Many families are having the discussion of how to pay for college. When Rick Clark, director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech, heard a friend with a newborn child stressing over this issue, Clark advised him to open a college savings account. To parents who are closer to writing checks for college, Clark offers five tips:
Don't depend on scholarships. Articles tout the millions of dollars given annually in the form of grant aid. These numbers are sizable in the macro, but only 10 percent of undergraduate students earn a private scholarship, on average about $2,800 a year. Less than 1 percent will receive scholarships covering full cost of attendance for a four-year education.
Loans are not a bad word. The average debt load of a student graduating from a four-year university is $28,500, and many will equate student debt to purchasing a new car. This comparison fundamentally contradicts Car Buying 101. The average vehicle depreciates annually in value. But statistics prove the appreciation of a degree, in terms of career earnings for those with a degree versus those without. Don’t forget the less tangible benefits of the college experience. Students learn fundamental skills in networking, collaborating and explaining and sharing complex information.
Work for it! Companies and graduate schools often want to see job-related experience. Working while in college will offset costs and enhance resumes. What if you’re not able to balance working and going to class? Consider internships and co-ops. Each year more than 4,000 undergraduate students at Georgia Tech participate in our Co-op or Internship program, which is the nation's largest on a voluntary basis. Students gain real-world experience and on average earn more than $11,000 a semester.
Nobody asks where you STARTED college. One-third of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree last year transferred into their four-year colleges. Community college enrollment is at an all-time high, and their tuitions typically cost one-third of that of a public four-year college and one-tenth of that of a private four-year college. Attending community college for two years will lead to fewer loans and will still result in the same bachelor’s degree at graduation.
It's not about the bumper sticker. Look at the alma maters of Fortune 100 CEOs and you'll find as many public or not well known schools as you will Ivy League schools. The pathway to success does not always go through Cambridge or Palo Alto. Does the college you are considering facilitate your ability to continually learn, adapt and think analytically? Many schools do this phenomenally well. Too many families stretch financially for a brand, when the better option may be a college off the beaten path.
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