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Common Myths About Paying for College

By Edited Aug 24, 2016 3 5

There are many myths surrounding saving for college. These myths range from it's better not to save for college to why bother saving because education is too expensive and out of reach anyway. Other fallacies are associated with eligibility for financial aid and scholarships.

Financing college is a considerable expense and investment. This is one fact that is definitely not a myth. Pursuing higher education is costly, no doubt about it - but this doesn't mean a degree is necessarily out of reach. Nor does it mean there aren't options for students to explore to help pay for their education.

College debt
Credit: 0TheFool via Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/student-loan-debt-education-college-1160848/

Before making any assumptions about financing college, it is always best to do some research and separate fact from fiction to help make the best plan possible to save for a future college education. Here are a few of the top myths associated with saving for college to help make an educated decision:

1. It's Better Not to Save

A huge myth is the belief that if one doesn't save for college and has no accumulated savings when a child is entering college, then there is an automatic eligibility for financial aid and scholarships to pay for education. This is a bad myth to believe since nothing is furthest from the truth.

Many forms of financial assistance for college are based on annual income, as well as tangible assets saved. Unless one plans to quit a job and live with no income, not saving isn't necessarily going to increase financial aid opportunities. Additionally, scholarships are highly competitive and there are no guarantees a hopeful student will receive an award.

Even if a student does secure financial aid, for most people, this is probably not going to cover all of college costs. A better option is to plan ahead and not rely on the assumption a student can secure financial aid. Even if the student doesn't qualify for aid or scholarships, savings will reduce obligation on loans to be paid back. There are many different types of educational savings plans to look into that aren't penalized from a tax perspective.

2. Not Eligible for Financial Aid

One of the largest mistakes students and their parents make is they assume they are not eligible for financial aid. This is another huge myth about financing college. Regardless of income or assets saved, it is always a good idea to fill out the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA ) application.

Credit: U.S Dept. of Education http://blog.ed.gov/files/2016/01/Top-5-FAFSA-FAQs-for-2016.jpg

When the FAFSA is filed, it does consider income and assets, however, it also takes a look at the number of family members attending college and medical expenses as they calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Since parental assets are only a percentage of the total calculation for financial aid, students may find they are eligible for some amount of award. Some of the information required on the FAFSA form is taken directly from income tax returns.

Even if a family has assets, good income and some savings, a student may be eligible for a couple of hundred dollars which would, at the very least, help pay for books. Regardless of  financial situation, it can't hurt to file a FAFSA either way as a student will never know what he or she may qualify for in terms of aid or low-interest loans because some level of financial aid may still be within reach. While it's true many people won't be eligible, but even if a student isn't, the FAFSA is the first step for many lower-interest college loans, so either way it's worth the effort and time.

3. It's a Good Idea to Postpone Savings

Some parents decide not to start saving until their child begins thinking of college options. The philosophy is that why bother saving if the child may not plan to go to college. The reality is it's better to save earlier than later because costs are going to increase and it can't hurt to have some money stashed aside for college.

Saving for college
Credit: TaxCredits.net via Flickr/CC by 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7027599019

If the child decides not to go to college, the money can always be used for something else if it is in an investment that can be accessed for any reason. If the money is saved in an education stipulated plan, such as a 529 Savings Account, this can be transferred to another eligible family member without penalty. Either way someone benefits from the savings.

4. Community College is Not a Good Education

Community colleges are an excellent option for students who have financial struggles. Not only do students get a solid education - it's a great way to save money for students who are seeking to pursue a four-year degree.  Price does not determine a quality education. Some of the best educational programs can be pursued through public or community colleges.

5. College is Too Expensive

Perhaps one of the largest myths of all is the assumption college is out of reach due to the high cost of higher education. Yes, college is expensive, but it is within reach for most everyone. 1

Granted, options may be limited from attending a trendy expensive private school to going to a state or community college, but this doesn't mean a solid and quality education can't be acquired despite personal financial situations. Nor does it mean students can't necessarily attend that pricey school, all options should always be explored to see what's available in terms of financial assistance. 1

Experts predict the costs of college are going to continue to rise (based on statistics, this is not a myth). New parents are encouraged to begin college planning when their children are infants. The media often sensationalizes the costs of education, 4 creating some misconceptions and many people worry about how to pay for college and have the fear instilled their children will be unable to go to college if they don't save significant amounts of money from early childhood.

While savings are never a bad thing and starting early can't hurt, the reality is everyone's financial situation is different and there are many available options when it comes to financing college. The bottom line is it is better to save, but this doesn't mean college is necessarily out of reach either. College is a possibility for most anyone who wants to go. It might just take some extra work to figure out ways to get there.



Apr 10, 2016 4:10am
As a parent with a child who is a Junior in college, I can tell you that the FAFSA is a joke. What they say we should pay is beyond ridiculous...the math tells us we can afford "X" amount, which is more that the tuition itself! Little things like paying the mortgage do not figure into it at all when they tell us the number we should be able to afford.

Community College is a great option financially for everyone, I agree. However, getting your child to believe it is not 13th grade is another, especially when she finds out who is attending. It is a selling point for some teens.

College is expensive! That is not a myth! One year for my daughter cost more than my two degrees-and she is at a "cheap" college. Do you have a college student? Have you experienced sticker shock and have serious sit down conversations with your teen about the realities of attending and the cost? It is not just tuition...books are beyond expensive. My daughter does not buy them all due to the cost and just coasts for some classes.

We have always put money away for college, but it is not enough. My children know that they will have loans and we will try to help them pay them back.

Apr 10, 2016 5:34am
Thanks Mommy for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Expenses are not a myth, but I wanted to hit on other points I've experienced/seen and researched.

I have two in college, a junior and a freshman, and after discussing the expenses, loans, etc., both agreed to start at community college and then transfer. It's been working out well for them. (I'm a big fan of community colleges - I took this route myself and after that I worked for one).

Books costs have gotten ridiculous. My kids have also tried to not buy them where possible. Have you checked out Amazon buying and selling with other students? I've found that saved a lot of money after I went back to school. I used to sell my texts for almost what I paid for them. It's harder now with those online "keys", but sometimes still is a good option.
Apr 10, 2016 4:32pm
My daughter needed to go away, so community college was not an option. We laid out all of the options for her, and she chose the one that was most expensive to her. College is out of reach for middle class families, which is why so many kids cannot launch. They are saddled with huge debt and no job prospects. Glad your kids went the CC route and it is working out for them.
May 8, 2016 12:11am
Student loans are also something to avoid if at all possible. Gone are the days when graduates could just walk into a plum job and earn enough to pay off those loans. Now they are more likely to be doing (probably pro bono) internships and finding themselves saddled with burdensome debt. The more realistic route these days is to combine part time study with part time work and be realistic about how long it is actually going to take to get that degree.
May 14, 2016 5:56pm
The issue I ran into is not understanding scholarships nor hearing about their importance prior to attending college.
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  1. "College Too Expensive? That’s a Myth." Wall Street Journal. 6/07/2015. 4/04/2016 <Web >
  2. "5 Myths About How To Pay For College." Road2College. 4/04/2016 <Web >
  3. "10 financial aid myths: What you don't know can cost you ." SavingforCollege.com. 13/01/2016. 4/04/2016 <Web >
  4. "Is a College Degree Worth the Debt." Simple Tuition. 11/04/2016 <Web >

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