Eps 393: College financial planning with Ann Garcia

Episode 392

My guest today is Ann Garcia, and this episode is full of resources & advice you can use right now for college financial planning. 

Ann is an expert on paying for college and has two kids in college right now, so she really gets it.  Ann starts with an explanation of why some college educations are so expensive, what other options are available, and why you need to define your budget for college.  Ann shares tips for staying focused on goals & how to talk to your teen about college.  Ann tells me when it could be right to take student loans and gives lots of info on how to get scholarships.  We also touch on financial aid, FAFSA, CSS Profile, & institutional merit aid.  

Guest Description 

Ann is a fee-only fiduciary advisor and go-to expert on paying for college. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed “How to Pay for College” and a sought-after media guest who’s been quoted in the New York Times, the Oregonian, and U.S. News and World Report, to name a few. Ann recently launched an interactive online course to help parents understand, plan for and minimize college costs. As a parent whose twins will graduate from college this year, Ann’s expertise expands beyond FAFSAs and 529s — she understands the emotional components of helping your child set and achieve goals for their future. Outside of financial planning, Ann is an avid runner, skier and fan of middle school rock concerts.

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Takeaways from the show

  • Not all kids are college bound 
  • Why is college so expensive? 
  • Finding college at every price point 
  • Figuring out your college budget 
  • How and when to talk to your teen about your college budget 
  • Focusing on goals, not constraints 
  • Scholarships for every student 
  • Student loans 
  • FAFSA, CSS Profile, & institutional merit aid  
  • Financial planning & parenting

What does joyful courage mean to you 


You know, there’s so many ways to answer that question.  I’m going to answer it in the context of the conversation that we just had.  To me, joyful courage is keeping doors open – doing the things that you can to ensure that you will have more opportunities in the future.  So when it comes to college, it means making good choices that don’t saddle your kid with too much debt because that doesn’t keep doors open.  When it comes to life, it means building relationships.  As you’re thinking about college, “how am I going to engage there?  How am I going to make friends?  How am I going to get everything out of this experience that I can?”  It’s the little things.  It’s showing up.  It’s saying please and thank you.  It’s acknowledging the people who have supported you along the way.  It’s giving back.  To me, joyful courage is keeping the doors open. 



“How to Pay for College” Book 

College Financial Plan Masterclass 

Ann’s Website 

Ann’s Blog

Ann’s Facebook 

Ann’s YouTube

Ann’s Instagram

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college, scholarships, students, kids, fafsa, talk, year, pay, parents, student loan, merit scholarships, cost, college credits, saving, graduate, tuition, apply, book, money, great
Casey O'Roarty, Ann Garcia

Casey O'Roarty 00:04
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together, while parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people. And when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already, I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead at Sprout double. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported. Today is an interview and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show.

Casey O'Roarty 01:24
I listeners I am really excited to introduce my guests today. Ann Garcia is a fee only fiduciary advisor and go to expert on paying for college. She is the author of the critically acclaimed how to pay for college book and a sought after media guest has been quoted in the New York Times the gorgonian. And US News and World Report to name a few and recently launched an interactive online course yay. To help parents understand plan for and minimize college costs as a parent whose twins will graduate from college this year. As expertise expands beyond FAFSA and 529. She understands the emotional components of helping your child set and achieve goals for their future outside of financial planning and is an avid runner skier and fan of middle school rock concerts. I'm so excited to have an on the podcast. It's so real and relevant for me right now with my junior thinking about applying for college in the fall, my older kiddo starting at community college just this quarter. So happy that you're here. And welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for having me. And we were chatting away before I hit record. And finally listeners had to say you know what, let me hit record so we can talk about this, for everyone to hear, just talking about all the things to think about as our kids. And I want to say caveat at the start, too. Not all kids are college bound. And there's lots of paths. As you know, my listeners know, I have my oldest who got her GED and went to trade school and now is coming around to wanting to do an ultrasound tech program, we'll see where she takes that. There's lots of pathways to success. Today we are talking specifically about the road to college, for our kids, that that's a good fit for so having said that, yeah, it feels like especially now that I'm kind of feeling pressed up against the wall of it. I'm definitely noticing those places where I kind of want to put my fingers in my ears and be like, Well, I don't need to understand this. This feels too overwhelming. And one of those places is the cost of college. So before we get there, how did you get into this work of supporting people around college planning and paying for college? How did you get here?

