Plan A:A high school senior found her right-fit school, that is, it was the right size, the right lattes, the right ambiance, the right major, the right geography, the right mascot, and even a right financial aid package that left her struggling parents with an out-of-pocket expense of $14,500 at a $45,000-a-year school.
I say "struggling" parents because $14,500 was still hard to materialize, but they said they'd find a way, whatever that meant. But out of nowhere, a wrong-fit college sent the student a free application, and on a whim the student submitted it. The college came back with a financial aid package that left the parents with a total out-of-pocket cost of $2,900.
A no-brainer, right?
After the first semester, the student announces that she really doesn't like her college and wants to transfer. The parents are in a panic: the remaining three years of grants, worth a total of $75,000, are down the tubes.
Almost spasmodically, the student applies to three private schools in the same league as the school she wants to leave, naively assuming that she would receive the same financial aid package that she was leaving behind. Only one of the private colleges offers her a $5,000 grant, but the parents have to come up with another $42,000. Can't be done.
Now what? The following are more ways to pay for college:
1. Plan B: She can stay where she is and "gut it out," meaning, she can stay in a liberal arts curriculum with the intent of developing her thinking, writing, and communication skills for any profession. This is not unrealistic, despite how idealistic it may look; it can be argued that college is for developing, nurturing, and maximizing communication skills.
2. Plan C:She can come home, lose her remaining three years of grants worth $75,000 (ouch!), and find a no-skills-necessary job in this downward economy. Good luck.
3. Plan D: She can transfer to a near-home community college and use a Stafford loan to pay for her second year of college, get her core courses out of the way, and with no financial obligation from the parents in the second year of college. Then, with a degree from a community college, she can transfer to an in-state state college for a lot less money than what she would pay at any of the private colleges to which she applied.
4. Plan E: She can bypass the community college choice and transfer to an in-state state college where the parents' out-of-pocket costs stay under $10,000. Even though Plan A and B's $75,000 in grants is lost, it can mean an opportunity to get a college education at a very affordable price.
Economically, private schools simply don't have the appeal they once had. Realism's ugly face is causing parents and students to make college choices that were not so hard after all, and one of the above plans can turn out to be very positive. ____________ Copyright 2016 Paul Lloyd Hemphill
My strategy has proven to give the student a far greater advantage in the admissions office because colleges place a premium on who you are, which is not easily recognized on a list of extracurricular activities, test scores, or application essays.
The greatest life-lesson your child will learn from working with me: Who you are will always triumph over what you know.