Paying Less for College Comes Down To One Thing

City Slickers

In the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal goes out into the wilderness to discover the secret to life. He comes across an old cowboy named “Curly”. According to Curly the secret to life comes down to “just one thing”.

Well, the secret to paying less for college often comes down to just one thing as well.

Over the years, I have helped hundreds of families find ways to pay less for college so that they can have some money left over for their own retirement later in life. I have concluded that the secret to paying less for college always comes down one thing: the school your student chooses to attend.

That’s right. How much you pay for college always depends on which school your student chooses to attend. I know it sounds obvious. Harvard University probably costs more than Mankato State, right? Or does it?

Some schools will meet 100% of your family’s financial need. For a list of those schools click here.

For some families, if you can get into one of these highly selective schools, it may actually be your least expensive option. In fact, in some cases it might be less expensive than a typical state college or university.

For other families, an elite private college will absolutely be your most expensive option. For them, a school that rewards your student’s academic merit without regard to your family’s financial situation may offer a lower net cost. Most private colleges and many state colleges and universities fall into this category.

If yours is a more typical student who doesn’t have an extremely high GPA or ACT score, his or her lowest cost option might be a state college or university. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, depending on your student’s major and career goals, the state school might be the best academic fit in addition to the best financial fit for you and your family.

Here is a DIY exercise to show what I mean. Let’s say your student wants to be an accountant. She is considering Boston College, the University of St. Thomas or the University of MN – Twin Cities. For your convenience I have provided hyperlinks to the net price calculator at each of these schools. Just click the school name above and you will go there directly. Each of these schools offers an excellent accounting program and a high quality educational experience. But their net prices will vary greatly.

Enter in your info. See how you fare. The net price you will pay at each school will depend on your student’s grades, ACT scores, your family’s financial situation and other factors.

Next, go to the net price calculator of the schools you are considering. Do this exercise over and over. You will come to the same conclusion. How much you pay for college depends on what school your student selects. Pell Grants, scholarships and other opportunities are important, but none is as important as the school in determining how much you will pay for college.

Fun and Fab Financial Aid Feb

This month, I have dedicated my Fun and Fabulous Financial Aid February event to helping families get more financial aid for college. However, financial aid will vary literally from school to school, family to family, and even student to student within the same family.

Regardless of what financial aid you qualify for, how much you ultimately pay for college comes down to the school your student chooses to attend.

Make yourself a smart consumer of a college education, position yourself to receive all the financial aid you are entitled to, and be careful about the school your student chooses to attend.

That’s the winning formula to pay less for college.

If you found this post or any others in this series to be helpful, please share them with others by clicking one of the share buttons below. If you would like to know more about how I can help you plan for retirement while paying for your kids’ college educations, please contact me directly or just ASK MIKE.