Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

5 Common Myths About Paying for College

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

With the help of financial advisors from, we’re going to debunk the most common myths about applying for student aid and paying for college. We’ll also talk about the point when investment returns outweigh your…

Even Warren Buffett should file the FAFSA

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

“I don’t want any financial aid”…said no one ever.

Well that is the path you’ll go down if you don’t file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA. It is estimated that $2.3 billion in federal aid was left on the table in 2017 by students who did not file. Many parents think they make too much money to get any aid and choose not to file the FAFSA. Actually, anyone making $250,000 or less can qualify for aid, and that’s 95% of Americans. I’m not suggesting that a household making $150,000 a year is going to get their tuition fully funded, but they will be offered a Federal Direct Loan. You probably remember these as the Stafford loan, and that the interest rates are much lower than private student loans. On some of these loans, the interest doesn’t start until after you graduate. Saving money on high interest loans is like a mini scholarship in and of itself.

It is a good idea to file even if you aren’t going to take any loans. Many schools will look at a student’s FAFSA before awarding any aid including merit aid. Some admissions departments are even more likely to accept a student who has completed the FAFSA because it shows the student is more likely to attend college. Financial aid officers may be more likely to award a school-specific scholarship to a student who is just outside the need-based financial aid formula, but still could use some assistance with tuition. Some states even award aid that is not based on need at all, but will not award the aid without a FAFSA on file.

Things Change

It’s a good idea to file the FAFSA even if you end up not qualifying for aid, because a year may come where circumstances find you in a different financial position.  Some common reasons a FAFSA award can change are:

  • Parental Separation
  • Parental Death
  • Sibling Attendance
  • Loss of Job
  • Selling of an asset like a business or property

These changes could have big effects on your need for aid, but if you don’t have a previous FAFSA on file, these circumstances may be hard to prove.

Bottom Line: There is no downside to filing the FAFSA!

Authored by PJ Horan

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What if you could name your own price for college?

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Have you seen the Progressive Insurance commercial with the “Name Your Price” tool? If you haven’t, the premise is that Flo (the spokeswoman) gives the price scanning gun to the customer to let them name their price for insurance. In actuality, when a customer approaches Progressive about getting Insurance coverage, they get to pick and choose certain features of their policy until the price is where they want it. What if I told you that you can use the “Name Your Price” tool when you are shopping for college? Okay, not exactly, but the price that any college or university advertises is very rarely the price that you will pay. Don’t let sticker shock deter you from researching a college.











In 2016, the average discount rate for an incoming Freshman was 48.6%! That is like a Black Friday sale! So why do the schools advertise such high costs if they aren’t going to collect it? Because some families still have to pay full price (but I’m writing this to make sure you are NOT one of those families). At first glance, private college A might have double the sticker price of state university B, but things aren’t always what they seem. Many private schools have large endowments and lots of money to give, while most state schools are funded entirely by their state government. Some state schools do have large endowments, but they have a lot more students to financially support, almost 3-1 on average. A big state school may not be able to meet as much of your need as a small private college. Another thing to remember is that there are two types of aid: gift aid and self-help. Gift aid is just that, a gift. It is in the form of a grant or a scholarship and you don’t pay it back. Self-help is student loans and work study programs. Self help will factor in to your “net price” because technically you’re still paying.











So what can you do to figure out how much a school will cost your family?

  • Start by figuring out your E.F.C. That’s your Expected Family Contribution. There are tons of calculators out there like this one.
  • Once you know your EFC, head over to and start your research. You can determine what a school charges, how much need they meet, what % of each type of aid it is (and almost any other financial data you’d like to collect).

Just remember that picking the right school should always be the first goal. A student at the right school is more likely to graduate in 4 years with a degree which will save a lot more money than gift aid or self-help! 

