Archive for the ‘College Financial Aid Recession Tips’ Category

Learn From My Financial Aid Mistake


At White Picket College, we try to remain honest.  So for the sake of honesty, I have to reveal the major financial aid mistake I made way back in 2007 and why it’s haunting me today.  It all starts with my financial aid award letter.

Happy as a clam, I found out I was accepted into my fancy, private university, Master’s program via phone call in spring 2007.  Oh how delighted I was!  I wasn’t sweating it about financial aid, I mean I made nothing back then, so I was sure the university would give me a boatload of money.

My financial aid award letter arrived in the mail.  Fingers trembling, I opened it with excitement, which lasted a very short minute.  I learned that I had received NO student grants or scholarships.  Just Stafford loans, subsidized and unsubsidized.  I was crushed and mourned my loss of government and school aid for days.  Then I sucked it up and accepted the university’s offer.

Fast forward to today, June 2011.  I am unemployed and pounding the virtual pavement to no avail.  I have a Master’s degree from a fancy school and in this economy, it makes me look more expensive to potential employers, hence no job offers.  And my student loans are weighing me down.

I have two hefty student loans.  Right now, I’m paying one via the interest only option, so my payments are much smaller.  Last month, I had to call Sallie Mae and lower the other loan to interest only as well.  That brings me to pay $234 total per month.  But as of March 2012, I will be paying $600 total per month for seven to eight years on the 10-year, payoff plan.

I’ve learned two lessons.  20/20 hindsight (of course!), I should have applied to other universities–even if I didn’t want to go–to make myself more lucrative to the university of my choice.  I only applied to one school.  My second lesson is I accepted the university’s financial aid package.  I didn’t try to negotiate.  But what leverage would I have had if I only applied to one school?

I share my wisdom with you.  If you are applying to a Bachelor’s or Master’s program, apply to many schools that are of the same competitiveness or better.  This will make you more sought after.  And if the school wants you, they will pay more.

And don’t just lie down and take their offer.  Negotiate.  Make an appointment with a Financial Aid Officer.  Exhaust every resource until you get more money.  Wish I did.

Today, you may be thinking, “The economy will be better by the time I graduate, so I’ll get a good job and a $500 monthly loan payment will be easy.”  That’s what I thought, but reality kicked my butt, and here I am unemployed and bogged down with loans.

So please think way ahead of time.  Plan for a slow economy.  Plan for reality.  In two to four years, the economy could be much better … and it could be worse.  Either way, make sure you’re financially ready for it.

~ the WPC team

$3.4 Billion in Free Scholarships.

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

Book Review of Suze Orman’s Action Plan


Suze Orman’s Action Plan was on my reading list for a while and I finally got to it.  While reading, I was happy to see that Orman’s advice was right on par with White Picket College.  She even has an entire chapter called Paying for College.  Reading the chapter pretty much mirrored what we discuss here at WPC, but I was fascinated to find out her opinions on currently taking out a 529 plan and a PLUS Loan.  These two topics will be addressed in future posts.

I was most intrigued by the Retirement section–not only for myself, but for the readers here at WPC.  If you’re like me, 20 or more years away from retirement, you’ll find Orman’s stock advice to be very surprising.  Even my fiance, who is very organized in regard to his retirement fund and has a financial planner, was surprised by her advice.

In the revised from 2009 edition, Orman added a chapter entitled Kids and Money.  Quite frankly, I love this section because it shows parents how to financially educate their kids.  It may sound easy, but Orman addresses tough questions.  For example, what do you do when your brother and sister-in-law give your children extravagant gifts … but you can’t do the same thing in return?  It’s a good question, right?  As I read it to myself, I was thinking, I’m not sure what I’d do if I was a parent in this situation.  Orman answers a lot of tricky questions like this, including ones about kids in college or right out of college.

I highly recommend Suze Orman’s Action Plan.  It’s only $9.99 and very much worth the small price.  Remember to buy the “revised and updated (edition) from Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan.”  Happy reading to all of our followers!

