Author Topic: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?  (Read 19925 times)

onequietbreath

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Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« on: January 01, 2015, 11:52:46 AM »
We have two children, ages 15 and 13.  For some reason, I cannot find any real information on what colleges will expect you to pay based on your income, and how to do that without borrowing money.

When I went to college, my family had saved $4000, and when I chose to go to a more expensive institution, I had to declare financial independence and fund everything myself.  (And even though I had to take out loans, I made it all the way through graduate school without a crushing amount of debt, and my family didn't borrow anything).

I think you now have to be 25 to declare financial independence, so that plan is out the window.

Our combined income is around $63,000.  We put a good part of that into retirement savings.  (A company match, plus an extra $200 a month in a supplemental retirement account).  Last year, we managed to pay off the house, and we have no debt whatsoever, and I never want to have any further debt.

I had hoped to plow most of what we had been paying on the mortgage into a beefier emergency fund and into a savings account for the kids' college expenses.  Admittedly, so far, we just loosened up a little bit on our budget, which had been draconian.  Right now, I have a little over $500 in a Betterment account, (55% stocks, 45% bonds).  We're thinking of trying to save $200 a month for each child in our state's 529 account.

However, none of that adds up to much money.  One website I visited calculated we should save $600,000 in the next four years.  That is clearly impossible even if we lived by dumpster diving.  My daughter, on the other hand, was researching Harvard, and, according to their calculations, our parental contribution would be $0 based on our income. 

I know the truth is somewhere in between for most institutions, but I can't find any real-world calculations for our position.

I absolutely do not want to borrow money, and I would prefer our children not have to borrow much.

Will college's view the equity in our house as a resource to be tapped?  That concerns me.

If we have an ample emergency fund, (my goal is $25,000).  Will that look like a pool of money we can use for college to colleges, or will that look like we have a good emergency fund - good for us!

I really don't understand how colleges look an income and assets and how best to help our children while protecting our debt free position.  (At this point, our daughter - the 15 year old - has her heart set on going to one of the United World Colleges in Europe the year after next, and I believe that graduates from their I.B. program are provided free tuition at many colleges, so she might not be much of a worry, though she's working herself to death to keep her grades way up).

I know Mr. Money Mustache is talking about having his son pay for college, but I don't think the system allows you to simply opt out as a parent - or do they?

Thanks for any help, particularly from people going through paying for college now.

I'll add that one of the current benefits at the college where we work is free tuition for our kids, and 50% tuition at comparable or less expensive colleges.  (The current tuition I think is around $52,000 a year, and that might be a taxable benefit).  Neither of the kids particularly want to go there, which is why my daughter is working her ass off to be competitive to get in somewhere else and be well-funded with scholarships, etc.)

I'm also possibly switching to full time in the time frame before the kids start college.  I was the at-home-dad for twelve years, and I've been a part-time at-home-dad, part-time worker, for the past three.  If I began working full-time, our combined income would be closer to $90,000, though at present, it seems more cost effective to have someone who has the free time to do the work needed to keep a house running frugally.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 12:00:22 PM by onequietbreath »

MDM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2015, 02:06:05 PM »
onequietbreath, welcome to the forums.

For the federal view, you could try https://fafsa.ed.gov/FAFSA/app/f4cForm?execution=e1s1 to get a rough idea.  Google  fafsa calculators  for similar sites.

Individual colleges will vary, particularly with regard to merit-based scholarships.

You mention "the college where we work" - might be worth buying lunch for someone in the financial aid office there and asking your questions there.

Good luck!

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2015, 02:30:42 PM »
Any money you have in non-retirement accounts will be counted against you when you apply for financial aid.  So, it may behoove you to do most of your saving in IRAs or 401ks until the kids get out of college.

Your daughter is on the right track by working hard to pursue merit scholarships.  I've known a few kids from very humble means who got free rides at some very prestigious colleges by going that route.  It's almost like it's easier for poor and lower middle class kids to afford big-name schools than it is for kids who come from financially sound households.  My son had stellar grades in high school, but he didn't get shit for scholarships or financial aid because we had a decent 529 account and six figures worth of savings in a taxable account.

I encourage you (and your kids) to take a second look at the college where you work.  Free tuition is hard to beat.  Also, check out state-run schools, which are a whole lot more affordable than private colleges.  Try to get your kids to think in terms of what they want to study, then think of all the options for pursuing that field of study.  Sometimes kids get fixated on particular schools because of prestige, social scene, a friend goes there, or some other reason that isn't related solely to academics.  Your kids need to know that if they want to go to an expensive school, they will be responsible for getting their own free ride.

GizmoTX

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2015, 03:43:31 PM »
There is no way our family qualifies for need-based scholarships or aid, but DS was awarded nearly half the tuition & fee costs at his private university for 4 years, dependent upon a B average or better & full time status. This allowed it to compete with the state school he was also considering.

Find out how much aid each school can offer in general. Some stipulate need only, while others have up to 85% of the student body receiving some sort of financial aid because they're heavily supported by alumni.

Apply early -- applications to be considered for scholarships usually have a much earlier deadline than the final cutoff.

I like the idea of doing the core courses at your free local college for 2 years & then transferring to the more prestigious school to get the degree. This is half the price & a much better option than massive student debt. A lot can change in the first 2 years, especially if a student isn't sure of the major.

In the Dallas area, students with high test scores & good grades can attend high school at a local community college & graduate with an associate (2 year) college degree at the same time. The local community colleges also coordinate courses with a specialized curriculum such as engineering, allowing a full transfer to finish the remaining 2 years at a 4 year university. Either way, 2 years saved at considerably lower cost.

« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 07:48:49 PM by GizmoTX »

mozar

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2015, 05:53:05 PM »
Taking community college classes or at the school you work at to get credits so your daughter can enter as a junior would save a lot of money.  Does she have leadership experience for her extra curriculars? One of the reasons I got into my fancy private school (besides good grades, perfect scores on my AP tests, and a great personal essay) was that I was the co-founder and president of my high school gay straight alliance. Is she in any unusual sports? I know that Harvard is always looking for rowers. Can you send her to study abroad (rotary has scholarships), or can she start and manage her own business? Most kids don't think of all that they just focus on grades. Especially for your son. Boys rarely do extra curriculars so it would easily help your son stand out.
Other than that about 60k a year is low compared to what other parents of prestigious university applicants make, so you will likely get some aid. They should also consider living off campus.
For me I was really stupid and I didn't even apply to any scholarships and financial aid only covered half. I ended up owing 135k which I could have easily avoided. There are SO many scholarships available, for the most random things. Anyways, I sacrificed for 5 years and paid all my loans off. So if you already are teaching your kids the ways of the mustachian then they will probably be fine.