Authored by PJ Horan

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10 Options To Consider If You Can’t Pay Your Student Loan Bills

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

If you are a high school senior who will attend college in the fall, you need to understand the pressure and burden that follows when you take out massive student loans to pay for college. If you are a college grad and currently staring down the barrel of an overwhelming student loan repayment, you already feel this pressure and burden.

While putting off payments and hiding from bill collectors may seem like the only immediate solution, falling behind on your student loans can have a serious financial impact, especially since the IRS is the collection agent for student loans.

However, there are options that can help you to make your student loan repayment more manageable, and here are ten of those options listed by the Boston Globe:

1. Know What You Owe

The first step in getting your student loans under control is understanding how much you owe, what the monthly payments are, and where to send them. You should always hang on to all your loan paperwork, but if you didn’t, your college financial aid office should have provided you with a complete breakdown during your student loan “exit interview.” If you didn’t hang on to your exit interview folder, visit the National Student Loan Data System for a complete list of all your federal student loans. Your private student loans can be located by requesting a copy of your credit report.

2. Know What You’re Working With

The two major types of student loans are federal (government-backed Direct Stafford Loans, or Perkins Loans) and private (non-government-backed, issued from a private lender). Federal student loans usually have fixed interest rates and offer flexible repayment plans. Private student loans often carry variable rates and less flexible payment options.

If your loans are federal, there are a variety of options to help you lower or postpone your monthly payment. If your loans are private, though, all is not lost – contact your lender immediately and let them know you can’t make the monthly payment.

3. Postpone Payment With A Deferment

Unemployment, extreme economic hardship, enrolling in school at least half-time, or active military duty may qualify you to temporarily postpone payment on federal student loans with a deferment. If your loans are not subsidized, you may be responsible for the interest that accrues during the deferment, increasing the total amount you owe.

There are many different types of deferments and each one has terms and conditions. To qualify for the unemployment deferments, you be must be working 30 hours a week or less and actively seeking full-time employment. You must renew this deferment every six months and can receive it for a lifetime maximum of 36 months. If you do not qualify for the unemployment deferment, talk to the company that collects your student loan payment or check out for a complete list of other deferment types and their requirements.

4. Extend Your Payments

If you took out your oldest federal student loan on or after October 7, 1998, and you have at least $30,000 in loans, you can extend your repayment period from 10 years to as long as 25 years. This lowers your payments, but it increases the total interest you pay over the life of the loan-making your loan more expensive. You may want to consider extending your repayment by only a few years, instead of the maximum time available, to save money in the long run.

5. Choose A Graduated Repayment Plan

If you don’t make a lot of money currently, but think you will in the future, you can lower your federal student loan payments for a while – without extending your repayment period – with graduated repayment. Graduated repayment lets you pay just the interest on your loan for two-to-four years. Payments then increase gradually so the loan is repaid in the standard 10 years. When choosing this schedule, make sure to plan for those larger payments. Graduated repayment can increase the total amount of interest you pay.

6. Base Your Payment On Your Income

If you have high student loan debt but low income, there are two different repayment plans that may help: income-contingent for Direct Stafford Loans, and income-based for Direct Stafford Loans. While the details of each plan vary slightly, basically your monthly payment is based on some percentage of your discretionary income and/or family size.

In general, you must display partial financial hardship to qualify and your repayment amount could change annually based on your financial situation. You are still responsible for interest that builds up over the length of your payment period. The Income-Based and Income Contingent Repayment options allow any outstanding balances to be forgiven after 20 years of payments.

7. Consolidate Your Loans

If you are having trouble keeping track of multiple student loan payments, consolidation could help. Consolidation loans combine one or more federal student loans into one new loan. Federal Family Education Loans and Direct Loans can be consolidated together. Standard repayment is set at 10 years but you may be able to extend to a maximum of 30 years. Consolidation loans can’t be reversed but can be reconsolidated to add additional eligible education loans. From now until June 30, 2013, you may be eligible to consolidate your loans even if you’re still in school – talk to your financial aid office to see if it’s right for you.

