Does the idea of talking to your families about how they are going to pay for college scare you or intrigue you?
I ask because back in May of 2006 when I first started my Independent Educational Consulting business, I knew very few high school guidance counselors were comfortable talking to their students and parents about this important subject. Some IECs didn’t feel good even bringing up this subject with their clients, sometimes because these same clients could easily write a check to pay for whatever college their student wanted to attend.
Fast forward 17 years to today, and suddenly everybody is talking about the ever-increasing cost of college. Why? Because of the rising tuition and housing prices at schools across the nation. Plus, parents and students have been forced over the past 20 to 30 years to cover a much larger portion of these charges while watching state funding evaporate while financial aid remains stagnant. The fact is, the American dream of going to college has gotten expensive, and every family, regardless of income or savings, wants to spend as little on college as possible.
So, what are you supposed to do as an IEC?
Like every other piece of the college process, I believe we all need to have the right tools in our toolbox to help our students and parents navigate their way through this complicated maze. I am not suggesting that you need to get into the weeds with your clients by knowing the specific strategies and financial products families can use to pay for college. That is, unless you really want to take on the fiduciary responsibility and licensing that comes along with this. But having a working knowledge of the Financial Aid System is better than avoiding the subject altogether, especially when clients start asking questions (for example) about the major overhaul the FAFSA is going through this year.
In my case, I spent years as a financial planner prior to transitioning over to helping clients with their college money talk. During this time, I was always looking for a software tool I could trust and use with my families that would bring transparency to college funding and financial aid conversations. I also came to realize that colleges like to keep their scholarship and need-based financial aid formulas under wraps.
Thankfully, my friend Peg introduced me to the College Aid Pro – MyCAP program back in May of 2019. It was a game changer for my business and a tool I use with every one of my families. I needed something that would give me the confidence to share accurate Federal - Expected Family Contribution (EFC) (changing to Student Aid Index -SAI) and Institutional EFC numbers with my clients. This also allowed me to give parents a starting point on the merit scholarships and/or need-based aid their daughters and sons might receive – pending any major changes a college makes to their formulas. In the end, my families are in a much better place than waiting until it is too late in the spring of their senior year.
So how are you going to handle this conversation with your families?
- Decide if you want to add the College Money Talk to your practice OR if you are going to outsource it to someone else you trust and who can become a part of your team.
- If you are going to guide your clients through this important conversation yourself, decide which software platform you are going to use. I highly recommend College Aid Pro – MyCAP. Do the training and learn as much as you can so that you can help your clients pick the right colleges to add to their list.
Helping your families with this piece of the college puzzle can be very rewarding when your students ultimately get into colleges that are not only a good academic, social, and geographic fit – but also a solid financial fit! Wishing you the best as you make your decision.
Dan Bisig is the founder of College and Beyond and a proud user and fan of both MyCAP and CollegePlannerPro. With questions, contact Dan by clicking here. We also invite you to join CollegePlannerPro for a webinar on this topic featuring Dan on March 16th (register here).