There is also a website for ROI for the top 500 colleges and Harvard isn't at the top. It also matters what you major in. If you major in English at Harvard you are not going to get the max ROI but if your daughter gets a full scholarship to study engineering at Harvey Mudd or MIT she will be much better off. And keep those grades up in college!

SailAway

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2015, 06:17:00 PM »
I'll add that one of the current benefits at the college where we work is free tuition for our kids, and 50% tuition at comparable or less expensive colleges.  (The current tuition I think is around $52,000 a year, and that might be a taxable benefit).  Neither of the kids particularly want to go there, which is why my daughter is working her ass off to be competitive to get in somewhere else and be well-funded with scholarships, etc.)
I understand your quandary but that is a HUGE benefit. They don't particularly want to go there? Um, too bad?

MrsPete

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2015, 08:21:07 PM »
We have two children, ages 15 and 13.  For some reason, I cannot find any real information on what colleges will expect you to pay based on your income, and how to do that without borrowing money.
Google a practice FAFSA form, and that'll give you an idea of what "they" expect your family contribution to be.  It'll be more expensive than you think it should be. 

In terms of financial aid, with an income of 63K, I suspect you'll be offered loans and work study.
As for scholarships, talk to your daughter's high school counselor.  Our county has a great data base of scholarships, but you have to sift through and disregard the ones that don't fit your student.  Scholarships are not easy to get, and full-rides have essentially disappeared over the last 5-6 years; apply, but at the same time be sure you apply to at least one school you can afford if NOTHING comes through. 

As for how to do it without borrowing, that's harder to find.  Most college cost websites assume you will be borrowing -- and that you're totally cool with that.  I remember one college Open House we visited:  We were talking to the financial aid people (I hadn't yet realized that was a total waste of time, and 100% of the information they provide is also available online).  The financial aid officer was telling a couple of us how to apply for loans (nothing else) and was telling us that 100% of the students at their college have loans.  I didn't believe that, and I said so -- yeah, I know, I should've just kept my mouth shut, but I didn't.  He insisted, and I said, "Out of 27,000 students at this school, you're telling me that not one set of parents managed to save enough to pay their kids' tuition?  Not one?"  When he continued to insist that the (very reasonable) tuition is simply more than parents can possibly manage to save, I told him he was full of it, and I walked away.  Yeah, I should definitely have kept my mouth shut, but I know he was wrong.

Back to the point:

I have a college junior and a high school senior, and the reason college money is so difficult is that it includes SO MANY moving pieces: 

What if she goes to School A but gets a big scholarship?  Will that be better than School B at full price?
Is School B a better fit for her, and is that more important than the small price difference?
School A's tuition is higher, but School B's living expenses are higher, and School C is cheapest of all but will she be admitted?
Should I encourage her to become excited about School C, given that she can only attend if she gets a significant scholarship? 
If she sticks with Major A, School A is the obvious choice; but I really think she's going to switch to Major B, and School A stinks for that major.
How much will the out-of-state transportation add to the cost of School B?
How much will each school's cost increase over the course of the years?
And you have to make up your mind BEFORE the scholarships come through! 

It's not like, say, buying a house or a car.  Those prices are much easier to nail down!   
Every serious college student and every involved parent go through these questions, and so many people -- guidance counselors and college staff -- push you to "follow your heart" and don't want to talk about money. 


onequietbreath

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2015, 09:57:49 PM »
Thanks for all the advice.  I looked at one web Expected Family Contribution calculator on some college board website - https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-calculator# - and it put our expected family contribution at around $6000, which would definitely be doable.  It sounds like some to most colleges do not consider home equity.  My big fear is that a college would say, "You have $200,000 in home equity, you could borrow $30,000 against that for freshman year."  It sounds like that does not happen. 

At the height of our paying off the mortgage early, we were spending about $1600 a month out of our roughly $3000 a month take home pay on the mortgage.  I'm the mustachian in the family, and that pretty much pissed everyone else off slightly, but we're debt free now.  At best, if we could save all that until my oldest started college, we would have about $60,000 saved, which would easily cover that $6000 a year contribution for each of our kids for four years.  Of course, I don't know how much we'd be penalized for having $60,000 saved, and my family would probably get rid of me if they had to live on $1400 a month for the next several years.  (I love trimming things to the bone and living on little.  My wife and kids are supportive to a point).

I have a feeling it will all work out, but it is one of life's major stresses.

We work for a small "Great Books" school.  We both graduated from there as well, and it is one of the best liberal arts educations around with a strong grounding in mathematics and laboratory sciences.   But it is idiosyncratic.  All of the instruction is from reading source material, and all of the classes are discussion classes.  (i.e. freshman mathematics is largely spent reading and discussing Euclid's Elements.  By senior year, you're reading and discussing Einstein's General Theory of Relativity in mathematics and Heisenberg's works on quantum mechanics in lab.)  I think we have around 400 students, and there is a 9 to 1 student teacher ratio.  It's an all required curriculum with no majors.  My daughter wants to go to a big university, and my son claims he just doesn't like to read that much, (though I think they both might do well there, and it pretty much prepares you for anything you might want to do). 
« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 10:00:31 PM by onequietbreath »

CDP45

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2015, 12:17:22 AM »
Don't set your kids up for debt slavery. I've heard little evidence of real merit-based full ride scholarships, and don't let the private schools trick you with "aid" that makes it the price similar to a state school, they are just discounting the price to the market rate, like vehicle MSRP. There's little evidence a "higher ranked" school leads to higher incomes when controlling for the parents income.

You love your kids, take the time to investigate the truth about the college loan scams and how punishing the debt load is after graduating, especially the harsh legal consequences.

Your mindset sounds like you're asking for advice on how to afford an escalade SUV. Asking the government what your EFC is resembles asking a car dealer how much Car you can afford, or asking the bank how much house you can afford - You better know that, not let those jackets tell you.


MDM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2015, 12:25:29 AM »
I've heard little evidence of real merit-based full ride scholarships...

How much evidence would you like to hear?  Although not nearly as common as need-based aid, merit-based scholarships do exist.