8. Postpone Payment With A Forbearance

If you don’t meet the criteria for a deferment, you may qualify for forbearance. In most cases, forbearance is granted solely at the discretion of the company you make payment to. Forbearances are usually reserved for cases of financial hardship or illness. You will be responsible for all interest that accrues and at the end of the forbearance, the interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance of the loan).

Deferment and forbearance are both preferable to missing loan payments. But, before postponing repayment, see if it makes sense for you to lower your payments with a different repayment schedule. There are limits to how much deferment and forbearance time you can use.

9. Have Your Debt Forgiven

If you work in a profession like teaching or public service, you may be able to have all or part of your federal student loan debt forgiven. There are many different types of Teacher Loan Forgiveness available depending on when you took out your loans, where you teach and what subjects.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness forgives loan balances of eligible, full-time public service employees after they make 120 qualifying payments. Your loan must be in good standing (not defaulted) to be forgiven and only Direct Loans are eligible. If you have Federal Family Education Loans, you can gain eligibility for forgiveness by consolidating your loans into a Direct Loan.

10. Be Proactive

If you’re having a hard time making your student loan payment, the worst thing you can do is ignore the problem. There are federal programs that can help and often private lenders are willing to work with you on a solution. Contact the company that you send your student loan payment to and be frank about your situation. Ask them about all your repayment options to avoid delinquency and default. Being proactive early will allow them to provide you with the broadest number of options, without hurting your credit rating.

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

Do You Have A Game Plan For Financing College? If Not… It Could Cost You Thousands Of Dollars!

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

Each year we are amazed at the lack of planning that some families put into college, especially financing college. The proof of this lack of planning comes out when we ask these simple questions in the initial interview with the student:

  1. Why do you want to go to college?
  2. Where do you want to go to college, and why?
  3. What career (vocation) are you looking at, and why?

The lack of thought process is evident when we get answers from students such as; “I don’t know”, or “Because that’s where my friends are going to school”, or “I’ll figure that out once I get in school”. Simple answers like this not only show a terrible lack of planning, but will almost assuredly cost these families a minimum of $10,000 to $20,000.

Why is it so imperative that both students, and their parents, plan ahead?

  • With deficits in the billions of dollars, most states have little money to subsidize their state universities. As a result, the cost of these state universities are now over $25,000 per year, per student.
  • Ten years ago you could pay for college expenses with a few low-cost loans. Today, stafford (student) loan interest rates are 3.76% and it’s not uncommon today for students to graduate from college with $25,000 to $40,000 of debt.
  • The cost of college is now so high that parents must shell out a huge chunk of their own income and savings, and yet they still need to borrow as much as $100,000, or more, for education.
  • Regardless of the fact that the current unemployment is 5.1%, many students that graduate today cannot find jobs in their field of expertise and end up waiting tables at a local restaurant, or in other low-paying fields.

Today, building a game plan to pay for college is a MUST! Here’s just a few things both students and parents should consider when creating that plan:

Student To-Do List

  • Career Assessment – this could help you avoid the 5-6 year degree due to a mid-stream change in major.
  • College Selection – rework your choices to 6-8 colleges in order to create the maximum competition among colleges and increase your potential tuition discounts.
  • ACT/SAT prep – a minimum increase in your scores could boost your chance for merit scholarships.
  • Campus Visits – conduct face-to-face visits with admissions and financial aid officers so you know exactly where you stand.
  • Extracurricular Activities – maximize your resume of achievement.
  • Grade Transcript and Essay Preparation – have these ready to go for early applications and acceptance.

Parent To-Do List

  • EFC Planning – estimate your financial aid eligibility so you know exactly the amount of scholarships and loans the student can receive.
  • Loan Planning – understand exactly how much education debt you can incur without jeopardizing your current budget, or your retirement funding.
  • Tax Planning – review your 1040 tax schedules to discover potential tax savings that can be converted to funding college costs.
  • Cash Flow Planning – review your investments, health costs, insurance costs, mortgage costs, and current living expenses to discover potential areas of cash flow improvement that can be used for college costs.
  • Investment Planning – review all your investments to discover the “real rate of return” (Internal Rate of Return). Many hidden costs can be converted to cash flow that can be used for college.

