College Brings Not Only Hopes, But Lots of Worries

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June 28, 2016 by Lisa Brammer

June can be a very busy and exciting month especially if your child just finished high school: There are commencements and graduation parties; and if your graduate is college bound he or she will participate in a freshman orientation. Then a little later they will be asked to pick and register for their first semester classes. It’s a crazy-busy emotional roller-coaster for everyone.

If your child is going to be a high school junior or senior in the fall and has a college degree in their sites you are climbing into that roller-coaster too. There is going to be a lot on your plate including college entrance exams, school selection, and college visits. After that there will be the application process to look forward to, followed by ‘the wait’ before you find out if your child gets into his or her first-choice school. Then, when you finally know where he or she will be going—you will need to figure out how to pay for it.

Earlier this year, The Princeton Review put out a press release reporting the results of their annual “College Hopes & Worries Survey.” Over 10,000 people (80 percent college applicants, 20 percent parents of applicants) responded to this year’s survey.

According to the posted results a lot of applicants are in the same boat and share very similar hopes and fears: Almost three out of four (72 percent) reported ‘High’ or ‘Very high’ stress levels about their applications and nearly 9 out of 10 (88 percent) said financial aid will be ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ necessary to pay for college.

I’m not surprised. I just read in the CNBC article, “This is what keeps students, parents up at night” by Jessica Dickler that expenses for the 2015-16 school year went up to about $20,000 per year from $12,000 a year a decade ago. That’s for a public four-year university. Four-year private universities are way more expensive—over double—averaging almost $44,000 per year, up from $29,000 ten years ago.

“College costs have increased two times to three times faster than the rate of inflation every year consecutively for the last 20,” said Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher of the Princeton Review.

That explains why this year’s biggest concern was ‘Level of debt to pay for the degree’ followed by ‘Will get into first-choice college, but won’t have sufficient funds/aid to attend.” Ten years ago, the biggest worry was ‘Won’t get into first-choice college.”

According to debt.org, 70 percent of college graduates leave school with student loan debt and in 2014 the average debt was $33,000. With numbers like this I can totally understand their worries. Fortunately, there is quite a bit of financial aid available. Isn’t that good news? Last year the U.S. Department of Education provided more than $150,000,000,000 (150 billion dollars) in grants, loans, and work-study funds. Students who want a piece of that pie will need to complete a Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form to see if they qualify. Oftentimes colleges and states use the information from FAFSA to award their own student loans and grants as well.

The Princeton Review survey isn’t only about worries, it also reports hopes. 51 percent of parents hope their kids choose a school that is ‘less than 250 miles from home’ and 69 percent of students think one that is ‘250 to 1000 miles from home’ would be better. Main benefit of college? 44 percent said ‘Potentially better job and income.”

Bottom line? 99 percent say college will be ‘Worth it.’

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