CDP45

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2015, 12:44:58 AM »
I've heard little evidence of real merit-based full ride scholarships...

How much evidence would you like to hear?  Although not nearly as common as need-based aid, merit-based scholarships do exist.

Percent of undergraduates receiving full ride merit scholarships?

Given grade inflation at HS, Im not sure they can distinguish, my sister was one of 17 valedictorians. $0 merit based dollars to the multiple schools she was accepted to. Her EFC was around $10k.

I've heard tons of stories of parents waiting to hear back on scholarships and getting a couple $500 here and there and nothing from the schools but decisions need to be made and they'll be shipping off so it's a rough spot, trying to help OP avoid that.

MDM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2015, 01:32:20 AM »
Percent of undergraduates receiving full ride merit scholarships?
Low, as implied by "not nearly as common as need-based aid."  But not zero, and not vanishingly small either, based on our family's experience.

Quote
Given grade inflation at HS, Im not sure they can distinguish, my sister was one of 17 valedictorians. $0 merit based dollars to the multiple schools she was accepted to. Her EFC was around $10k.
That's symptomatic of a school system unwilling to give students a chance to distinguish themselves - much like the "everyone gets a trophy" philosophy in kids' sports.  I'm sorry to hear that, because it doesn't do the truly outstanding kids any favors.

Quote
I've heard tons of stories of parents waiting to hear back on scholarships and getting a couple $500 here and there and nothing from the schools but decisions need to be made and they'll be shipping off so it's a rough spot, trying to help OP avoid that.
Good point. 
Harvard, MIT, and others of that ilk might not give any merit-based scholarships (or only nominal ones as in your example), but there are very good schools that do.

I think we both agree that full ride merit-based scholarships are "not common."  And of course the overall statistics won't matter to OP and the daughter "working her ass off to be competitive" - what will matter is what she does or doesn't get.  If she can be the top 1 or 2 kids in her HS class, and do very well on the standardized tests (e.g., score 1500 or higher on the SAT Verbal+Math or 34 or higher on the ACT), I believe she has a realistic (but not guaranteed) chance of getting a good merit-based aid offer.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 09:10:59 AM by MDM »

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2015, 03:01:34 AM »
also look into private scholarships not based on merit but other standards. i got a scholarship that was 50% of the tuition from a private scholarship to promote diversity at the university. the requirements? keep a 2.5 gpa (easy) and be a male and not white. i got other merit based ones and ones for being a science major. anyways, i had enough to "pay" me to attend school, i pocketed about 8k/year to attend school. just go to the school library and pull up all the scholarships and grants and apply to all of them. a single full tuition scholarship might be rare but getting a few is fairly easy if you put in the effort to find them. Get enough and you have a full ride that way as well.

sure you could "work" to pay for school, i rather volunteer at the local clubs and get money based on community service while networking with people, "study" as a student and get money for good grades, projects i do that i can also put on my resume later. There was one that gave me $500 for playing on the local bowling league, not official terms but I helped kids at the bowling alley while parents worked and they had a scholarship to help kids in college.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 03:11:58 AM by eyem »

chuckaluck

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2015, 03:09:28 AM »
My wife and I made too much money to qualify for anything other than loans to put both of our sons through college.  Fortunately both boys  did very well in high school (780+ SATs and achievement tests, one #2 in class; other top 10).  Both applied to 8 to 10 private and public schools (STEM programs).  We saved money by taking advantage of the competitiveness of schools to attract the best students possible to their schools.  What I mean is this:  Each did NOT go to the top school they could have gone to; the IVYs and top ranked ones (as well as  public schools) typically do not give merit scholarships.  Rather each went to excellent and highly ranked but "tier 2" private schools on their list where they "stuck out" and got sizable merit scholarships.  One son got 27K per year, and the other is getting 14k per year to attend private colleges that have 40k to 45K total costs (tuition, R&B, fees, books, etc).  The net costs for each are about what our state schools would have charged.  My wife and I were then able to make up the difference for both sons by paying cash. 

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2015, 04:50:53 AM »
As for how to do it without borrowing, that's harder to find.  Most college cost websites assume you will be borrowing -- and that you're totally cool with that.  I remember one college Open House we visited:  We were talking to the financial aid people (I hadn't yet realized that was a total waste of time, and 100% of the information they provide is also available online).  The financial aid officer was telling a couple of us how to apply for loans (nothing else) and was telling us that 100% of the students at their college have loans.  I didn't believe that, and I said so -- yeah, I know, I should've just kept my mouth shut, but I didn't.  He insisted, and I said, "Out of 27,000 students at this school, you're telling me that not one set of parents managed to save enough to pay their kids' tuition?  Not one?"  When he continued to insist that the (very reasonable) tuition is simply more than parents can possibly manage to save, I told him he was full of it, and I walked away.  Yeah, I should definitely have kept my mouth shut, but I know he was wrong.

Yes, the attitude that colleges have regarding what you "should" be paying and how willing to borrow you "should" be really irritates me.  FAFSA said our expected family contribution "should" be around $20k per year, and the only aid we were offered consisted of loans.  We refused to play that game and sent our son to a state school where our total annual costs were less than FAFSA's expected family contribution ("sent" is probably the wrong word, as DS chose this school on his own).  Our state covers the bulk of tuition at state schools for students that maintain at least a B+ average (called the Promise scholarship).  Room/board and books amounted to about $10k/yr, which we covered from our 529 savings.  DS will be graduating in May with NO debt and about $12k left in the 529, which he can apply toward grad school if he wants to.

Higher education in the US has become a great swindle, not unlike the health care situation.  Costs are spiraling out of control because young folks who don't know any better are willing to mortgage their futures for a degree from a prestigious school.  They are being preyed upon by an ever-expanding cadre of college administrators who are selling the dream to finance their own lavish salaries.  If more of us refused to participate in this scam, the law of supply and demand might actually start to bring some sanity to college costs.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2015, 04:57:27 AM »
I think we both agree that full ride merit-based scholarships are "not common."  And of course the overall statistics won't matter to OP and the daughter "working her ass off to be competitive" - what will matter is what she does or doesn't get.  If she can be the top 1 or 2 kids in her HS class, and dow very well on the standardized tests (e.g., score 1500 or higher on the SAT Verbal+Math or 34 or higher on the ACT), I believe she has a realistic (but not guaranteed) chance of getting a good merit-based aid offer.