Now is the time to take a proactive approach to college planning because most of your advantage in time, money and leverage may soon be gone.

If you have a high school student that plans to go to college in the next four years, and you have no idea how to develop a college game plan, then please contact us ASAP for a free consultation. It’s what you don’t know that will eventually cost you!

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

Financial Aid– It’s Time to Apply

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Jen R


It’s almost time to apply for financial aid!
Did you know the dates for the FAFSA® have changed?
For those who will go to school beginning 2017-2018, students can fill out the FAFSA® as early as October 1st.  Let’s try to get it done before the holidays!  You’ll use the 2015 tax returns, so for most, you should already have all you need.

Here are a couple of best practices:
You should fill out the FAFSA® even if you don’t think you will get need based aid.  It will give you access to federal loans that you may want to use and many merit scholar-ship programs require you to have filled out the FAFSA®.
Know which assets count and which do not and make sure you fill it out correctly.
Watch for priority dates at the schools to which you are applying and don’t miss them.
Check if the schools to which you are applying also take other forms such as the CSS Profile® or their own forms.

Fill out the FAFSA® every year, as your numbers can change, especially when you have two or more students in school at the same time.

And always consider meeting with a financial advisor to make sure you are doing eve-rything you possibly can to fund college costs efficiently!


Franklin Butler, CFP®, CLU® and Jennifer Rose, MBA®, CLU®, ChFC®, are Financial Planners and regular educators in community and professional groups on college financing, tax reduction strate-gies, and retirement planning. Their practice is dedicated to helping families implement creative long-term financial strategies to fund college and retirement with minimal out-of-pocket cost.  For additional questions, please feel free to call Jen at 804-301-2375 or Frankie Butler at 804-305-5587.

Don’t Use Your 401(K) To Pay For College!

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Piggy Bank for CollegeAs the cost of college heads for the stratosphere and student loans become more costly due to higher interest rates, many families may find themselves a bit cash-strapped and begin to look at their retirement fund (401k, 403b, IRA) to cover their education expenses.

While it’s a natural tendency to want to do all you can financially to make sure your kids get the best education possible; we highly caution against tapping your nest egg to pay for your children’s education. Why?

Consider this:

The average age of parents with college bound kids is 40-45. These parents are at the back-end of the Baby Boomer wave. Twenty years from now when these current college bound parents are approaching 65 years of age, the majority of baby boomers will be 70-80 years of age!

This huge number of older Boomers may end up draining the government’s Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid coffers. Will the government have to raise YOUR taxes to offset these older Boomer’s old age costs? If so, the amount of money you will have available for retirement could go down!

Did You Know That Your Retirement Plan Is Fully Taxable?

Since your 401k/403b/IRA is fully taxable at ordinary income tax rates, raising taxes to support these older Boomers at the time of your retirement could dramatically reduce the amount of money you’ll have to live on… when you need it the most!

In addition, if you do borrow money from your 401k to pay college expenses and then switch jobs; please be aware that the loan must be paid back right away, typically within 60 days of the time you leave. And if you don’t have the cash to pay off the 401k loan, then the loan balance may be considered a taxable distribution. This means you would owe ordinary income tax plus a 10 percent penalty if you’re under the age of 59½.

Nobody can predict whether the government will raise taxes to offset the aging costs of baby boomers. However, as a parent with college bound children, you need to look at the bigger picture. You need to plan for college by addressing your retirement first.

Before you ever consider taking money from your retirement account to finance your children’s education, please give us a call. We may have alternative strategies that can help you pay your college expenses without raiding your retirement accounts.

