We just received direct mail inviting us to the college planning class offered by http://www.freecollegeplanning.orgThey claim to be a non-profit organization and say the presenters are affiliated with college planners and CPAs. Sounds like a seminar where you get to sign up to get a personalized plan not likely to be free.I was wondering if anyone here has experience with them and is willing to share the good/bad/ugly.- zol
I've never heard of them (which doesn't mean much!). A quick google didn't turn up anything specific about them. No one has reviewed there here:http://www.webutations.info/go/review/freecollegeplanning.or...They also don't show up on charitynavigator (many 501c groups do).Apparently they are registered with the IRS and donations are deductible.http://501c3lookup.org/free_college_planning_inc/It might not hurt to check out a seminar. But if at any time they ask you to buy something, leave (and report them to the IRS). In trying to check these guys out I found stories of other college planning entities offering "a special price" for coaching services (payable that day or the price goes away).
Thanks for the heads up! I signed up and plan to attend. I'll report back what I learn.- zol
I went to the college planning class and I'm glad I did. I actually wished my kids and spouse were there too. They gave us a boatload of information regarding the academic and financial positioning of the student. Some highlights:Academic positioning:- Help student prepare for ACT/SAT. GPA is also important.- Compare scores to published scores from the schools to determine where the student falls: bottom 25%, mid-range, top 25%?- Determine programs of study the student may be interested in. If undecided, identify 2-3 and make sure the schools of interest offer all of them.- Ask what are the most important admissions criteria and how are they ranked.- Show interest in the schools by visiting website, campus tour, talking to individuals (financial assistance, department head, coaches, etc). Not all schools track demonstrated interest but may pick up on it in the essays submitted for that particular school.Financial positioning:- Explained the different types of financial assistance offered: grants/scholarships, loans, work study.- Many schools claim they meet 100% need but it may be in the form of loans.- Colleges compete with other colleges for students. So they encouraged applying to 6+ colleges since they will see where else you may be applying and offer better aid.- The expected family contribution (EFC) depends on income and assets. But not all assets are counted for all institutions. If the college uses only FAFSA, home equity is not included. Some colleges have other forms that may include home equity for EFC.They offered a 1:1 consultation for a free FAFSA review. I used FAFSA4caster to determine our EFC before going to the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting I asked, point blank, what could he offer to reduce it. Since I had not provided any of the details of our finances he gave me a couple of examples of previous clients. He mentioned redirecting some of our liquid assets into retirement products that would not be included in EFC. He didn't mention the products but pointed me in the direction where I could find the information. At the consultation, he also provided a reference to a book that talks about all the methodology that he was teaching: "Paying for college without going broke" http://www.amazon.com/Paying-College-Without-Edition-Admissi... I just got an old copy of the book from the library and I've read more than half. The free class and free consultation was to eventually get us to sign up for their college planning services. As a long-time Fool I'm more inclined to learn about all this on my own rather than pay for help. But sometimes there is value in having a neutral third-party help your teenage kid understand that you don't select a college for their sports ranking...- zol
Thanks for this info Zol. I am in the thick of this right now, with my oldest in 11th grade, my second will be 2 years behind her, and twins 2 years behind her! We haven't been able to put away the kind of money that would pay for their college, but maybe about 25% of their costs. So we are hoping to be able to take advantage of grants, scholarships, work study, etc, etc. I have the book you mentioned and it is very helpful. We don't have a large income (15% bracket) but have been able to stash away cash here and there for purposes later in life in taxable accounts (low six figures), as well as contribute to retirement vehicles. The problem I am facing is too much cash in taxable accounts - it seems to be bring my EFC up. So I am in the process of maxing out my employer sponsored 403b - basically converting the taxable savings into protected accounts. I was originally concerned about doing this in the event we do need the cash for later life events, but then I learned that contribution to Roth accounts can be withdrawn without penalties or fees. I'll use this as a last resort, hoping not to need to.My biggest concern is that when my oldest goes to college our EFC will be high because of our savings, and we will be expected to contribute a large chunk of what was saved for all four children. Then when the twins go to college there won't be anything much left for them.There is also a Dummies version of Paying for college, I'll get into looking at that. Cause I'm definitely a Dummy at this!dozer
My biggest concern is that when my oldest goes to college our EFC will be high because of our savings, and we will be expected to contribute a large chunk of what was saved for all four children. Then when the twins go to college there won't be anything much left for them.http://www.finaid.org/calculators/scripts/estimate.cgisays 12% of your "discretionary net worth" Which is only a portion of your actual net worth.So if you had $10k to start with for discretionary net worth, and took exactly what they expect from those assets, it'd be $8.8k at start of the next year, $7.74k at start of the year after, 6.81 and start of the year after that, and so on. So after 4 years, you'd have 60% of what you started with. And after another 4 years you'd have 36%So while you might think "8 * 12% - that's 96%, that'll be basically everything" in reality it's 12% each year, so because you have less assets each year it winds up being 64% of it.Part of my planning is that my parents have 529 plans for my kids.So those assets basically won't be counted until they get used. And if my parents want to pay for dinner or something for us, we tell them that they should just put the money in the 529s instead.
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