She has a better chance if she shows both merit AND need.  My son scored 36 on the ACT and was no. 3 in a fairly large graduating class.  He got exactly 0 merit-based scholarship offers.  However, I know of two young ladies who went to the same high school and posted similar academic numbers who ended up with free rides at snooty private schools.  The difference?  Their families were scraping by on modest salaries with little or no savings.

GizmoTX

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2015, 05:13:48 AM »
Chuckaluck, our experience is about the same as yours. DS gets 19K per year in scholarships to attend a highly ranked engineering school at a tier 2 university, making it about the same cost as our best state schools but with small class sizes & professors rather than TAs. He went to a college prep high school where every student goes to college, graduated in the top 20% with 1460 verbal & math SATs, & is an Eagle Scout. We know of 2 valedictorians at his HS who got full rides to attend DS's university. DS will graduate with a dual major in BSEE & Math next year debt free. He will likely do 1 more year for his school's MSEE 4+1 program, which will be subsidized with at least a 50% scholarship for his college GPA & service (he's a student Ambassador).

davisgang90

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2015, 05:36:03 AM »
As others have said, 2 years Community College with automatic acceptance to an in state 4 year school will save you a ton and get your kid a diploma from a 4 year university.

Or you could join the military and use your GI bill to pay for a big chunk of your kids' schoolin'.

SailAway

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2015, 07:28:04 AM »
We work for a small "Great Books" school.  We both graduated from there as well, and it is one of the best liberal arts educations around with a strong grounding in mathematics and laboratory sciences.   But it is idiosyncratic.  All of the instruction is from reading source material, and all of the classes are discussion classes.  (i.e. freshman mathematics is largely spent reading and discussing Euclid's Elements.  By senior year, you're reading and discussing Einstein's General Theory of Relativity in mathematics and Heisenberg's works on quantum mechanics in lab.)  I think we have around 400 students, and there is a 9 to 1 student teacher ratio.  It's an all required curriculum with no majors.  My daughter wants to go to a big university, and my son claims he just doesn't like to read that much, (though I think they both might do well there, and it pretty much prepares you for anything you might want to do).
Ok, this makes more sense. I assumed you were working at a private and the kids were just being picky. Sorry if I was snotty, I shouldn't drink and comment.

I've heard little evidence of real merit-based full ride scholarships
Things may have changed drastically since I went to college and merit-based scholarships may be much more rare now. However, DH and I were both National Merit Scholars and had several full or near-full offers.

MrsPete

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2015, 07:58:06 AM »
From a teacher of high school seniors who sees the merit scholarships year after year -- and I'm backing up what a number of other posters have already said:

- They are most commonly gifted by small, private, non-competitive schools.
- They are most commonly used to attract top-level students who otherwise would never have seriously considered these schools.  These are awarded to the students who would've gone to the larger, more prestigious state schools -- schools which also cost less than the schools that offer these awards. 
- They rarely "beat" the state school prices, but they often bring them down to the point that these private schools are within 5K/year of the state school price, and some students deem that "a good deal". 
- The full-ride merit scholarship is all but a thing of the past.  When I was a student years ago, the schools gave out a handful of full-rides; today they're giving out a larger number of tuition-only scholarships, the idea being that it's better to attract more students with the offer of tuition. 

A story of my daughter and one of her dear friends, both tip-top high school students who could've attended any school, and how merit scholarships affected them:

My daughter fell in love with a mid-sized state school priced around 14K/year.  Trying to keep her options open, she looked into other schools, and a small, private, non-competitive school offered her something like 16K to attend their 35K/year school.  At a glance, it's easy to say, "WOW!  16K -- that's more than the entire cost of the state school!"  But it only takes a moment more to realize that this still left the private school costing much more!  She is now a junior at the state school she really wanted; she loves it, and she's successful.

Her friend fell in love with a small, private, non-competitive school, and she was offered something similar to the 16K.  Her school is about 50K/year.  She was admitted to a top-notch state school, which is a little more expensive than my daughter's school at 15-16K.  At 50K/year, the private school was just too much . . . but the merit scholarship brought it down to the point that she deemed it worthwhile.  She's now a junior at the private school; she loves it, and she's successful.  I personally think she'd have been better off at the larger, more prestigious, less expensive state school -- but that wasn't my choice to make. 

These are typical of the stories I hear over the last 5-6 years.  If you've been out of college longer than that, your experiences are "rusty".  The world of scholarships has changed significantly since I was a student. 

Who's getting scholarships today?  The good grades are a necessity, of course; without the grades, no one's getting a scholarship, but other factors are important too: 
- Kids going into the military are the ones most likely to get full-rides; to a lesser extent, students whose parents were military (or law enforcement) have opportunities that other students don't.
- Students of minority race and students with financial need are MUCH more likely to be given awards; however, male vs. female makes no difference any more.
- Students planning to study nursing or teaching have a BIG leg-up on the students entering other disciplines. 
- Students who have been heavily involved in clubs and community service and who have held significant leadership positions in clubs have better chances (student director of a play is better than treasure of the chess club).  The student who has straight As but little involvement outside class typically gets nothing. 
- And, as always, students who can write well will have a better chance; the student who writes the same old, same old trite "my grandma was my hero, and I didn't realize what I had 'til she was gone" . . . or, "my mission trip to the slums of El Salvador opened my eyes" . . . or, "I learned the value of teamwork from my basketball coach" will never know that his reviewer's eyes glazed over, and his essay wasn't even read to the end. 


As for your students attending "your" college, I can see that your school is rather specialized.  It's not the right fit for every student, and I think it would be right to consider all your children's options.  Money is a BIG consideration in choosing a college, but I isn't the only consideration. 


boarder42

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2015, 08:13:16 AM »
scholarships

my parents had 10k in a fund for me and gave me ~13k over the course of my college career.  the rest was funded by scholarships.  I wasnt super involved as stated above as being necessary.  maybe its changed in 10 years since i graduated HS.  I had great grades and great ACT scores.  (i took that damn test 9 times to get the MO brightflight I was 1 point away til the last time)  Totally worth it as it totaled 10k at school. 

Another big help is after your kids have a chosen discipline and have good grades in school they should look into departmental scholarships.  I filled out an excel spreadsheet and ended up getting another 5k a year while i was already in college. 

sol

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #21 on: January 02, 2015, 09:13:19 AM »
Because I haven't seen it mentioned yet, keep in mind that your accumulated assets will always be excluded from your EFC calculation if your AGI is under $50k in the calendar year before you apply.

