Tuition Bills: Coming to a Mailbox Near You

When holiday parties are way behind us, a big hangover still haunts many college parents: those semiannual tuition bills. They usually show up in August and December. They’re relentless. When we see them in our mailbox, we wonder how such a small envelope can pack such a big punch.

The sadistically interesting thing about college tuition bills is the due date. You have to make full payment within two-to-three weeks for most colleges. Denial doesn’t work. If you don’t pay, your son or daughter can’t register for classes. Quite a simple arrangement. When the “Amount Due” figure looms in the many thousands of dollars, the term “money monster” seems more apt than “tuition bill.”

Folk wisdom tells us that knowledge is power. When it comes to paying for college, knowledge can be dollars. That’s why you need to read The Princeton Review’s Paying for College without Going Broke by Kalman A. Chany with Geoff Martz (Random House/Princeton Review Books). It’s highly readable and the latest edition is in the bookstores. The newest policy changes and stratagems fill it from cover to cover.

Without doubt, the single biggest higher-education concern today is how to pay for it. We’ve all heard the incredible projections about what future college costs will be. Chany notes that soon the average annual cost of a private college will be in the mid-$40,000 range and a public university will approach $20,000. Do we have your attention now?

But what about TODAY? Chany states, “The cost of a four-year private college education has passed the $125,000 mark at many schools . . . [even] . . . state schools . . . have been raising their tuition as fast as the privates.”

What’s a parent to do? Well, reading this book is an excellent first step toward fiscal sanity. In David-Letterman fashion, Chany and Martz offer a list of top, college financial-aid ploys:

  • Assume you’re eligible.
  • Don’t wait to be accepted to a college to apply for aid.
  • Get application forms as soon as possible.
  • Deadlines vary: be prepared to meet each one!
  • Do the math: figure out your “expected family contribution.”
  • Before December 31, maximize your aid eligibility.
  • Plan to do your income tax forms early.
  • Follow instructions carefully on application forms.
  • Don’t depend on outside scholarships.

You’ll have to read the book to get the details on these key points. And there’s so much more. Paying for College can help you chase away The Money Monster.