Jessica Hamilton from Marin Magazine parent company Make It Better Media Group recently hosted a virtual event with nationally recognized college cost-reduction expert Gary Sipos, founder of College Cash Solutions (CCS). CCS’s financial planners, licensed counselors and experienced college negotiators specialize in minimizing out-of-pocket college expenses while maximizing the college experience. Here is a recap of Sipos’ presentation, “The Secrets to Reducing Your College Costs.”
On average, students in the US take five-and-a-half years to complete a four-year college program. With the cost of college attendance as high as $80,000 per year at an Ivy League school, the student who graduates in four years can save as much as $100,000.
Lesson #1: Choose the right major
Students who change majors midstream are likely to add additional semesters to their college career. Those who make the college counselor at their high school their best friendmay be better prepared to choose the right major before enrolling and save thousands of dollars.
For the kid who isn’t sure what career path to pursue, there are online tests that identify options. Sipos recommends taking these tests starting in 9th grade and repeating the process each year to better identify interests. This knowledge will help students narrow their college search down to those institutions that can help them achieve their goals.
Lesson #2: Know the cost of attending college
The cost of college attendance (COA) includes more than just tuition and room and board. It’s all the costs associated like books, supplies, travel and personal expenses. The posted sticker price is not necessarily what you’ll pay, but don’t let the numbers intimidate you. With the US government allocating $181 billion dollars for scholarships and grants to the 3,700 colleges throughout the country, financial aid is available to just about every student.
There are two types of financial aid: gift aid in the form of scholarships and grants, which is essentially free money, and self-help, that is, loans and work/study. The goal is to get more gift aid, so you don’t need the self-help. Complete the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application online to determine how much aid your student qualifies for.
Lesson #3: Lower your EFC to give your student a bigger award
EFC is Expected Family Contribution — what the government expects your family to contribute to paying for college. It’s based on parents’ ages, income and assets like real estate, small business and stocks. Make the EFC as small as possible to make the financial aid award as big as possible. To determine the value of your home and real estate investments use the FHFA HPI Calculator.
Lesson #4: Colleges with higher tuition may not cost more
The actual cost of college depends on the size of the financial aid award. A higher priced school may have the resources to offer more financial aid than a school with a lower tuition. It’s all negotiable if you’re prepared and know what questions to ask.
Lesson #5: Consult a financial advisor
Work with a financial advisor to help find strategies to use to determine the value of your assets including your home, business and savings. Sipos is offering a one-hour exploratory meeting to discuss ways to lower your EFC. Book a meeting here.