With an income of $60k and even moderate contributions to a 401k, this should be easy to achieve. 

Unique User

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #22 on: January 02, 2015, 09:47:48 AM »
This is a great thread and something I've been thinking about.  Does anyone have any experience with getting in state tuition rates at out of state schools?  We are not sure where we will end up in the next couple years so not sure what state schools will be open to us.  I read that 33 or higher on ACT can get scholarships equivalent to in state tuition, but not sure how to research that.  We're not expecting $0 tuition, but think we can pay around $25k total per year for everything and I just don't know if that is realistic.  The kiddo gets good test scores, writes well, is in honors classes and runs track.  She is only in 8th grade this year, so we have some time.  I'm not fooling myself that she is valedictorian material though, she does well and keeps an A average, but its a low A average. 

begood

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #23 on: January 02, 2015, 10:07:01 AM »
Our taxable 'stache will keep us from getting need-based aid, and my seventh-grade daughter - love her though I do - is not going to be a club president, student leader, or academic whiz kid. She's an introvert who loves art and curling up with a book.

The state university system where I live now isn't great once you get past Penn State (and that's a no-go for a variety of reasons in our family). She's more the type to go to a small, private, liberal arts college, which are thick on the ground here in the Mid-Atlantic, but holy mackerel, they cost a lot.

Our best hope is for her to get a legacy scholarship at the small school where her dad and I both went. And apparently the "sticker price" isn't what most people pay? Like, you apply, and they knock some portion off as a "grant"?

The one thing I know for certain is that we won't be taking out loans, and she can't go to a college that requires airline flights to get back and forth. I've already drawn a geographic boundary - six hours in any direction finds a target-rich environment of acceptable higher ed options, and though my mister is against it, I do think we'll have to set a financial boundary as well when we get closer to the time.


MrsK

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #24 on: January 02, 2015, 10:12:45 AM »
The MMM way to pay for college is to not be a sucker for branding/marketing and the herd mentality.  If your kids are smart and hard working it does not matter where they get their undergrad degree from.  The biggest part of being successful happens after you get your education.  Going to Harvard or a school like that is the same as buying a Fendi purse.  If you can afford to pay cash for it great--do it, but do not borrow money--it makes no sense. 

Community college and AP classes (they have to do well in these classes to get credit) for undergrad helps your savings go a long way.  Then transfer to a state school you can afford.  Kids should have part time jobs to help cover the cost.  If this means going to school part time and taking longer to graduate, that's OK.  I do not understand why we have all been brainwashed that it is reasonable to go into debt for college.  The biggest gift you can give your children is to have them be debt-free when they graduate. 


stringcheese

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #25 on: January 02, 2015, 11:25:43 AM »
I am a somewhat recent graduate of Harvard, and I politely question the overarching belief that "Harvard/[insert fancy expensive Ivy League-type school here] is just an outrageously expensive brand name from which you will graduate with crushing debt." In fact, Harvard and many schools like it have outstanding financial aid for lower-to-middle income folks (most of my friends there whose families made <80k/year paid absolutely NOTHING), and they instituted really aggressive financial aid reform for middle-class and upper-middle class families while I was there. Truly, I often recommend that very competitive high school students apply widely to the so-called "elite" colleges -- not for the reputation of the schools per se, but because those schools have both the endowment and the renewed commitment to financial aid to make attending their schools remarkably affordable. My parents made in the easy six figures when I was admitted to Harvard, and I received >50% financial aid based on financial need alone. I also worked two campus jobs and made about 12-15 dollars/hour to contribute to my own education. I received no other financial aid offers from both "elite" and "normal" schools, merit or otherwise. Harvard was the cheapest option for me, with the exception of the state school I did not want to attend (and that can be assessed as you wish, but it was my choice at the time). My family was able to contribute what was required to pay my tuition, and I graduated with no debt. Several of my best friends from lower-income families graduated having paid $0 to the university, and they had no debt at all. I also took advantage of the money within the institution to finance several professional experiences (through campus grants etc.).

I am not suggesting that the solution to all of this is to think only of the fancy-named schools when looking for colleges. Rather, I am proposing that several of them can actually be better financial options even than state schools, provided that your income is such that you fall into the financial strata corresponding to their comparatively aggressive need-based aid policies. Yes, there are no merit scholarships at places like this, but their need-based approach is incredibly generous. Just some food for thought.

Left

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #26 on: January 02, 2015, 12:56:58 PM »
not sure if this applies, but if your kid's highschool has the IB program, have them do it. It lets you apply to international colleges, Canada and Europe are ones I've looked at back then. It also gets you lots of college credit. Or at least mine did, for a single ib class, it was also the ap and college credit class so i was eligable to take ib and ap exams and receive college credit for each class. I enter college with enough hours to make me a junior, i still took 6 years to finish but i took mostly the classes i wanted since basics were all done. My graduating IB class all got around 40 to 60 credit hours for our different colleges.

something to push for? it cuts out the 2 years of community college costs if that was the route since you already got the hours in college.

Lkxe

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #27 on: January 02, 2015, 01:12:41 PM »
My son is a third year college student on a full scholarship (tuition) with a $4000/semester stipend that pays his books and housing. There was never any question that he would graduate without debt because we saved for it, his father shares his GI Bill and many of the schools he considered were yellow ribbon schools but we did everything to encourage his ownership of his education. He had the highest gpa in his class, he took AP classes for his core subjects, He took AP test for subjects he had not taken (3's in micro and macro, 3 in psych- I had the textbooks) He took the SAT ( high enough score for a "free ride" at the state school) and was a National Merit Scholar ( 375 a semester direct) He took classes at the Junior college on a split day with the high school his senior year. He had a year of transferable credits when he started. The valedictorian of his class got full rides at both MIT and Harvard. I have no reason to believe my son would not of received the same had he applied. He chose one of those out of state schools that was "used to attract top-level students who otherwise would never have seriously considered these schools" because undergrad education isn't really that different no matter where you attend.  When the letters start arriving, pay close attention- The year he graduated Harvard was " building" their engineering clout and several schools were fishing for top-level students. It sounds like your daughter is well on her way to being one of those desirable students that get "paid" to go to school.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 01:14:20 PM by Lkxe »

TerriM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #28 on: January 02, 2015, 01:41:23 PM »
ere is also a website for ROI for the top 500 colleges and Harvard isn't at the top. It also matters what you major in. If you major in English at Harvard you are not going to get the max ROI but if your daughter gets a full scholarship to study engineering at Harvey Mudd or MIT she will be much better off. And keep those grades up in college!