~ the WPC team

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

College in Three Years (Not Four)


Since our readers are still receiving their financial aid award letters, we’re trying to offer solutions to make college more affordable.  If the college hasn’t given your family the money you desire, you must find a way to meet unmet need.  One solution we discussed last week was to negotiate with the financial aid officer.  This week, we’re offering a totally different solution.

How about the idea of speeding up college?  Can you finish an undergraduate education in three years?  The answer is yes, especially if the student is highly motivated.  Many students could probably graduate in 3.5 years, but the three-year plan would be so much more affordable.  You could save thousands upon thousands of dollars in tuition, fees and, especially room and board.

Here are some ideas to graduate in three years:

  • The student can take required courses at a local community college (for a MUCH cheaper price) and get the credits transferred to her/his regular college.  It’s always best to check with the college first.
  • During the regular semester, the student can take as many classes as possible without overworking her/himself.  You must check with the college before doing so because, for example, my Alma mater only allows students to take four classes per semester.  To take a fifth class, students need the dean’s permission.
  • A student should partake in summer session classes, which are often much cheaper.  S/he can take 2 to 3 classes every summer.
  • Also, think about a winter session class.  This is becoming more popular with colleges.  Each class is an intense 2-week course where the student can earn 4 credits.

This idea may not be for everyone, especially for those who want to enjoy all four years of the college experience and graduate with their classmates.  But for those students who are concerned about money and cost comes first and foremost then a three-year college plan may be the right choice for them.

~ the WPC team

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

I Received My Financial Aid Package, Now What?


There it is.  Staring you in the face.  Your college financial aid award letter.  If you don’t understand everything that’s on it, please refer to Understand Your Financial Aid Package.  The second thing you need to think about is: is this a good enough amount of money?  Will this combination of student loans and college grant money be able to pay all of my educational expenses for the entire school year?

For upper middle class (UMC) families, lack of grants and scholarships can be a frustrating consequence.  However, the UMC can find their way back into the abundance of receiving college financial aid.  How is this possible?

Firstly, UMC parents and students have to understand how the college financial aid officer (FAO) does her/his job.  It’s good for everyone to know how the FAO came to the award s/he created for your family.  This is the first step in a possible negotiation with the FAO.  It’s imperative you understand the process fully before talking with a school’s FAO.

We suggest reading this easy-to-understand, straightforward article on:

Financial Aid Officer and the Truth of Student Loans Grants

For this week, make certain to understand your award and understand the process of how you came to receive it.  Next week, we will delve into negotiating with a financial aid officer, so your family can find yourselves back in abundance.

~ the WPC team

$3.4 Billion in Free Scholarships.

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

How About Students Help Pay for College?


We always discuss how it’s the parents’ job to pay for college.  But what about students contributing to their education?  How will this help upper middle class (UMC) families who are struggling to put one child through college?

An ambitious student and hard worker, Zac Bissonnette, author of Debt Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents, details how Zac, a college senior, pays for school.  He works full-time and chose a relatively inexpensive, in-state university.  His tactics worked and he will graduate completely debt free, quite a feat.  I watched Zac on CNN last week as he discussed statistics from Academically Adrift, which reports college students spend half their time socializing.  Zac said on CNN:

The average college student is drunk 10.2 hours per week. So if you think that your kids should not work during college …

He makes a good point.  Why can’t students work through college?  And why can’t they work before college even starts?

Unfortunately, the money the student makes before college will be accounted for in taxes and on the FAFSA.  And this lowers your chance of financial aid.  But if you find yourself without acceptable educational financial aid, a good solution is to have the student go to work.

Working before college and through college may seem like a punishment to some parents and students, but quite frankly, it’s what my parents did and the generations before them did.  Earning full-time money, instead of drinking or partying, will help the student receive must-needed work skills and life experience and teach them how to financially support themselves.