Ann Garcia 04:01
Well as a financial advisor, and as a parent, that was sort of a natural intersection. But I would say more specifically, as an advisor, I found myself talking a lot to two different groups of people. One was young adults who had taken on so much student loan debt to get their education that they were struggling with the basic financial building blocks of their adult life, you know, whether it's saving for retirement, buying a home, or in some cases, even having emergency savings. And another group I was talking to were parents who are struggling to figure out how to understand and plan for the cost of college. And I sort of felt like if I could help that second group, those parents, I might see less of that first group. And again, as a parent of two myself, I knew that this was something I needed to understand as well. And so it's something that I've just dug into over time I found I was answering the same questions again and again and again. In my practice, so I started writing the answers down. And one year, I made a New Year's resolution to start writing a blog with all these FAQs that I had developed over time, just on the thinking that more people had these questions than were walking in the door of my firm. And there is a larger audience that I could serve that way. And so I've been writing this blog for at least a decade now picked up an old post, it was from 2014. I was like, yeah, yeah. And then when the pandemic came, I, like many other people had a little extra free time on my hands. And coincidentally, an opportunity came up to write a book. And so how to pay for college, the book was born.

Casey O'Roarty 05:43
Yes, well, and what I appreciate and, you know, kind of holding is twins, moving through the college process with two kids. At the same time. You know, you being an expert through training and education, and also through experience, I think, is something that makes your work so easy to lean into. For someone like me who's like, I need it to be practical, I need you to speak to me in a way that I understand. I'm not a financial planner, or accountant person. So sometimes the conversation can feel out of my realm. But your work really speaks to like the average parent who's just trying to figure things out. Why is college so expensive? And why? Why is it so expensive, although I will say that as a caveat. So like I said, I've got my daughter's in community college here in Bellingham, where we live. And I'm also looking ahead at my son Ian, who wants to go to a four year college out of state, he's declared that for sure. And the difference in the cost of the community college experience versus the, you know, big four year college experience is unreal. Right? It's such a difference. So why is it that college is so expensive?

Ann Garcia 07:10
Well, so I would say a couple of things. First and foremost, college is available at every price point. So yes, there are the 85 $90,000 a year private colleges. My son has a good friend who just graduated from college, having paid $0 for a four year degree she did free community college in her state for two years. And then she worked for Starbucks, and Starbucks has a tuition partnership program with Arizona State's online program. And so she finished up there and she literally paid exactly $0 for college. So college is available at a lot of different price points. As far as why college is so expensive. We can talk about issues like you know, declining state funding for higher ed, you know, higher ed is the one service that a state provides that there's an alternate payer to cover that cost. We could talk about, you know, fancy dorms, lazy river, you know, all of those fine things, we could talk about increasing college enrollment, requiring colleges to invest in new facilities, you know, additional dorms, additional classrooms, additional professors, we could talk about administrative salaries, there are lots of those things. What I think is really important for us to talk about is the reason that college costs so much is that lots of people pay it. So if you are, let's say the provost of Stanford, and you charge $85,000 for tuition last year, and you turned away 10,000 People who are willing to pay that, would you charge $75,000 next year? Probably not. The good news is that although those headline prices have gone through the roof, and have far outpaced inflation for a long time, you know, for many decades, the net price of college really hasn't gone up since the financial crisis of 2008 2009. So the net price is the amount we actually pay as parents or as students, tuition is discounted heavily at most colleges. You know, we let the Stanford's and Harvard's of the world sort of control the college narrative of, you know, colleges is this really exclusive and expensive thing and you should be grateful to be given the opportunity to go here, but the vast majority of colleges are actively trying to recruit and enroll students and their number one means of doing that is by discounting their tuition. And so, if you as a parent say, Here's my college budget for my child, you will find lots and lots of good options for them. You know, there's no other large purchase that we make as people we're We don't consider our budget. You know, when we buy a car, we think about how much we can afford for either a monthly payment or to pay it when we buy a house, the mortgage company tells us how much mortgage we can have. The sad thing about college is that nobody puts any limit on it, you know, you can borrow up to the full cost of attendance at any college, but the better path to go down is to figure out what can my family afford? How can we support our student? And how can we guide them to good choices that fall within those parameters? Because those good choices are out there. Your book has