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

If You Visit Colleges During The Summer Months – Look Beyond The College Brochures

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Stanford_13677363 copyDon’t judge a college by its brochure! If you’re serious about going to college, then you need to look beyond those expensive, glossy, full-color college brochures, or fancy websites, which tout the institution’s image and credentials.

To get the most out of your campus visit, you must gather first-hand intelligence about the schools on your list. And the summertime is an excellent time for high-school juniors (who are about to become seniors) to plan summer/fall college visits.

The most important source of information about a college is the personal impression you receive from visiting the campus. Personal visits are mandatory. Unless you actually visit your candidate schools, you’ll never know what it’s like to be there.

Going to college is one of the most important decisions that a young person makes and with over a million students starting college every fall, the campus visit is serious business. However, most visits fall far short of their potential. This is because prospective students and parents don’t ask the right questions and they end up settling for the information that institutions routinely provide. Does it really matter how many books are in the library, or how many faculty members have Ph.D.s (which says nothing about their ability to teach)?

Many research studies show that what matters most to a high quality undergraduate experience is whether students engage in a variety of educationally sound activities, inside and outside the classroom. The more students study a subject, the more they learn about it.

Likewise, the more students practice and get feedback on their writing, analyzing, or problem solving, the more adept they become. And the more experience they have with people from different backgrounds, the more sensitive, comfortable and effective they will be when working with such people. Simply put, the more engaging the college, the more students learn.

Surprisingly, students hear almost nothing about “learning” when they visit campuses. But they can find out by asking certain questions of tour guides, admissions staff and faculty members. Answers to the following questions will reveal things about a college that you may never discover otherwise:

  • How much reading and writing is assigned in the first year?
  • How often do students meet with faculty members outside of class?
  • Are students encouraged to work together to solve problems or work on projects?
  • In what ways is information technology used in the classroom?
  • Who do students talk with about career plans? Do they have a career center?

The summer is a great time to visit colleges, but asking the right questions can reveal matters of substance and style that reflect the educational quality of a college. If your student plans to visit colleges this summer, give us a call first. We can help you get the “inside information” during your campus visit.

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

How Out-Of-State Students Can Get In-State Tuition

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

One way to reduce the cost of higher education is to attend a public university. However, the student may face a huge “cost premium” if he or she does not qualify as a resident of the state where the public university is located.

In the past, elaborate rules for in-state tuition qualification were established to safeguard taxpayer-subsidized public universities. Here are a few guidelines to these rules:

  • Twelve months : Generally, students must live in the state for a minimum of 12 months, prior to enrolling, in order to gain residency status.
  • Proof of residency : Students need to provide voter registration, car registration, and conversion of their driver’s license as proof that they lived in the state at least 12 months prior to enrolling in school.
  • Relocation purpose : Most states won’t grant residency if the student’s purpose for moving was primarily educational. Students must usually demonstrate financial independence in the state for at least 12 months prior to enrolling in school.
  • Dependency : If parents claim the student as a dependent on their taxes, the student is considered a resident of the state in which the parents hold residency. If the parents move to a different state, the student’s residency may not change. If the parents are divorced and live in different states, the student may qualify for residency in both states.

However, while many popular public universities still do slap out-of-state students with a large tuition premium, such as U of Michigan, U of Colorado, and U of Vermont, many public colleges in less populated areas are eager for students and are willing to cut good deals.

At some of these colleges, the out-of-state tuition is so low that the total annual cost of attendance is less than $18,000 per year. Since many large public universities have total sticker prices in excess of $25,000 for their own in-state residents, this means it can be cheaper for some students to attend public schools out of state. In addition, some of these public schools also award extra scholarships to better-qualified students, bringing their out-of-state costs down even further.

Some colleges are so eager to attract out-of-state students that they are making it easy for students to qualify for in-state tuition, such as Eastern Oregon University, which doesn’t charge an out-of-state tuition premium.

