The Checkout

Is The Rising Cost of College Getting You Down?

This is a reporter query for my colleague Kathleen Day:

Is the rising cost of college getting you down? Please tell us how your family plans to pay for college if, like the bulk of Americans, you don't qualify for financial aid but find the cost of higher education a
potential budget buster. We'll try to find some answers. Respond to

By Annys Shin |  January 11, 2007; 8:00 AM ET Reporting Query
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1. Do well in high school. This opens up opportunites for college and financial aid.
2. Attend community college. In some states, this is free.
3. Apply to colleges where you SAT socres are in the top quartile. That is if your scores are 1350, apply where the 75 percentile SAT score is below 1350.
4. Save in the parents' name, not the child, even in 529 accounts. Financial aid calculates 35% of funds in the cholds name toward the family contribution, but only 5% in the parents' name.

Posted by: College | January 11, 2007 8:59 AM

I wanted to be a nurse when I was in high school but came from a working class blue collar family. My parents struggled just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. College was out of the question. So, I learned to type in high school (for free) and have supported myself behind a keyboard ever since. I worked 2 jobs for 6 years to pay for night school at a local college. That degree and $1 will get a cup of coffee at 7-11. When I retire in 2 years, I hope to go back to community college (for free over age 60) to get nurses training and enter another field. Longevity is in our family so I could have another career for the next 10-15 years or so.

College is not for everybody. What about vocational training? Plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, home builders all make very good money and most don't have a college degree. If everybody went to college, who would be building our houses?

Posted by: Southern Maryland | January 11, 2007 10:11 AM

I was going to convince my youngest child to rob a bank, then get tried and convicted.

He should get about ten years of free college education that way, plus housing and meals.

Posted by: Think About It | January 11, 2007 10:21 AM

College has good recommendations. My daughter starts next year. She applied to some schools for which she is above the 75th percentile for scores hoping for some scholarship money. Otherwise it's a state school (and those aren't inexpensive either).

Posted by: Ohio | January 11, 2007 1:33 PM

Short of prostituting myself the only way I could afford college was to earn scholarships. I got a full Air Force scholarship, but the idiots running the local program gave me the scholarship papers 2 weeks after the acceptance deadline for school applications. I had in essence a 40k wall plaque. hahaha. Well, I was considering enlisting, but I took out a student loan and went to a relatively cheap Army school called North Georgia College and State University. It was no walk in the park- but looking back, it was fun to say I did it. It was like 24-7 boot camp, but I got a full ride awarded there for my remaining 3 years. Unfortunately, there was a budget cut and my scholarship was dropped shortly after it was awarded... so I started searching for a cheap school with good benefits and found one- I interviewed with Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and was guaranteed a scholarship after I became a resident, but I had to cover my first year there... So I packed everything into a U-Haul and set off half way across country and got another student loan. As soon as I established an address in Illinois I got a letter from NGCSU saying my scholarship was reinstated. I would have gone back, however I could not afford to rent another truck and move! So, I got my commission in the Air Force through SIUC and spent 3 years in and fought corruption as much as I could, which admittedly was not much... and as a result of being stuck working in a moldy basement I got a hole in my lung and later diagnosed with Asthma. Needless to say between my high ideals and disability I was an easy target for the Reduction in Force, aka down sizing, aka Force Shaping, of 40,000 people out of the Air Force. In retrospect I wish I had been able to stay Army or at least switch. I had wanted to have a full career in the military, but that was not to be. Now I plan on using my GI bill to pay for my Masters degree in the near future. If I ever go back to Illinois I can get four years of education paid for since I was a resident of that state upon entering active duty... I do not know if I will go back, but it would be a free degree.
The military is a great way to get an education paid for, meet interesting people, and see places you might not have otherwise seen.

Posted by: Chris | January 11, 2007 2:18 PM

Back in the day my parents & worked out a rather drastic approach to college financing - they stopped claiming me as a dependent, which meant that I could legally list only my own income on grant applications. Since I was making only $5K or so a year, I was able to get grants to cover all my college expenses. Of course, that meant I actually had to live off my income (no help from mom & dad) - but by skimping and working for the school food service (free food) I made it work.

I've also heard that some universities offer discounts to the children of employees ... wonder if the admissions office at GMU is hiring?

Posted by: bookgeek | January 23, 2007 5:47 PM

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