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Financial Planning > College Planning

A Real Education

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If your clients are flooding you with calls about how they can pay their kids’ college tuition–or even if they’re not, but they’re going crazy looking for scholarships–there are a couple of places to go for help. First is The Scholarship Book 2003 (National Scholarship Research Service, 2002, Prentice Hall Press). This weighty tome-cum-CD-ROM is a hefty reference to “4,000 scholarship sources; 400,000 awards worth over $2 billion; and awards up to $40,000 per year,” according to the cover. The book also covers fellowships, grants, and loans.

Scholarships are available in all sorts of categories, in denominations ranging from “a musical instrument” (the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation) to a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. Neither are they restricted to the young (some are only offered to seniors for “continuing education”), the academically excellent (in skimming the entries, we saw some for those with a GED), or the business-minded (scholarships can be found for everything from agriculture and horticulture to the humanities, film, and medicine).

At the other end of the spectrum is New Strategies for College Funding: An Advisor’s Guide, by Raymond D. Loewe with KC Dempster (John Wiley & Sons, 2002). This book, also with CD-ROM, gives advisors a complete look at how to plan for their clients’ needs when it comes to college funding. The CD-ROM in this case contains software for calculating the outcomes of various scenarios involved in college planning (i.e., institutional vs. federal methodologies in determining financial aid requirements; amount needed at various rates of return to achieve goals; college cost projections; and others).

The authors point out a number of often-overlooked aspects of the planning process: what effect ownership of bank or brokerage accounts will have on taxes and on financial aid; whether parents can take advantage of financial aid during the year(s) they have more than one student in college, even if with only one student attending they do not qualify; whether Grandma can finance part of the tuition bill, and how that will affect estate taxes, gift taxes, and the financial aid picture for the rest of the bill; and many other finer points.

Advisors using the software may want to adjust the market return rate on the savings calculator; examples in the book are 7.5%, 8.5%, and 9.5%, which in today’s market are a trifle optimistic and will skew the results accordingly.

The book covers everything from saving before college to using current income and loans during college years. It even accounts for the hit retirement funds may take due to repayment of loans and delay of retirement investment during those college years. For a thorough guide to planning for the expenses of college, this is an excellent choice.


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