College decisions impact financial future

This was originally published on Monday, September 11, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Many college students do not realize that their financial performance in college will impact them long after they graduate. Decisions they make on using their credit cards, financial aid, and over spending can impact their job search, their credit score, and their ability to payback what they borrowed.

Getting a good financial start out of college will ease the stress of the transition and open many more opportunities.

Failing classes. For many years your child has had a structured learning environment. They go to school and follow a strict schedule. After school, parents enforce homework and studying times.

College is very different from what they have been accustomed. Many professors don’t expect students to be in class every session and depending on their course load they may have a lot of time that they may consider free. Socializing is also a big part of the college experience. This new freedom could lead to academic troubles and financial troubles.

Retaking a class is expensive and could prolong their time in college. If it becomes a trend, they may be put on academic probation or worse, expelled. There may be fees associated with failing a class and loss of scholarships and/or grants. Being accepted by another college will become difficult. Student loans still must be paid off even though they are not in college.

Scholarship and grants. Being a student in college doesn’t mean they cannot continue to look for other scholarships and grants. Most believe that scholarships and grants are just for high school seniors going into college. In fact, there are many scholarship and grants that are targeted to students who are currently in college.

Have them speak with their academic adviser or counselor about these opportunities. They can also do some research online. Even if the amount is small or pays for certain expenses such as books, these opportunities can be a huge help. There is no rule to how many scholarships or grants you receive.

The more assistance you get the less you will have to pay or borrow.

Inappropriate use of assistance. Most scholarships or grants are paid directly to the school. But some are not and many student loans are paid directly to the student. This is very tempting to use unwisely. This money should not be used to fund a spring break trip.

Many students do not understand that paying for these loans right out of college is difficult. Most college students won’t be earning six-figure salaries at their first job; many of us don’t reach that level of income during our careers.

Large student loans. College tuition has been on the rise for years and it does not look like it will be leveling off any time soon. Many parents can no longer afford college tuition, living expenses, books and other incurred financial education related expenses.

Student loans are becoming a more popular way to fund higher education with the students being solely responsible. With that in mind, students should consider the cost of their education. Choosing a more affordable college in an area with lower living costs will certainly lower their debt. Be sure to understand the terms of the loan be for accepting it.

Even though your child is still in college, advise them to make monthly payments to keep the accrued interest from growing too large. The sooner they pay on the loan the better.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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Kids’ college dreams can be achieved

This was originally published on Monday, February 9, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

As parents we inherently want the best for our children. We can’t help but beam with joy when our kids express that college is an educational goal. Then the overwhelming stress of paying the bill is realized. Rest assured newly graduated high school students can find many strategies to aide them with college tuition.

• Apprenticeships: Large companies, state and federal governments offer high school graduates the opportunity to gain on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. Usually after a few years of training and education they are promoted within the organization.

• Training corps: In exchange for community service, some training corps will pay a majority if not all of a college student’s tuition. Some of these programs are Health Services Corps, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Some organizations will even give a stipend to supplement living costs while attending college.

• Technical schools: Perhaps your child’s goal is to be a software program designer. They don’t necessarily have to go to a four-year traditional college. Instead, they can attend a school that specializes in that occupation. Specialty colleges are becoming more popular because it takes less time to earn your degree, therefore costing less to obtain a degree or certificate. Most technical schools offer tuition assistance and can even help secure a job after graduation.

• College assistance: Some colleges offer tuition assistance or scholarships to aide in paying tuition. You also may look into work/study programs on campus. My nephew is in a work/study program, which helps with his day-to-day costs while away at college. Some businesses on campus look to hire students. Students can also work for the school as teacher assistants’ or lab/research technicians. It is also common that if a student performs well and is placed on the Dean’s List or President’s List the school will offer a discount for the next semester.

• GI Bill: If you are a veteran you may be entitled to education benefits through the GI Bill. Depending which GI plan you have you may be able to transfer money to your dependents, including your spouse, to attend college. Go to www.gibill.va.gov to learn more about your GI Bill benefits.

• Military benefits: If you are military and retire in certain states, your children may be able to attend a state college or university at a discounted or free tuition.

• Employer: Some jobs offer a scholarship or grant to children of employees. Your human resources department should be able to assist you.

Sometimes going to the college of their choice may not be an option. Be upfront with your child about the costs of college. They may have to go to a community college or local university instead of leaving island. Many college graduates get their core credits at home where costs are lower, then transfer colleges to finish off the credits for their majors. Research if the credits will transfer to the new school. Many colleges and universities have residential and non-residential tuitions. Non-residential tuition can be quite a bit more expensive. Living in that state to meet the residential requirements before going to college will help lower costs as well.

Going abroad to study also may be an alternative to high college costs. Besides education, your child has the opportunity to learn about another culture and make lifelong memories.

Unless you have planned to include college tuition in your nest egg or 401K, don’t dip into your retirement fund. There are lots of opportunities for your child to go to school; do not put your retirement in jeopardy.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.