If your daughter gets in and wants to go, last I knew, MIT was offering a full ride to anyone whose parents make $70K or less total.  Don't hesitate to apply to the more expensive institutions and see if you can get aid.

GizmoTX

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #29 on: January 02, 2015, 01:48:43 PM »
Does anyone have any experience with getting in state tuition rates at out of state schools? 

It totally depends on the state & university. Most require one year of residency to qualify for in-state tuition. Here is where a gap year could make sense. After acceptance at the out of state school, ask for a deferment of enrollment, move to that state, & work for the gap year while establishing residency.

However, this is not enough in some states, which determine residency solely by where the parents live until the student is 23. Obviously advance research is required.

minimustache1985

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #30 on: January 02, 2015, 01:55:33 PM »
May not be relevant to OP, but if your kids are competitive in sports it can pay to advertise yourself to smaller schools.  A colleague of mine went to a Div III school on a full ride volleyball scholarship, whereas Div II schools offered her low $ aid and Div I was nothing.  However, she had to do some legwork to get noticed- putting together videos of her playing in tournaments or at camps, and sending them out to the coaches of a wide list of schools whose academic programs met her needs.  Small schools don't recruit as heavy so you have to put yourself on their radar, but it's much easier to garner athletic scholarships at smaller schools that frankly can't recruit future pro athletes.

dandarc

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #31 on: January 02, 2015, 01:59:41 PM »
I've heard little evidence of real merit-based full ride scholarships...

How much evidence would you like to hear?  Although not nearly as common as need-based aid, merit-based scholarships do exist.
I got one at a Big Ten University.  Wound up taking 5 years instead of 4.5 due to some stupidity on my part, so paid for 1 semester.  I remember seriously considering Alaska-Anchorage (I think it was anchorage, maybe fairbanks?) due to an offer based entirely on being a national merit scholar in high school.  These things are out there.

mozar

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #32 on: January 02, 2015, 09:52:34 PM »
Here is a website (one of many) for college ROI:
http://www.payscale.com/college-education-value-2013

As for your son, what planet does he live on? More and more jobs are requiring reading skills, as well as deduction and problem solving. I work in accounting which people always say to me I must be good at math, but nope, my job requires tons and tons of reading.

onequietbreath

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #33 on: January 03, 2015, 10:45:31 AM »
Mozar - Unfortunately, my son is on Planet Minecraft most of the time he's allowed to be.  We have a modem that automatically cuts him off for a few hours every day, and he does read, (he's particularly fond of Sherman Alexie), but he's a 13 year old boy, and not a very driven one at that.

My daughter's friends are all super high achievers.  One of them that she's been hanging out with over Christmas goes to the UWC in Italy.  Most of them, for reasons I'm unsure of, have been to Camp Rising Sun, which is some free leadership-based camp in New York State.  My daughter applied last year and was interviewed but was not selected.  She expects it's because she faltered at the "How do you represent your local culture" question.  We live in New Mexico, and many of her friends are hispanic, but she has not ties to Hispanic culture or Catholic culture, and that's what she thinks of as local culture, so she replied "I have a friend who sells crafts at Spanish Market."  Not such a good answer.  I'm a beekeeper, and we have ties to the farming culture of Northern New Mexico.  We're sort of non-practicing Buddhists, and my daughter considers herself Buddhist, and there's a long history of Buddhism in Northern New Mexico, but she doesn't know how to represent those things as being representative of the local culture.

She's also in a year-long youth leadership class at the local community college.  She's in student government.  She's a Girl Scout. She's in some local youth leadership group called Youth Allies. The only thing she has dropped is sports.  She just doesn't have time in her schedule for practices.

My son is a 13 year old Minecraft addict in a sea of other 13 year old Minecraft addicts.  I keep trying to pry him out of his room to do other things.  If you don't have kids, it's harder than you might imagine.  It's certainly harder than I had ever imagined.  When they were born, I thought, "Well now, my kids are never going to spend time wasting their lives on the internet."  For years, we didn't have wireless internet, and my kids didn't use a computer, and we even had computer-free summers.  But the schools start pushing technology early.  I think it's terribly harmful.  Schools don't need to teach computer literacy.  If students learn logic and problem solving, they will be able to operate a computer.  We don't have to put a screen in front of every 8 year old in the country.  That's my rant and has little to do with my original post.

My son is wicked smart, and I expect he will do OK, but his academic career is probably not going to match his sister's, and it's probably going to cost more as well.

Hello Lhamo - yes I moonlight over here from the Simple Living forums at times.

MrsPete

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #34 on: January 03, 2015, 11:06:12 AM »
Does anyone have any experience with getting in state tuition rates at out of state schools? 
Every year I have a number of students who pursue this idea, but it never seems to actually pan out.  Of course, it could be because we have a wealth of state schools for an excellent price . . . so typically someone else's state school is still higher, even if they waive the out of state fee. 

But, no, while technically possible, in my experience, this isn't common at all. 
Our taxable 'stache will keep us from getting need-based aid, and my seventh-grade daughter - love her though I do - is not going to be a club president, student leader, or academic whiz kid. She's an introvert who loves art and curling up with a book.
Don't write your kid off for leadership positions just yet.  Maybe she's not the outgoing kid who'll be the president of a large club, but you can still encourage her to participate in clubs early in high school, then consider a "quiet" position like secretary later.  Being an artsy girl, her classmates might encourage her to take a leadership position in the National Art Honor Society.  In a club I sponsor, I have one kid who is responsible for coordinating refreshments and writing thank you notes to our speakers, and I have another kid who's responsible for maintaining a Facebook page to remind people of the meeting dates.  Maybe your kid will be the one who writes a script for a student-produced play in the theater department, or the one who works in the library as a peer helper (opportunities like that can help kids come out of their shells).  Look for ways to encourage her to stretch her comfort zone. 

As for being an academic whiz kid . . . Yeah, it's typical for people on this website to say, "Oh, your kid should just sign up for all AP classes plus take a few summer classes at the community college.  Why can't every one finish at least 2-3 college semesters before high school graduation?"  Every kid can't manage that.  MOST kids can't manage that.  Doesn't mean they won't be ready for college work "on time" -- but they aren't all ready, supremely motivated, and everything else during high school.


