What’s Your College Budget?

At Needham Bank, our goal is to provide you with resources to improve your financial know-how. That’s why we’ve partnered with Campus Bound, a company that helps students and families navigate the challenging and exciting college search, application, and financial aid process. Read their article to understand your budget so that you have a plan for how you are going to pay for college.

Finding a college that ‘fits’ each individual is extremely important. There are 3 core areas to determine if a college will position a student for a successful college journey and beyond. The first two – the academic program and non-academic factors such as size, geography, and school culture, tend to get a great deal of attention and discussion.  The third, the financial fit, oftentimes does not receive the due diligence it deserves.

There are many reasons why this critical component is not addressed until the last minute—potentially making it too late to bring about a substantial difference:

  • The financial commitment is downright scary
  • Parents don’t want to disappoint their hard-working children and limit their opportunities
  • It’s overwhelming when you have to consider your own financial goals as well as the education of younger children
  • The opportunities to reduce the cost – such as need-based and merit aid – are not transparent and complicated to determine where the opportunities exist
  • Evaluating the ways to pay, including financing options, are confusing

The college investment is an incredibly unique purchase. For starters, a seventeen-year-old has a large say in it. Also, the purchase isn’t tangible like a house. And, there are many elements out of your control that determine the return on the investment. Finally, with financial aid and scholarships available, you don’t really know what the costs are until the very end of the admissions process.

As a result of these factors, it’s important to take the time to understand your budget. Have a plan for how you will pay for college before the target college list is finalized. Taking the time upfront can enable confidence that the final choices of colleges in the spring of the senior year will not result in overwhelming debt, impact retirement, or have other long-term implications.  The good news is that there are ways to reduce the cost significantly so you don’t necessarily need to go by the college’s list price.

You wouldn’t buy a house or a car without having a budget, and you wouldn’t look in neighborhoods or at dealerships that aren’t viable options…so why do it with college?  

There’s no reason to trap yourself or your student in a financial box; planning can help you to avoid it.