Casey O'Roarty 10:35
so many, I mean, it's just we couldn't possibly cover everything in your book. There's so many good resources, mindsets, things that I think we when we're not actively researching all of this, like even you just saying that colleges discount tuition, I'm like they do, what does that look like? What do you mean, you know, when I think about scholarships, not having a super, you know, high achieving student, like part of me kind of writes off the idea that there's a scholarship for my kid, right, or my kids. And so educating ourselves. And I'm, like, actively talking to myself right now. Like educating ourselves on all the ways that we can make this work is so powerful, I think something that's also really important. And I didn't get to it, I think you kind of highlight this in your book. But you know, I think we're doing a disservice to ourselves and our kids, when we say, you can go anywhere you want. Right, like you get in, we'll make it work. You know, talk a little bit about that, and about having conversations with our kids about the college budget. I think, you know, part of that is I think, for all of us as parents to get over the idea that somehow we failed if we can't make the Stanford or the Harvard work if our kids have worked hard enough to get into those schools. Right, right. So how do we have conversations with our kids, as we begin this process of, you know, what can work for our family?

Ann Garcia 12:11
Yeah, well, I'm gonna start by giving parents permission to not pursue the most expensive colleges. And here's something I'm going to tell you there was a survey done a few years ago called The Purdue Gallup poll, where they surveyed adults who were successful in life. And what they wanted to do was find out what about their college experience made them successful as adults. And what they found is it had nothing to do with which college they went to. It wasn't about, you know, people who went to private schools versus public schools, people who went in urban areas versus non urban areas, people who went to elite schools versus schools that accept a lot of students, what it came down to was having some specific experiences as a college student. And those were things like, feeling like professors cared about them, finding mentors on campus, having the opportunity to apply classroom learning to an internship or job experience, it was participating in extracurriculars. So it was a body of experiences that are available at every single college campus in the country. So you are not limiting your child's opportunities by limiting the choice of colleges that they can apply to. I will also say my personal experience, I have twins, they are extraordinarily different students. My daughter is that one of those less than 10% admin rate, private colleges, my son is at a public college that admits about three quarters of applicants. Yeah, which

Casey O'Roarty 13:47
I'm really glad about, because that's where Ian wants to go. So yeah. And it's been

Ann Garcia 13:53
a great, great fit for him and a great, great choice for him. They are graduating this year, he graduated last weekend, she graduates in a couple of weeks, and they have virtually identical job offers. So they will start jobs with the same salary, the same type of program, the same type of company this fall. But you know, to get back to your actual question, how do you have these conversations? How do you think about this? I think the most important thing for us as parents is to shift our thinking away from which college do I want my student to go to? To? Why do I want them to go to college in the first place? Because again, that adulthood that you want for them is available through a lot of different means at a lot of different price points. talking to kids about money is awful. Right? It's at least as awkward as talking with them about sex, but it's a similar level of importance. Yeah, in doing so. I think when it comes to college, it's really important to have those conversations from the perspective of goals as opposed to from the perspective of constraints. And it's also important to be age appropriate. So you know, your kindergartner, you're not going to say we're not going to Hawaii, because we're saving for college. You know, good conversations to have with very young kids are talking about experiences you had in college, just sort of introducing the notion of college and something that informed your life made your life better. And you know, that's an opportunity that you would like to make available to them. You know, when your kids start getting into middle school, that's a great time to start talking about the fact that maybe you've been saving for their college education, because it's important to you, it's also a good time to start talking about the cost of different colleges. And there will be opportunities to bring that up, almost always, you know, your kids will have friends who have older siblings who are starting to look at colleges, which is a great intro, and to doing that, they may go on school field trips, or they go to a college. So lots of opportunities to sort of introduce the notion that college costs money, and that it's something that you are dedicating family resources towards.