Pigeon

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #35 on: January 03, 2015, 11:23:12 AM »
I've got one kid going to college next year and I work for a state university. MrsPete summed it up perfectly. Highly competitive schools don't need to attract students, and don't give much merit aid to kids who they think can afford to pay.

For those advocating taking a lot of courses at a community college or APs, sometimes that helps and sometimes it is a waste. It depends where you are going. Some colleges accept very little transfer credit and some are very picky about what APs they take and what score you need to achieve to get credit. I wouldn't spend a lot of time on it unles I had a plan. Our state university guarantees they will take certain CC courses, but other schools may not.

The university where I work doesn't give in state rates to out of state students.

Schools have cost of attendance calculators on their websites.

mozar

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #36 on: January 03, 2015, 12:01:48 PM »
It sounds like the OPs daughter is very motivated so why not take it to the next level? I didn't see any strong leadership experience for her. Being involved in a leadership class is different from starting or leading your own thing. She should target some schools and come up with a plan for community college credits, AP classes, extracurricular activities, majors (which majors do they specialize in or recruit for?), where does she want to live, how will college lead her to her adulthood goals?

As for the son he does sound very driven, to play minecraft. There may be other things that he could enjoy and really focus in on.  I don't have kids but something I hear over and over again from adults is that they wish their parents hadn't given up on them. Of course it's hard, but everything in life worth doing is hard.

begood

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #37 on: January 03, 2015, 01:03:21 PM »
Does anyone have any experience with getting in state tuition rates at out of state schools? 
Every year I have a number of students who pursue this idea, but it never seems to actually pan out.  Of course, it could be because we have a wealth of state schools for an excellent price . . . so typically someone else's state school is still higher, even if they waive the out of state fee. 

But, no, while technically possible, in my experience, this isn't common at all. 
Our taxable 'stache will keep us from getting need-based aid, and my seventh-grade daughter - love her though I do - is not going to be a club president, student leader, or academic whiz kid. She's an introvert who loves art and curling up with a book.
Don't write your kid off for leadership positions just yet.  Maybe she's not the outgoing kid who'll be the president of a large club, but you can still encourage her to participate in clubs early in high school, then consider a "quiet" position like secretary later.  Being an artsy girl, her classmates might encourage her to take a leadership position in the National Art Honor Society.  In a club I sponsor, I have one kid who is responsible for coordinating refreshments and writing thank you notes to our speakers, and I have another kid who's responsible for maintaining a Facebook page to remind people of the meeting dates.  Maybe your kid will be the one who writes a script for a student-produced play in the theater department, or the one who works in the library as a peer helper (opportunities like that can help kids come out of their shells).  Look for ways to encourage her to stretch her comfort zone. 

As for being an academic whiz kid . . . Yeah, it's typical for people on this website to say, "Oh, your kid should just sign up for all AP classes plus take a few summer classes at the community college.  Why can't every one finish at least 2-3 college semesters before high school graduation?"  Every kid can't manage that.  MOST kids can't manage that.  Doesn't mean they won't be ready for college work "on time" -- but they aren't all ready, supremely motivated, and everything else during high school.

Don't worry, MrsPete, I'm not going to write my kid off yet! I'm going to encourage and support her as she grows and evolves into the person she's going to become.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2015, 02:02:26 PM by begood »

TerriM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #38 on: January 03, 2015, 01:05:09 PM »
For those advocating taking a lot of courses at a community college or APs, sometimes that helps and sometimes it is a waste. It depends where you are going. Some colleges accept very little transfer credit and some are very picky about what APs they take and what score you need to achieve to get credit. I wouldn't spend a lot of time on it unles I had a plan. Our state university guarantees they will take certain CC courses, but other schools may not.

I'm told more and more schools are not accepting AP classes because they've become too "teach to the test."

Murse

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #39 on: January 03, 2015, 01:16:33 PM »
I'll add that one of the current benefits at the college where we work is free tuition for our kids, and 50% tuition at comparable or less expensive colleges.  (The current tuition I think is around $52,000 a year, and that might be a taxable benefit).  Neither of the kids particularly want to go there, which is why my daughter is working her ass off to be competitive to get in somewhere else and be well-funded with scholarships, etc.)
I understand your quandary but that is a HUGE benefit. They don't particularly want to go there? Um, too bad?
Completely agree, they have the best situation they could ask for as far as tuition.

MDM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #40 on: January 03, 2015, 01:33:00 PM »
For those advocating taking a lot of courses at a community college or APs, sometimes that helps and sometimes it is a waste. It depends where you are going. Some colleges accept very little transfer credit and some are very picky about what APs they take and what score you need to achieve to get credit. I wouldn't spend a lot of time on it unles I had a plan. Our state university guarantees they will take certain CC courses, but other schools may not.

I'm told more and more schools are not accepting AP classes because they've become too "teach to the test."

A quick look at four places across the country shows at least "general credit" being given and, in many cases, specific course credit.  YMMV.
https://studentaffairs.stanford.edu/registrar/students/ap-charts
https://registrar.rice.edu/students/ap_credit/
http://admissions.umich.edu/apply/freshmen-applicants/ap-ib-credit
http://web.mit.edu/firstyear/2018/subjects/incomingcredit/ap.html

CDP45

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #41 on: January 03, 2015, 02:52:32 PM »
What?? You work at a good private college which would give her a free ride and that's not the option at the top of your list?

On this very website are real people telling story after story about their crushing college-loan debt, coming here for hope how to escape the burden. Don't get caught up in the fantasy of finding the "perfect fit", because how could anyone even know how it's going to be before they go there?

There's so much wrong with high-ed these days basically taking advantage of the poor and middle class with the lie that all rich people went to college, therefore to be rich you need to go too. All rich people drive porches too, but that doesn't make them rich either.

Read the blog here, he tells you how to be rich, and basically it's providing a service that people will pay for and then saving a high percentage of your income. That's the secret, not college. Overpaying, getting your kids under a mountain of debt, and perpetuating the lie of higher-ed is not the path to success.


TerriM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #42 on: January 03, 2015, 03:22:32 PM »
A quick look at four places across the country shows at least "general credit" being given and, in many cases, specific course credit.  YMMV.
https://studentaffairs.stanford.edu/registrar/students/ap-charts
https://registrar.rice.edu/students/ap_credit/
http://admissions.umich.edu/apply/freshmen-applicants/ap-ib-credit
http://web.mit.edu/firstyear/2018/subjects/incomingcredit/ap.html

MIT used to give more credit.  On AP Chem, a 5 got you 5.11 credit without any other test, the AP CS would give you some general credit, and  I'm pretty sure 4 and 5 on AP Physics got you credit for 8.01.  So yeah, it's gotten stricter.

