Parents need to prepare now for rising tuition
Because of that, Wendy Rock, a guidance counselor at Hahnville High School, helps find available funding sources.
"There is a bill in the legislature to increase tuition again, so it's important for parents to stay informed about funding sources for college and the best way to do this is with the help of their school's guidance counselor," Rock said. "Parents' Night, that the schools offer in the fall, is where counselors make our presentation in the spring solely devoted to financial aid.
“We offer two sessions in the spring and usually one is for parents of juniors and one is for parents of seniors."
Rock says for schools that don't provide parent nights the way Hahnville High School does, it would be imperative for the parent to meet with the appropriate person to discuss the student’s funding needs.
"With TOPS (Tuition Opportunity Program for Students), the Louisiana students that receive paid tuition have rules that are frequently changing," she said. "So it’s important that the parents stay informed, and the best way to do that is through the school guidance counselor."
According to a national survey conducted by Foundation for Education and Excellence, tuition increases pose a serious problem, particularly for families whose incomes cannot keep pace.
"There are many essay contests and other such competitions available to students of all ages, but by and large most scholarships are offered to seniors," Rock said. "There is one offered to students in their junior year of high school called the Discover Card Tribute Award."
Rock says parents can also take advantage of a state savings plan called START.
"It is a 529 account and has many tax advantages," she said. "The state contributes to the account a percentage of what the account owner deposits into it.”
Rock says she owns two START savings accounts.
"My two children are the beneficiaries, one for each account," she said. "You can open a START account at any time in a child's life, but of course it is more advantageous when children are young."
Rock says there are also many free scholarship search services such as www.fastweb.com.
"Just type ‘free scholarship search’ in Google and you'll come up with hundreds of thousands of sites," she said. "Then there are scholarship books like College Board and Peterson's."
Rock says she tells students that if they were to make applying for scholarships a part time job, then they could earn a lot more money than they will flipping burgers at Burger King.
"There was a story a few years ago in the Times Picayune about a student who secured scholarships to pay for four years at Xavier University of Louisiana," she said. "It talked about how the student spent two to three hours each day after school looking for scholarships, filling out scholarship applications, or doing activities toward a scholarship."
Rock says it paid off in the end and the student earned a lot more money for college than if those two to three hours had been spent working a minimum wage job.
"Financial Advisors can be of assistance and financial aid counselors in any college or financial aid department can help," she said.
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