Ann Garcia 16:13
What when kids get to high school, that's a really good time to start actually talking dollars. And again, doing it from the perspective of goals versus constraints will help you empower your child in their college search process. So for example, it's very important to us that you graduate from college debt free, and we have saved enough so that you could do that through our state's public college system, you can probably find other colleges that will work within that budget, and we will absolutely support you in that journey is one way to have that be a goals based conversation. You know, our goal is that you don't have to take out more than the direct student loan. Our goal is that you have a great college experience. But all big purchases that we make come with some constraints. The good news is to you know, for every college offers scholarships, and there is a scholarship for every student.

Casey O'Roarty 17:17
There is there is even the mid students. Even the mid

Ann Garcia 17:23
students will find scholarships at some colleges, there are lots of scholarships that aren't about grades. So let's talk about scholarships.

Casey O'Roarty 17:29
Well, before we go into scholarships, I want to just highlight something that I loved, that you just said, which is here's what we've done, we've been able to save budget for four years of college, inside of this container, which might be like in state tuition or whatever. I'm thinking about my kids and talking to them about, you know, we're going to be able to cover tuition, room and board, extra stuff is going to look like you having a part time job through this. You know, but I love that come from that goal oriented place. And I also know having been a young person with no concept of money, that curious to your thoughts on like, if you want a different experience, and want to look into loans, and we're going to talk about scholarships to like, how to also keep our kids feet on the ground. Because at 18 thinking, Oh, I'll have a $30,000 debt, but whatever, I'll just pay that off. It's not a big deal without realizing like, oh, it's actually a really big deal and super annoying, and can really get you into some trouble, depending on you know, life choices that you make post college. How can we and I'm guessing there's an end with this goal oriented conversation too, to help them see into the future and have the perspective of a 49 year old mother, right?

Ann Garcia 18:59
Well, especially because if you tell your middle schooler you know, we're saving $100 a month for your college dinner like their mind is blown. That's an incredible sum of money and then you're like that it's gonna be this much,

Casey O'Roarty 19:11
right? Well, I'm like, dammit, we should have been spending like $500 saving so much more every month, but okay. Yes, yes.

Ann Garcia 19:17
So I would say several things about student loans specifically. One is, if you just read the news about student loans, you would think they are a one way ticket to the poor house. Yeah, for sure. I think if taking out the direct student loan, which is the federal student loan that undergraduates can take out is the difference between going to college and not going to college or going to a college that's a perfect fit for you where you're going to graduate in four years versus going to one that is going to be hard for you to engage at and might result in you transferring and losing financial aid and taking five or six years are not even graduating at all. The Federal Direct Student Loan is a great investment in your education. So I would say number one, if you're looking at loans, you know, that's where you need to look at your borrowing there. There's a cap each year on how much a student can borrow it's $5,500. The first year 6500. The second year 7500, the last two years, a student who takes out, the maximum loan will graduate with a balance somewhere between 28 and $30,000, depending on interest rates, because the interest will accrue on the loans. And that translates to a monthly payment of about $325 for 10 years. Oh, which is more than supported by the additional earnings that a college graduate commands in the marketplace. Thank you. Thank

Casey O'Roarty 20:31
you for breaking that down. Actually, I feel calmer, having heard that break down. Okay, carry on.

Ann Garcia 20:37
So that is a very reasonable amount to borrow. But I think when you present that $325 a month for 10 years to an 18 year old, that already might seem like a big amount of money. My book, how to pay for college has a worksheet at the end of every chapter. One of them is about your annual shortfall at a given College, and they're all downloadable. So you don't have to, like pencil them in and tiny and do a bunch of math yourself. And one of them shows what your shortfall would be. And what that translates to as far as a loan payment going forward after you graduate. So, you know, to take that information back to your kids. Because yeah, like you said, it's easy for an 18 year old who has made most of their money cutting lawns or babysitting to be like $60,000. Well, that's, you know, the average college graduate makes $60,000. So if I borrowed $100,000, I could pay it off in a year and a half. Yeah, and not see any.