If a family really cannot afford to pay for college, another good solution is to have the student defer admission for a year.  S/he can use that year to work a full-time job or many part-time jobs and save up for college.

We realize these solutions may not be ideal for the UMC, but they’re practical.  Now more than ever UMC families must approach their financial decisions with pragmatism.  And students paying for their college education sounds like a good decision to us.

~ the WPC team

$3.4 Billion in Free Scholarships.

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

The Social Network & I Need Money for College


… I watched the Golden Globes last night.  The blockbuster movie “The Social Network” took home the big prize for best motion picture in the drama category.  I haven’t seen the movie (yet), but this big win made me think about how much Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms in general have helped me help all of you here at White Picket College.

Every week I have to find ideas and hot topics for blog posts and articles.  Sometimes, it can be a daunting task.  And many times, it can be a relatively easier task because ideas come to me or I use my good ole friend named Twitter.

When Twitter came out I was one of those people who scoffed at it.  I thought of it as a narcissistic device for egotistical people.  For example, I really didn’t care to hear what you just had for lunch or that your baby just burped.  I didn’t need to know about Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s every move through their tweets.  Thus, I stayed away from Twitter completely.

Then I realized the HUGE mistake I was making.  I could leave all the egomaniacs and fluffy celebs out of my tweeting existence.  So I started an account and signed up to receive tweets from informative sources such as: CNN, WSJ, US News & World Report (Kim Clark writes fantastic college financial aid articles), TIME, FastWeb, Sallie Mae and a plethora of sources for scholarships and other educational financial aid information.

With Twitter especially, I feel I can stay on top of everything and help all of our readers in a timely, efficient manner.  I strongly advise you to utilize Twitter too.  If your child is nearing or is in the college application process, start a family Twitter account.  Receive tweets from your child’s top choice schools and financial aid sources.  Educate yourself about the process and find free money along the way.

So I urge you to use social media to find college financial aid info.  Please join us on our Facebook page.  Just type in “White Picket College” in the search feature atop your FB page.  Also, receive our tweets on Twitter: @whitepicketcoll.

And remember, if you have a question, comment or request for White Picket College, simply tweet or Facebook us anytime!

~ the WPC team

College Expenses Piling up

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

Tax Credit Reminder!


UMC parents and students, it’s time that time again … tax time!  Yuck.  Well, don’t get depressed because students can write off interest while paying back their student loans.

Just click on this article to find out all the information:

Tax Credit for Student Loans: 1098-E Tax Deduction

Make your appointment with a highly reputable accountant today and enjoy the benefits of tax credit.  Best of luck in this tax season.

~ the WPC team

Let’s Talk Base Year


Parents and students, it’s time to discuss the Base Year.  What is the base year exactly?  It is the year colleges and the powers-that-be of the FAFSA examine; it decides a student’s financial aid award.  It starts from the student’s junior year in high school on January 1st to the student’s senior year in high school, ending on December 31st.

We must remind upper middle class (UMC) parents and students that the base year makes you or breaks you in regards to financial aid.  It sets the precedence for all four years of financial aid packages.  Unless you have a huge change in income (i.e. you lose your job, you win the lottery, you inherit thousands of dollars) in the four years the student attends college, the base year will determine what you receive in financial aid for all four years.

So you have to prepare to make your family look as poor as possible in this base year.  How do you do that?  There are many ways, which depends on an individual family’s situation.  Check out our Tax & Finance Help section for tips and suggestions.

This is IMPERATIVE to discuss with your family now because tax season is right around the corner.  A lot of ways to look poorer on paper is how you fill out your taxes.  If you’re about to fill out taxes for the base year, find a highly qualified accountant who is an expert in college financial aid.

Best of luck to UMC families who are in the base year or will fill out taxes for the previous base year.  Peruse White Picket College to find the best ways to ensure a better financial aid package.

