Is the prospect of sending a child—or yourself—to college a daunting challenge?
One of the most frequent questions Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) gets at public gatherings is about the cost of college and the North Shore Congressman did something about it Tuesday.
“Education is the bread and butter of success,” Dold said. “We’ve brought together experts to help people learn how to pay for college for their children.”
Dold invited six experts to a community seminar Tuesday at Trinity International University in Bannockburn and more than 100 people showed up to learn different ways to plan for college. Some were parents with children ready to head to college and others had younger kids. A few were already in college.
“I’m trying to learn what can help,” Trinity student and Deerfield resident Chris Sturrup said. “I want to know more ways to pay for college.”
Trip Banks of Lake Forest has already started planning on how to finance his son’s higher education but came to the seminar to get more ideas. His 15-year-old is a student at Lake Forest High School.
“We’ve already started,” Banks said. “We have a College Illinois account. We want to know the best ways available to us.”
Community College Can Help
Another parent, Donna Williams of Prospect Heights, liked some of the things she heard. She has two children, one in high school and one in middle school.
“I heard some really good ideas,” Williams said. “We could send her (the older daughter) to Harper (Community College in Palatine) for two years for her general education so she can really focus her last two years. That would save money.”
Sarah Woodburn of Winnetka has one child two years away from college and she has concerns about financing the effort. “I’m trying to learn everything I can,” she said. “Our oldest daughter is two years from going to college and we want to be well prepared in terms of finances.”
Dold’s panel of experts was Toni Payne (director of student loan counseling at R&B Solutions), Ben Pahl (Tranel Investment Group), Pat Coles (financial advisor for Trinity International University), Matt McLaughlin (director of admissions at Harper College), and Tonya Baxter of the University Center and Trinity student Aaron Mahl.
Avoid Student Loan Default
Payne spoke about student loan default and what is at stake because the penalties can be high. She emphasized the importance of only borrowing what you need and plan on how you will pay your loan back. If you find yourself in student loan debt, call someone to help find a solution rather than ignoring and defaulting on your debt.
Pahl told the group about the importance of a 529 college savings plan. In Illinois, the Bright Directions Plan is that plan which allows an individual to make pre-tax contributions and withdraw the money tax free as long as it is used on educational expenses.
Coles discussed specifics of student loans. Every student should go to http://www.fafsa.gov/ and fill out the financial aid form. This will help each student determine how much financial aid may be available from the federal government.
McLaughlin spoke about how to get college credits for less money. He stressed the importance of earning early college credits during high school through advanced placement or other methods so that you do not have to pay for those credits while in college
Baxter of talked about the different educational opportunities available in Lake County and Mahl told his personal story of how he paid for college.