Casey O'Roarty 21:39
Yes, I would not see any gaps in

Ann Garcia 21:41
the logic there. Because they're 18. Right, right. But if you can take it and break it down and say, every month for 10 years, or for 20 years, or for 25 years, or for 30 years, this is what you would be paying to try to retire this debt. What are all the things that you would not be doing because of that debt? There's tons of research done on millennials who are now you know, in adulthood, you know, who still are paying student loans. Very few of them say that it was worth borrowing the amount they did to go to the college than they did. And unfortunately 18 year olds are allowed to borrow a decent chunk of money. Now, the other thing for parents to think about is students can take out the federal direct student loan with no cosigner private student loans, Parent Plus loans, any of the other types of loans would require you to cosign and that means that you are equally liable for that debt, as are they. So it's not just their future, you're protecting by preventing them from going down that path. It's your own.

Casey O'Roarty 22:45
Yeah. So now let's talk about scholarships. Yeah, right. So where's the free money?

Ann Garcia 22:51
Where's the free money? Money is in lots of places. Scholarships, basically break down into three categories. There is need based aid, which is primarily institutional, but there are limited federal dollars available there. There are merit scholarships that are offered by the College. So institutional need institutional merit. Those are the scholarships that come from the college. And that's where the big money is. The third type of scholarships is what's called outside scholarships. And those are scholarships that are offered by anybody other than the college. So they're offered by Rotary, they're offered by local civic organizations, there are national scholarships, there's National Merit, there's all kinds of different scholarships that fall under that heading. Those tend to be smaller than institutional grants, because the institutional grants and scholarships are the money that the college is using to try to attract and enroll students. So their business and their business is enrolling students. To qualify for need based aid. your expected family contribution or student aid index, as it'll be called going forward has to be lower than the cost of attendance. Now, your expected family contribution or student aid index is calculated by two forms. One is the FAFSA, which is the federal student aid application. All students file that because that's what gives you access to student loans, to Pell grants to work study, basically, any of the federal dollars, which tend to be included in institutional aid packages.

Casey O'Roarty 24:29
I'm going to pause you really quick on FAFSA. I have a really good friend who's got a daughter in we call it fucking FAFSA, because she said, What do I gotta do? Do I gotta flash my boobs to these people? Like, you know, like, those of us that are middle class, but not you know, swimming in the cash, but also in a place that looks from the outside and through these organizations in these forums like we have enough. Can we talk about FAFSA? Yeah,

Ann Garcia 24:59
yeah. Well, and I think too, you know, we both live on the coast, where the you know, cost of living is higher, and incomes are higher, and the FAFSA is largely based on income. Yeah. And so those of us on the coasts and in high cost of living areas are penalized in the federal formula. That's just the way it is, you know, someone who makes $150,000 in Seattle, does not have the lifestyle of someone who makes $150,000 in Kansas City, right. And those are the realities of our world. Right? Yeah. So the FAFSA, you know, your expected family contribution or student aid index is largely based on your income, okay, your assets are a small piece of it, but it's really based on your income. And depending on your income level, anywhere from like a quarter to a third of your income could be considered the amount that you are able to pay for college on an annual basis. Now, in the old days before this year, the FAFSA would divide your expected family contribution by the number of college students in your family going forward, it won't. However, colleges at their discretion may can continue to include that in their calculation. The other financial aid form is the CSS Profile, and that is used by about 400 private colleges. It asks for a wider range of information than does the FAFSA. It asks about your home equity, and colleges can have their own questions. My daughter applied to private colleges, and most of them required the profile and they all had, you know, weird extra questions, you know, what cars do we drive? Do we own them? Or lease some? You know, how much money did we spend on getting our kids summer jobs? Like, do we have to put the gas that they spent? You know, do the kids have a car, all kinds of things like that, the profile will continue to consider how many kids you have in college. So regardless of your income, whether you feel wealthy or not wealthy, your expected family contribution or student aid index, as it'll be called, going forward is going to be a number that is uncomfortable to you, I think, yeah, great. And if it's not lower than the cost of attendance, you will not get need based financial aid at at any college. Now, here's the thing. A lot of people go, Oh, look, my expected family contribution is really low. So college is going to be cheap for me. If you are eligible for need based aid, you have to apply to colleges that offer need based aid. They don't all do that. So in particular, if you're looking at out of state public schools, they will not offer you need based financial aid. Many private colleges do but not all. So the good news is for those who are not eligible for need based financial aid, there's this other gigantic pool of money called institutional merit aid. And that is money that colleges use to attract students they want to enroll. Now, we tend to think of student athletes, but it's really the mathletes who clean up in the merit awards. You know, colleges want to bring in students with good grades and good test scores. But there are lots of other criteria that colleges can use to award merit scholarships. So a woman I know who is an admissions counselor, she talks about assembling a freshman class at a colleges is like putting together a band or a football team, right? You can't have all quarterbacks, you need some offensive line people, you know, in a band, you can't have all guitar players, you know, you need a bass, you need guitars, you need singers, you need a woodwind section. Yeah. So oftentimes colleges are just looking for students who, you know, aren't part of the cohort, you may be applying, for example, to a small out of state liberal arts college, and you could be one of very few students from your state who's applying there, that school may love to be able to tell people, which I can tell you from visiting colleges, they love states, we have students from all 50 states. If you're that student, they want you to enroll, you know, so there could be scholarships available for that.

