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Best strategy for funding college

BluEyeLBluEyeL Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
I'm a parent and trying to figure out what's the best strategy to fund college for my son, who's now a sophomore in high school.

Background. His father and I got divorced when he was 7 yo and I just got remarried this summer, I have full custody and father doesn't visit. I make a bit over 100K/year myself.

Questions:
1. I heard the step father's income will have to be reported in FAFSA. Is this correct? If that's true, there is no way he'd get any financial aid, although I think my income only is too high anyway. Not sure the step father would personally contribute for college, I really don't think so, I think husband expects me to cover my son's college, which is fair. That would be fine if he goes in state, but if he ends up going out of state, it's going to be a problem.

Anyone has any information on how parents income is considered? What about his biological father's income? His father lives out of state, son lives 100% with me.

2. I saved for his college costs through a 529 plan, which is now at a bit over 40K. Would it be a good strategy to increase contributions to this account? I know put in $500/month but I can afford to increase to $1000/month if that would be a good idea. Should I do that or save separately?

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Replies to: Best strategy for funding college

  • beth's mombeth's mom Registered User Posts: 3,361 Senior Member
    The stepfather's income will be included on FAFSA; the father's income will not. However, many schools use the Profile or their own forms, which will require the non-custodial parent's income. The schools that give the most generous financial aid typically require more than just FAFSA.

    The benefit to contributing to the 529 plan is that the earnings will not be taxed (and in some states there's a deduction for contributions). I'd probably put the additional savings into the 529 plan.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,483 Senior Member
    1. Once you have SAT or ACT scores...and at least his sophomore GPA, start looking at places he might qualigynfor merit aid. Income isn't considered.

    2. The FAFSA calculates an expected FAMILY contribution...and your husband is now part of,your family...so his numbers will need to be included on the FAFSA.

    3. Please remember...the FAFSA is primarily used to determine eligibility for federally funded need based aid. Even with $100,000 of income, your kiddo would not qualify for federally funded grant money. But he, like anyone else who completes a FAFSA, could,take the Direct Loan.

    4. if your kiddo applies to colleges using the CSS Profile, some require non-custodial parent Profile as well. So everyone's income will be counted.

    5. There are a small...very small...number of competitive colleges that only consider income from biological parents...and not Step parents. But these are competitive for admissions schools.

    6. Don't toss your instate options aside. Look at them. See if there are honors colleges within yourmlarger university.

    7. Above all...if you have a price limit...when the time comes...please convey that to your son. It's heartbreaking to hear stories about students who get accepted to unaffordable schools...and don't find this out until well after acceptances are received.

    8. You will need to cast a wide net,..including affordable options for sure, and ones where perhaps merit aid might be a very good or guaranteed option.
  • BluEyeLBluEyeL Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    Thank you for the advice, very helpful!

    We actually want to go in state, but our state school is Purdue University, which is difficult to get into if you want the more competitive programs, and will consider out of state only if he gets rejected. If he gets into Purdue I can comfortably pay his tuition and even cost of living. Out of state, not so easy, but I want to be prepared for worst case scenario, in the sense of figuring out what to expect and what's the max he could expect to be able to afford.

    He keeps saying that he wants to apply to the Ivies just to see if he gets in. His portofolio so far is good, but based on what I've read he won't probably get into an Ivy League. If he does, by some miracle, and then he suddenly wants to go there (which would be nice of course) it is going to be a problem, I can't cover that. Step father can, but I don't expect him to shell out the cash when we have a reasonable school like Purdue that costs much less.

    We project his sophomore GPA will be around 3.8., no less than 3.8 if all goes according to plan, but probably not 3.9. Surely hope Purdue accepts him. And will continue to save into the 529.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered User Posts: 82,545 Senior Member
    Yes, put more into his college savings

    >>
    gh I think my income only is too high anyway.
    >>

    Yes, too high for FAFSA for sure. Could be too high for CSS Profile schools, too.

    <<<<
    Not sure the step father would personally contribute for college, I really don't think so, I think husband expects me to cover my son's college, which is fair.
    <<<


    Indirectly, your husband will be contributing. When you were single, you alone were paying all the living expenses, food, utilities, mortgage, etc. Now, you have someone to share those expenses with, which means you now have more money to put towards college (further evidenced by your consideration of much larger 529 contributions.)

    >>>
    That would be fine if he goes in state, but if he ends up going out of state, it's going to be a problem.
    <<<


    Well, that depends. If he chooses an OOS public or private that will give him a nice merit scholarship for his stats, then the cost may be similar to instate public.

    If he goes to a top school, which can mean no merit available, then those schools will look at your income, your husband's income and your ex's income (and if he has a new spouse)

  • BluEyeLBluEyeL Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    That's correct, the reason I can afford to contribute more now is because we have two incomes instead of one, which is very helpful. I think we are in reasonable shape, just want to make sure I can plan well.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,483 Senior Member
    If you don't think he is a sure thing for Purdue...what would make you think his stats are high enough for an Ivy??

    At this point...he needs to get the best grades he can get...and do some prep for the SAT and ACT.

    Take a look at the SUNY schools. The cost for OOS students there is less than at most places for OOS. Is that affordable for you?
  • 123Mom456123Mom456 Registered User Posts: 677 Member
    Contribute to your 529. Agree with the above that husband may not be contributing directly but by paying your living expenses, you can afford to pay more of your sons costs so that is helping.

    Also, there are many good public schools in Indiana other than Purdue. Have your son look at IU-Bloomington and Ball State.
  • BluEyeLBluEyeL Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    "If you don't think he is a sure thing for Purdue...what would make you think his stats are high enough for an Ivy??At this point...he needs to get the best grades he can get...and do some prep for the SAT and ACT."