~ the WPC team

College Expenses Piling up

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

Scary Credit Card Habits of College Students


So your child has been accepted to a great school.  And you’ve received a great financial aid package.  Congratulations!  It’s the first semester of school and your child starts receiving these letters from credit card companies.  One, two, three, four letters a month from four different companies.  They don’t look like advertisements–they look like bills!

So you open one then another then all of them only to find out: yes, they are indeed bills.  Your child, without your knowing, has signed up for four credit cards and owes hundreds of dollars in credit card debt.

In the September 2010 Newsweek article entitled “College Credit,” writer Angel Wu reports, “Half of college students have four or more cards, according to a 2009 Sallie Mae survey, and only 17 percent report regularly paying off their balance.”


If this startles you as a parent, it should.  I remember back to my college days when credit card companies would solicit students to sign up.  They lured in their young prey with perks and giveaways.

But the government said no more.  They put their foot down when creating the 2009 credit card reform bill.  Card issuers are not allowed anymore to offer giveaways on campus.  Students under 21 years of age cannot sign up for a credit card without a cosigner or they must prove they have disposable income.

Be careful when your child leaves for campus this semester.  Explain to them the dangers of credit card debt.  Set a reasonable limit on credit cards.  Parents can add their child as an authorized user on one of their credit cards or they can obtain a secured card for their child.

When I went away to school, my parents and I went to the local bank and opened up an account for me.  It was an emergency account and I understood this rule.  I never touched it in my four years at school.

I also had a credit card.  I hardly touched it.  I believe I used it for big purchases on study abroad or a big school purchase.  And I was responsible for paying the bill–not my parents.

I believe my parents did a good job of setting credit card expectations and spending limits with me.  Basically, I was to pay all my bills and emergency meant emergency.

So make sure to set the same types of limits with your kids.  You certainly don’t want them to graduate from college with student debt and credit card debt.  Have an honest and upfront talk with your college student today.

~ the WPC team

Upromise - Join Now 125x125

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class

Colleges with Highest Paycheck 2011


On Christmas Eve, my mother asked me if I had seen the list of colleges with the highest paycheck for 2011.  I hadn’t, but was happy she let me know.  I was delighted to find out my alma mater was actually on the list as well.  What other college graduates make the highest salaries?

Harvey Mudd, a Claremont college (California), is the winner.  Graduates rake in a starting median salary of $68,900.  A mid-level median salary is $126,000.  The next colleges in line are Princeton and Dartmouth.

To see the full list, check out:

Colleges That Bring the Highest Paycheck 2011

Is your college or your child’s college on the list?  Normally, I don’t put too much weight on lists such this one, but with the horrible economy, dwindling financial aid and outrageously expensive loan repayments, it’s time to start looking at salaries vs. tuition.  Again, I’ve been repeating over and over (I know I must sound like a broken record), you have to take loan repayment into account these days.

On a personal note, I’ve recently lost a job (one of my many jobs).  I’m about to take a huge financial hit.  It’s going to hurt badly.  To make it worse, the company just told me yesterday they’re closing their doors on December 31st.  What makes this situation especially stressful is the fact I have to pay back $380 a month in loans.

That’s what students (and parents) need to take into account these days: my current situation.  I have a B.A. and a Master’s from two super fancy colleges and it’s going to be hard to find a job.  Companies would rather pay a fledgling post-grad $28K a year (in NYC) than pay more for experience.  It’s a tough world out there today and students must account for these rough patches.

Therefore, it’s good to see where your college or potential college stands on the pay scale.  And it’s good to ask yourself why and how the students bring in the big bucks?  Is it motivation?  Is it the school’s career development center and its connections?  Is there a great mentoring or internship program that leads to jobs?

You have to ask yourself these questions.  A job is not guaranteed upon graduation.  Choosing the college with graduates who get and keep jobs and make high salaries are all great reasons to choose a school nowadays.

Make sure you take this above list into account when applying to colleges.  Look toward the future, life after college.  It’s now the norm.

~ the WPC team

Student Financial Guide

© White Picket College, 2010 – College Funding for the Upper Middle Class