Ann Garcia 29:18
I took my niece to visit colleges, and one of the colleges that we went to someone asked as part of the admissions tour when we're meeting with the admissions director, you know, who gets in how do you decide who you like? She said, how do you stand out as an applicant? Right? And of course,

Casey O'Roarty 29:35
great question.

Ann Garcia 29:36
This answer depends largely on the college right because every college has a different applicant pool. But he said the things that a lot of students do to stand out don't necessarily stand out like collecting eyeglasses to send to developing countries is a fabulous thing to do. It doesn't stand out in our applicant pool. Again, this was a small private college, you know running your own lawn care service. Likewise for great thing to do. Hundreds of our applicants every year do that. He said last year, we had one student who had worked full time all summer at McDonald's to save money for college. So that stood out. You know, I started up I was jokingly said, you know, when my kids were growing up because we did normal stuff, you know, we did not do extra tutoring after school or any of that stuff. I feel like so many people are trying to be exceptional, that maybe normal is becoming the new exceptional.

Casey O'Roarty 30:28
Yeah, well, that's what about the kids that get like decent grades, and they play a sport, but they're not, you know, winning any awards and not like volunteering, like a mad person in the community and just kind of live in their life. Like, do these kids have any hope for merit scholarships and acceptance to college?

Ann Garcia 30:48
If they do, it's just a matter of, you know, finding the colleges that offer it or finding the pathways that reduce their cost of college. So for example, here in Oregon, which is consistent with many states around the country, we have dual enrollment programs that all have our four year college, and in a dual enrollment program, you are dually enrolled in the community college that's adjacent to the four year college and the four year college, you do your first two years of classes at the community college, you can live on college, participate fully in the Student Life of the four year college, but for your first two years, you're paying community college tuition, which we also offer free community college. So that's two free years of college, and then you automatically for your junior year are enrolled in the four year college.

Casey O'Roarty 31:37
Oh, wow. Well, who else does that? Where else? Is there free community college, Oregon. Lots of states offer it does Washington and I just am unaware?

Ann Garcia 31:46
I think so.

Casey O'Roarty 31:50
Although Washington for any college,

Ann Garcia 31:52
Washington does a bit, you know, the Running Start program where you do the community

Casey O'Roarty 31:56
hearts. Yeah, my son is actually doing running start as part. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, maybe that's making him exceptional go in many states offer