    I don't know, is it ever such a thing as "sure"? We are now just gathering info.

    I honestly do not think he can get into an Ivy, but he says he'll apply anyway. We know it's highly unlikely he'll get into an Ivy so probably safe there.

    His stats are 3.8-3.9 GPA unweighted , rigorous curriculum (as many honors/AP classes as possible- this year 3 of them), long term orchestra (since 4th grade-plays the cello), president of high school computer science club, robotics team-member only-since 9th grade up; teaching coding for the middle school girls code club in 9th grade, some national award for Spanish, not much else in terms of awards. I think this is good for Purdue but don't know if there are guarantees and what's going to happen with the SATs and grades next year etc. So need to consider all options. He started taking SAT prep at Sylvan this semester, just 1h/week for now, will ramp it up later/over summer.

    Hopefully he'll get into Purdue. If not, we are looking into IU definitely. We do live in West Lafayette home of Purdue so that option is both the best and the cheapest from more than one reason. Ball State would look like a failure to him, he said so, so I think that rather than going to Ball State he'd really want go to a better sounding out of state school, if disaster strikes and he gets rejected from Purdue. Will have to look into IU before going out of state though, not sure what programs they have in terms of computers science.

    Great idea with the SUNY schools thank you! We will also look at other schools that offer merit based scholarships to have as much back up as possible.

    Agreed that the husband contributes, good point. He is also a very good hearted person, but if say he wants to go to some out of state school and rejects Ball State, he may not be happy about it etc. Either way, I just want to make sure we have all our bases covered in all scenarios.

  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 1,453 Senior Member
    Is he sitting the soph PSAT this year? That number is going to help you both IMO.
    He might do well to hear that he needs to make sure his GPA isn't going to slip, as it is now 3.8 and that would be just a freshman grade. His workload is only going to get heavier. I would ignore any tippy top school talk. You can clue him in a bit later in the game.
    As he is doing SAT prep, you should have a baseline number, that is a good thing to have. If it was already very high, I assume you would have mentioned it.
    Your 529 plan at present wouldn't even cover OOS room and board. Ensure he understands the commitment to optimising his chances for scholarships if he is that kind of kid, and reiterate that you have a certain budget that will help craft his list alongside his stats. Even auto tuition schools now require quite high stats and room and board costs of maybe 50K over 4 yrs. Ensure the college talk remains realistic.
  • BluEyeLBluEyeL Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    Thanks for all the advice. Him getting a job In the summer is a good idea because I'm not sure he understands money is not easy to make.

    Yes gradss and all is why I am not sure about Purdue, we need to see he keeps his GPA above 3.8 and he does well on the SAT. He only took one practice test up to now and it wasn't high enough. Hope it will get better by prep.

    He will do the PSAT , is that number going to matter?


    Getting into Purdue is super important financially not because I'd name, because we live in town and he will live at home. In fact I will move out into my husbands house and son will live in my house with a roommate that will pay him rent. Son is ok with that and knows we won't pay for rent if he rejects this arrangement. So room will not cost him anything. My ex and I can give him equal amounts of living money-for food etc. And I'm a Purdue employee and get a discount . Tuition will be 7000/year.

    If he doesn't get into Purdue that's when room and board and tuition gets into play. I can probably have 60K for college by that time and then also continue to shell out 1000/month while he is in college and he'd need to get a job for any additional. But out of state would be difficult.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 2,644 Senior Member
    edited September 12
    "He will do the PSAT , is that number going to matter?"

    If he does well enough to be a national merit scholar then yes, otherwise probably no. I will admit that I don't fully understand the national merit scholar process after the PSAT -- to me it looked like a lot of stress for a small scholarship but apparently some schools give large discounts to national merit scholars.

    "That would be fine if he goes in state, but if he ends up going out of state, it's going to be a problem."
    "I'm a Purdue employee and get a discount "

    Wow! I just took at quick look at the in-state prices for Purdue. I agree that if he gets into his preferred major there it is a really great school at a really great price even without a discount.

    However, if he doesn't get into Purdue nor IU, there should be some out of state options that aren't all that much more expensive. You would have to look for them, and some of them would be unsure until you see what sort of offer you get. Ironically for us the best prices were either in-state, or out of the country. However there are people on CC who can recommend universities with relatively reasonable prices.
  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 1,453 Senior Member
    edited September 12
    Soph PSAT I think it s a bit of an eye opener for starry-eyed kids, when their peers are getting high scores. The real PSAT as a junior is well worth sweating over if the kid has indicators he could get national merit status. It is a bit of a barometer of your kid's actual interest in sweat equity too, if soph scores show promise.
    60K by the time your kid starts college will potentially only cover room and board at some OOS schools. Even UA, the great go to for scholarships, costs 13K a yr plus for room and board, throw in some travel costs and that is your 529. Your home plan sounds great, your local school option is terrific if he fits the reqs. Free housing in his own house is amazing LOL.
  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 1,453 Senior Member
    edited September 12
    >>>>>>there should be some out of state options that aren't all that much more expensive<<<<<<<<<<

    That simply isn't likely. The in state at Purdue for OP is 7K LOL. he has a free house to live in. If he doesn't take that as a huge carrot and run with it it would be because he isn't a match for the stats. If he can't make in state at Purdue he isn't going to get merit thrown at him OOS.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,483 Senior Member
    edited September 12
    If he does well enough to be a national merit scholar then yes, otherwise probably no.

    @DadTwoGirls this student is in TENTH grade. The PSAT used to determine NMS is the one fall,of ELEVENTH grade.

    But this 10th grade PSAT will give the family and student a sense of direction...and what sorts of prep he needs to do. But it won't count for NMS status if this student graduates after 12th grade.
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