a list of about 50-100 schools most likely to meet a family’s financial situation. In this list we include the in-state schools and the student’s choice schools, then add additional schools that meet the student’s academic and social requirements. The idea is to expand the list of colleges families consider in order to improve their chances for merit aid. It’s based on the family’s income and the student’s academic standing. The list will include best bets for merit and need aid and the average net cost to attend each school, which is usually drastically different from the advertised cost of tuition. Sometimes one of the private schools actually ends up being cheaper than the public options.