Should Parents Be Afraid of College Tuition Fees?

In a recent survey, 300 parents of school-age children were asked to list out the order of fears which inspired the most horror. Believe it or not, the high cost of college tuition came well above the safety of their family, terrorism and crime. The experts seemed somewhat surprised by these results. But not me. As a rule, I have always advised parents to max out their retirement accounts before they consider saving for college fees. After all, there is little or no financial aid for retirement but there's plenty of help for college fees once you know where to look. So why is it that as rational adults, we can understand from a dollar-and-cent perspective that this advice is perfectly logical, but as parents we seem more than a little uncomfortable with it?

Student loan is a big business and there are many companies which are ever-ready to lend you the money required to pay the hefty fees. The average cost at a public college is around $12,127 a year according to the College Board. The cost averages $40,000 a year at private institutions. How do we as parents reconcile these two conflicting forces tugging at our savings and our conscience? After all, who wants to live with that nagging feeling that we are neglecting our children by not making any effort to save for education.

We should aggressively seek out grants. Kalman Chany, author of "Paying for College without Going Broke," notes that many people fumble their chances for more aid by waiting to apply until after they've done their taxes or after their children have been accepted to a college. By that time, many work/study and other campus-based programs are tapped out. Virtually at all schools, the earliest financial aid deadline falls before acceptance letters are even mailed out. According to the American Council on Education, more than 1.5 million students who could have qualified for Pell Grants, which is a form of financial aid that doesn't have to be repaid, didn't even bother to apply. Most public data suggest that's not all the money that's left on the table. There are a large number of reward programs that will put money into your tax-deferred college savings account as a thank-you for shopping at certain retailers. It may only be small amounts, but it’s money that's not coming out of your own pocket. Two of the most popular are Upromise and Littlegra, both of which have websites that are well worth the visit.

Many researches have shown that success in life has more to do with our children’ overall ambition than where they go to school. It’s a point to ponder when deciding between an Ivy League school and the six-figure loan that goes with it and, a public school with a largely free ride. Don't get ripped off trying to find scholarships. The fear of high college tuition bills leads many families to shell out for something you don't need. Stay away from the pitch "Pay us to search our vast database and win you a scholarship - and we'll apply for you!" Generally, you shouldn't have to pay to find or apply for any scholarship. There are plenty of websites out there that have searchable databases that you can scour for scholarships and grants absolutely free.

Written by:

Ms Tracy Teng Mun Yee is an accountant by profession. She has passed her ACCA qualification and gained her ACCA fellowship during her 8 years of practical experienced working with multinational organizations.

Currently, she is engaged with Central Marketing Group (CMG) as a Finance Manager handling Internal Control division. Prior working with CMG, she was a Finance Team Lead with British American Tobacco Shared Service Centre (BAT). Besides that, she has also been working with Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Hauni Malaysia, a German based tobacco machinery manufacturer.

Looking at her diverse experience in Finance, she is able to share her thoughts with new parents and soon-to-be parents on family financial management on the aspect of family planning and household expenses management.

Although she is a mother of three young children, her biggest passion is blogging and sharing. More recently, she also a content manager of her own website ( promoting mumpreneurship to career mums. Her biggest wish is to support and aid as many mums as possible to achieve the best of both worlds – a fulfilling career to call their own, without sacrificing quality time spent with the family!

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