That said, only 38 percent of American families today have developed a plan to pay for college, according to the 2014 “How America Pays for College” report by Sallie Mae and Ipsos. What’s more, only 40 percent of American families with college aspirations have a contingency plan in case of an unexpected event, which one-third of families typically encounter.
For many families, creating a financial plan or even starting to save for college can be daunting. But those who do strategize a plan statistically borrow less, making it especially critical for families who have, or will have, two or three kids attending college at the same time.
Luckily, many resources are available to help demystify the process, and they’re free.
For instance, many high schools have a career center and guidance counselors who can offer information about specific schools and scholarship opportunities.
Online tools can also prove a valuable resource. For example, Sallie Mae has launched a suite of new, user-friendly tools, including a College Planning Calculator where families can create a customized plan to pay for college, as well as a scholarship database with more than $18 billion in combined scholarships. These tools are on the company’s new “plan for college” section of its website at Salliemae.com/planforcollege.
Mobile resources, such as the new app “College Ahead,” are specifically designed to help college bound students take the next step, providing an interactive roadmap for saving and planning for college.
Lastly, families should consider applying for federal student aid on an annual basis, no matter what their financial status. To fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), visit www.FAFSA.ed.gov.
It’s never too early or too late to start saving or planning for college. With 98 percent of families agreeing that college is a worthy investment, as much planning as possible can set families on the path to success.