Other schools waive out-of-state fees for students who meet minimal qualifications, such as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which awards out-of-state tuition waivers to students with SAT scores of at least 1,500 and GPAs of at least 2.5.

The bottom line is many lesser-known public universities are now offering deals for out-of-state students to come to their college. Never assume that you can’t negotiate a deal for yourself at any college. If you don’t try, you surely won’t succeed. Call the college registrar’s office to determine their rule for residency status.

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.

10 Items You Should Research Before Ever Committing To A College

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

High school juniors will begin to look seriously at colleges soon and some of the key factors that these students will look at in their college search is 1) the looks and size of the campus, 2) the quality of campus life, 3) the honors and study-abroad programs, 4) fraternities and sororities, and 5) the sports programs. However, before the student makes a commitment to any college, here are ten other areas to consider:

1. The number of course requirements

Course requirements vary widely from school to school. You don’t want to find yourself mired in courses that don’t interest you, while you’re unable to take electives in the areas that do interest you.

2. The flexibility of course requirements

Schools that require specific courses can put you in a bind if you’d rather take more advanced courses, or if you need to take more remedial courses, to fulfill that requirement. Be sure to check that the school allows a choice of course levels to satisfy the various requirements. Also, keep in mind that many top professors avoid teaching required courses that route hundreds of students through the course.

3. The availability of your college major

Never assume that your college of choice offers every possible major, especially if you have a very specialized major in mind. It’s critical to check the list of majors at each college. At certain colleges, some majors are not open to all students, especially those majors that require talent or training (music or art), or those majors that are extremely popular (psychology or journalism).

4. The availability of your desired classes

In the past few years; college enrollments have risen, but the faculty size has not grown commensurately. As a result, there may be very long wait lists for some classes and shortages in first-year classes for students who did not register on the first possible date. Be sure to check the availability of your desired courses before sending in your acceptance letter to the college.

5. The availability of professors teaching the course

At many state universities, a significant number of instructors are graduate students. It’s important to know how much of your instruction, especially in the first years of college, will be designated to graduate student teachers. It’s ok if a regular professor gives the lectures and the grad student leads discussion sections; however, the real issue arises at schools where grad students are allowed to teach entire courses on their own.

6. The student/faculty ratio

If you attend a school with 10 to 20 students per faculty member, you’re likely to get a lot of individual attention from the faculty. Once the number of students per faculty member goes above 20, you may not get much hand-holding from a professor.

7. The percentage of students who graduate

A school with a graduation rate over 80 percent is good and a graduation rate of 60 to 80 percent is quite normal; however, a school whose gradation rate is under 60 percent is not good. Also check out the average time a student takes to receive a degree. You may want to avoid schools whose students take an average of six to seven years to graduate.

8. The quality of the career placement department

Very few students even think to ask about the career placement department, but this should be a key item on your checklist assuming the student would like to graduate with a job. Students should ask questions such as, what job placement services are provided by the placement office, what percentage of graduates will be employed prior to graduation, and which companies and organizations recruit your graduates?

9. Are you required to take computer–taught or on line classes

To save money, some colleges use computer programs for course instruction, or have their lectures posted online, rather than use live instructors. It’s the new do-it-yourself method of instruction, which may not be the best learning experience for the student.

10. The total cost of college

If you plan to attend college then you should know up front what the total cost of college will be to get a degree. The student should also research any opportunities to receive financial aid to help offset that total cost. You will need to find the answers to questions such as, how does the college financially reward a good student, what forms are used by the college to determine financial aid eligibility, what non-need or merit grants and scholarships are available from the college, and what is the average debt incurred by each student upon graduation?

How can a student get this much needed information from the various colleges? Check out the college guides and the college websites themselves. Ask admissions officers, students, and recent graduates of the schools. Send e-mails to the appropriate college contacts. Regardless of how you get this information, it is very important in order to make the best possible college choice and get the most out of your college experience.

The author of this newsletter is Brock Jolly.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this newsletter, or any questions about college funding in general, please contact our office.