Dee18

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #43 on: January 03, 2015, 03:51:25 PM »
We are in the midst of this process right now.  Many out of state schools do give in state tuition.  Southern schools are especially known for this, including University of Alabama.  Sometimes it seems a little random.  This year Western Kentucky is offering instate tuition to students from Atlanta, trying to increase attendance from that area. 
My daughter wants to go to a small liberal arts college.  I think she is right that such a school would be good for her, she is smart but not off the charts and quite introverted.  Our experience has been that you get substantial merit aid (as in 75%  or more tuition) if you are at the 75th % or above on the schools' SAT or ACT, with a good gpa.  Being a student leader may make a difference with some schools, but test scores and gpa are the key.  You can get pretty accurate indications from each individual school's net price calculator of both merit aid and financial aid.  With a family income of 63,000 you would qualify for merit aid at many schools.  Best sources of info for me have been at collegedata.com where you can enter a school's name and get financial info.  I also learned a lot on the college confidential blog.  Merit aid varies dramatically even with schools of about equal rank so test out a lot of schools on the net price calculator before deciding where to apply.

Simplicity

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #44 on: January 03, 2015, 04:38:27 PM »
This is a very fresh experience for our family. Our daughter is a Freshman at Harvard. The most elite schools HPYSM, are all incredibly generous with needs based financial aid. At Harvard if your earnings are less than $65,000 your child attends for free, if your earnings are $150,000 or less you pay 10 percent of your earnings annually to have them attend.
You are not going to see Merit based aid at schools that are top twenty schools, (there are exceptions, but very, very few)
There are plenty of merit based scholarships, with no consideration for a families income at exceptional schools. The higher your students GPA and standardized test scores and the lower the ranking of a school the greater the merit award is likely to be.
As an example our daughter received merit award offers at the following schools,
University of Richmond, $15,000 a year.
Lafayette College, $40,000 a year (that one hurt!)
Hobart & William Smith $25,000 a year.
American University $20,000 or $25,000 a year.
George Washington University $20,000 or $25,000 a year.
Our daughter was the valedictorian of her class and was very involved with EC's. She did not have a 36 on her ACT. There is lots of merit money out there for excellent students. With the right admissions strategy those scholarships can be secured.

MrsPete

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #45 on: January 05, 2015, 08:29:32 AM »
Don't worry, MrsPete, I'm not going to write my kid off yet!
I never said you were going to write her off -- I said don't write off the idea of leadership positions for her; that is, don't assume that she'll be unable to qualify for scholarships just because she's quiet! 

Participant

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #46 on: January 05, 2015, 09:53:29 AM »
What state are you located in? One of my siblings earned a full tuition ride to a very good state school based on his score on the mandated state tests. Anyone who scored "Advanced" on all of the sections automatically qualified.

If your state doesn't offer that, or your children are unlikely to score at that level, I would recommend applying to a large number of schools. With any big purchase it makes sense to shop around. What people are often surprised to find is that it's a bit of a crapshoot as to who gets in where. I was offered a partial scholarship for very selective school. I was simultaneously rejected completely from a slightly less selective one. Different schools look for different things. Many schools take the Comm Application these days, which makes applying to large numbers very reasonable.

I would also recommend applying to a few schools that are what many would call "safety schools"- ones that your child will almost certainly get accepted to. These schools are much more likely to give merit based scholarships to lure in students who have the credentials to go to a "better" school. That's what I ended up doing. I took the full tuition ride to a very good school, instead of a partial scholarship to a great one. It was probably the best decision I've ever made.

I would recommend that you look harder at that free tuition at your college. Even if it isn't the best school for what your children want to study, the financial benefits make a lot of sense. Depending on their career path, it may well make more sense for them to take the free undergrad and then used a subset of the money saved to get a master's at a school more to their liking. A job applicant with a B.S. or B.A. at a not-particularly-prestigious school and a M.S. or M.A. from a good school will look much better then one with just a B.S. or B.A. from a prestigious school.

sol

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #47 on: January 05, 2015, 09:02:18 PM »
end.
You are not going to see Merit based aid at schools that are top twenty schools, (there are exceptions, but very, very few)

Merit based scholarships typically come from outside sources, not from schools, and can be used anywhere. 

The top schools compete for the top students regardless of your ability to pay.  If you're smart enough, college is always free.

fruplicity

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #48 on: January 06, 2015, 01:49:45 PM »
As to the original question:
For some reason, I cannot find any real information on what colleges will expect you to pay based on your income

The http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ College Navigator Website is a place to start. Look up a college, go to the "Net Price" Section and you can see an outline of how much a family is expected to contribute  based on income levels (two big caveats: "contribute" means BOTH pay directly to the college and pay for indirect expenses like travel, laundry, etc. Also it includes loans in the amounts. Since the average first-year loan amount is $5500, add that to the total for a little more accurate picture)

For an even more accurate estimate, follow the link that should be provided to the college's own "Net Price Calculator". It's now a federal requirement that every school have one (though how often it's checked or updated is not necessarily monitored). If the link doesn't work, try to find it on the college's own website (start at the financial aid page - some are easier to find than others). These calculators should be using the college's individual formulas to determine aid so they can give you a much more individualized picture for each school - because each school can vary tremendously. But a big caveat to these is they won't include merit aid.

I work in financial aid at one of the most prestigious small liberal arts colleges and we don't do merit aid and neither do about 95% of our peers. Anyone who indicated merit aid is much more prevalent at mid-tier schools is correct.

Also we do consider home equity, as do many of our peers. However each of us calculates it differently in our formulas, so depending on the school it sometimes won't have a big impact.

MDM

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Re: Any Mustachian Guides to Paying for College?
« Reply #49 on: January 06, 2015, 02:13:09 PM »
Happened to run across this today, from http://bridgemi.com/2015/01/college-calculator-dont-believe-college-sticker-prices/:
Quote
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is the cheapest public university for some Michigan residents to attend, and the most expensive for others. It all depends on your family income. The amount you pay at U-M – or any of the state’s 15 public universities – often bears little resemblance to the sticker prices listed on websites.