Ann Garcia 32:04
that as well. The important thing, you know, as you accrue college credits as a high school student. So there's two really important things. One is apply to colleges that will give you credit for those classes. Not all colleges do that. And so if you are taking those colleges, whether it's, you know, dual credit programs like running start, where you're taking community college courses as a junior and senior in high school, whether you're doing AP or IB classes, however it is that you're accumulating college credits, if the goal of doing so is to graduate from college in less than four years, make sure that you apply to colleges that will give you credit for those courses. Because they don't all do that. Yeah, the other thing that's really important for students who come out of high school with a lot of college credits, a lot of them are like, I have sophomore standing or I'm a junior, so I'm applying as a sophomore as a junior, don't do that apply as a freshman, because there are lots and lots more scholarships available to incoming freshmen than there are to transfer students. And you don't want to lose out on potential scholarships. Because you're claiming to be a sophomore or a junior, when in the college's eyes regardless of how many college credits you have, you are a first time college enrollee and you are a freshman and you are eligible for the whole scholarship pool that's available to college freshmen. Speaking of that, something I highly recommend for parents of younger students, like high school freshmen or middle school students, is look at your state's public school websites to see what scholarships they offer automatically. Most public schools have automatic scholarships where if you have this GPA, and maybe a test score is required, you know, this combination, you automatically get this many dollars. That is great information to have when you're a freshman in high school. It's much less helpful when you're a junior, because there's a lot more than a freshman can do to change their GPA than that a junior can. Yeah, at that point. And virtually every public school has automatic scholarships. Okay. Thank you based on grades, that's good

Casey O'Roarty 34:25
to know, too. Where do we go to find all this? Your website? Like all this out? Like I'm listening to you? And I'm like, Yeah, okay. And then I'm thinking like, Yeah, but I gotta go to the grocery store today. And I got to record another podcast, like, it starts to feel like, you know, and it doesn't just exist inside of this whole college thing. I mean, there's lots of things in our life that we're navigating that feel like I could research this if I had time. Yeah. Are there places to go that kind of have, like, brought all of this information while I'm sitting here at my desk with your book.

Ann Garcia 34:59
So A couple of things. One is, as parents with kids, our lives are in triage mode all the time, right? And so give yourself permission to not do everything, okay? On the other hand, you know, with college, and I don't say this like Sorry, Casey, your kids, a senior, you're screwed. But the earlier you start doing all this stuff, the less stuff you're cramming into senior year. So if you're listening to this, and it is the spring or summer of 2023, you can start now. But a couple of resources, one, my website, how to pay for college.com has loads of resources that will point you in all these different directions to is my book, and part of the way that I designed my book was for exactly that reason, you know, I'm the first person to say, I'll read a book and be like, Oh, my gosh, so much great information, I have so many things to do, and I'll set it aside. And six years later, I'm like, Oh, I needed to do that five years ago. So in my book, there's a worksheet at the end of every chapter that helps you to try to keep the project you know, moving forward and actually do the things that we know that you need to do so that it's broken down into discrete chunks. But let's talk about some external resources that are available to help you with this. A great website for researching colleges is college data. And it's just college data.com. If you want to look for college costs, that it's a great starting point. So if you know colleges that your student is interested in, you type the college name and you go to that colleges Financials tab in the information that it has. And it will tell you among other things, you know, what the list price is, which financial aid forms they use, you know, is it FAFSA or CSS profile, because depending on your family, one or the other might be more advantageous to you. And there's a chapter in my book about that. And then it also tells you what types of scholarships they give, and how much so for example, for students who had demonstrated financial need, what percent of their financial need was met. So you know, if you are a student who had, you know, $30,000 of financial need, if 100% of need is met, then that means you got scholarships for $30,000. If a school meets on average 50% of need, and cost of college is important to you, that's when you can cross off your list. It also shows merit scholarships. So what percent of students who had no financial need also got merit scholarships, and what was the average award amount? Okay, college data.com, college data.com. So that can be a great starting point. If you feel really strongly about specific schools, and you want to get a better sense of what these schools would actually cost you. Every college is required to have on its website, a tool called a net price calculator. And with a net price calculator, you punch in your financial information, and sometimes your academic information. And it will tell you what students like you are currently paying to attend that college. So when my daughter was looking at colleges, we used college data and net price calculators to just cross schools off her list because it costs about $100 per school to apply to schools. So there's no point in spending either the time or the money to apply to colleges that you would never accept admission at because they'd be outside of your family's budget. And in her case, like there was one school that she was interested in, that the net price calculator came in outside of our budget. And she went back and looked at what additional scholarships were available, that she could apply for there. And she found several that she was eligible for that if she got one of them, that college would fit our budget. And so we said, okay, you can apply, you can apply there. But you know, the rule for her is that every college she applied to had to have a pathway for her to get out, you know, for her to get educated there within our budget. Yeah. And I will also say, you know, for those of you who are like, but all these Expensive Colleges, the most expensive colleges tend to be the most generous. So she attends the world's most expensive college. And that was her second cheapest choice of all the colleges that she was accepted to oh my

Casey O'Roarty 39:17
gosh, I have to ask, what is the world's most expensive college?

