Christine Park

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Conquering the Cost of College

My cousin just finished applying to colleges. She applied to six UC schools, at $60 per application. She, or her parents, rather, spent $360 for the opportunity to try to attend one of these schools. If she gets in, the nickel-and-diming is just beginning. I found this great little chart for her to figure out the true cost of college, factoring in tuition and books -- whether she'll be living on or off campus or commuting from home. Either way, it looks like she'll be shelling out $20,000 to $30,000... a year. This is for public school.

And she can thank the state's budget crisis for that. The UC system has been hit with massive cuts in recent years. The State of California slashed $637 million from the UC school system in 2009-2010, and another $814 million in the 2008-2009 school year. So, to make up for that, the UC Board of Regents just voted in another tuition increase. Fees for Fall 2011 will go up by 8% next fall. This follows a 32% increase this year.

Earlier this month, the CSU’s Board of Trustees approved a mid-year tuition increase of 5% for this year and a 10% increase for the 2011-2012 academic year.The two step increase will raise undergraduate fees $105 for the rest of this year and approximately $440 for next year. This follows a 32% increase last year.

What's a parent to do? I mean, we've got a 529 savings plan for both kids. But at this rate, there's no way we'll save enough to cover the costs of college. I will, of course, fill out the FAFSA, but I'm not counting on any free money from the government. Our family's income disqualifies us from any grants or tuition breaks, and we don't want the kids to leave school saddled with thousands of dollars to repay in student loans. I recently did a story on finding cash for college. Applying for scholarships seems like the only option for students from middle to upper-middle class families.
Surfing for Scolarhips: Thankfully, the internet has made searching and applying for scholarships much easier. A couple good, free sites are and Just be aware, these are national scholarships, so the competition will be fierce. Also avoid services that charge a fee or any that guarantee money. You can find more info about scholarship scams here.
Look Local: Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, churches, and local businesses all award scholarships to local students. The advantage is the number of applicants is a lot smaller than some of the national awards you might find looking online. Your high school counselor will have a good idea where to start and what you might qualify for.
Ask Your Boss: Another good place to look is your own employer. Your children may qualify for help from your company or the parent corporation -- i.e. Disney owns ABC, so recently my co-worker's daughter applied for the Disney scholarship.
Happy hunting. Let me know if you have any strategies you'd like to share!

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