Ann Garcia 39:22
University Chicago? Ah,

Casey O'Roarty 39:25
I don't know anything about it. But great. That's crazy. And it because of all the extra things that she was able to apply for and maintain over the course of her four years?

Ann Garcia 39:35
Yeah, because they're very generous with financial aid. They also, you know, a big part of it, too, is what do colleges actually include in their cost of attendance? And so they feel like, you know, we want to make sure that anyone we admit here will sees the big picture. Yeah, so that's their whole thing is we want to have a really low admittance rate and part of the way we do that is making sure that we give people no reason to say no. And so for example, they include the cost of health insurance in cost of attendance. If something isn't included in cost of attendance, then the school can offer a scholarship for it. And so in the interest of attracting a diverse student body, they will cover the cost of health insurance, you know, for students who enroll and have need, if you already have health insurance. Well, good news, your cost just went down. $5,000.

Casey O'Roarty 40:24
Wow. And I have so many questions that I didn't even ask. There's so much here. And, you know, listeners, we've mentioned, Ann's book, it is just a rock solid, packed resource to continue this conversation. And so many more pieces to this puzzle is included in her book. So I would encourage, I'll make sure there's a link in the show notes. For this, I'm gonna have to have you back on so we can talk about 529 plans, and that we can talk about, you know, those of us that maybe now they're relate to the game in the saving, and now we're faced with oh, God, what do we do? So we're gonna have to carry on this conversation. And but for today, for today, because our time is running out? Is there anything else you want to make sure that listeners really take away from this conversation that we've had today?

Ann Garcia 41:16
Well, I think the most important thing to remember about planning for college, it's equal parts, financial planning, and parenting. And you can come up with a great plan, you can have saved lots and lots of money. But if you aren't doing the parenting work of having these conversations with your kid, it could all be for naught. So it's really important to include both pieces of that. I would also say, you know, the parents side of me, the years go by really fast, and senior year of high school is a really special time, you know, all those last that you have, if anything that you can do before you get there to lessen the workload of senior year, that just gives you and your students so much more opportunity to be present for that time in their life.

Casey O'Roarty 42:03
Yeah, thank you. Thank you. And the final question that I ask all of my guests, and I'm going to ask you is what does joyful courage mean to you, especially in the context of mean, I'm thinking as soon as you said, time goes by fast and senior year, there's so many lasts, and for me, senior year is the year before the empty nest, right for us in our family, I got a little emotional. So yeah, as our kids launch into possibility, and, you know, this opportunity to be on their own and be in college, and we get to witness and hold space for it. What does joyful courage mean to?

Ann Garcia 42:44
You know, there's so many ways to answer that question, I'm going to answer it in the context of the conversation that we just had to meet joyful courage is keeping doors open, you know, doing the things that you can to ensure that you will have more opportunities in the future. So when it comes to college, it means making good choices that don't saddle your kid with too much debt, because that doesn't keep doors open. When it comes to life. It means building relationships. It means, you know, as you're thinking about college, how am I going to engage there? How am I going to make friends? How am I going to get, you know, everything out of this experience that I can? And it's the little things it's showing up at saying please and thank you. It's, you know, acknowledging the people who've supported you along the way it's giving back. So to me joyful courage is keeping the doors open.

Casey O'Roarty 43:33
Thank you, where can people find you and follow your work?

Ann Garcia 43:38
My website is how to pay for college.com. And then I'm also on Facebook and Instagram as the college financial lady. And of course my book how to pay for college is available from Amazon bookshop.org bookstores, bookstores everywhere.

Casey O'Roarty 43:51
Yes. Well, thank you so much for hanging out with me today. And this was super useful. I appreciate you.

Ann Garcia 43:57
Oh, Casey, thank you so much for having me. It's been great.

Casey O'Roarty 44:07
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at beasts browseable.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday. Peace

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