Home > Students > Paying For College: It’s All About the Math

Comments 0 Comments

My sixth grade daughter already has her eyes set on college at Mount Holyoke College because of its excellent equestrian program. It’s an expensive school, and saving for college is tough when I am simultaneously shelling out money for her riding lessons now.

So when Lynn O’Shaughnessy joined me on my radio show, Talk Credit Radio, I asked her for suggestions for parents (like me) who are trying to figure out where to send their kids to college—and how to afford it!

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is one of the most prolific bloggers on the topic of college costs and funding, and the author of two books,  The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, and a new workbook, 152 Ways to Shrink the Price of a Bachelor’s Degree.

[Article: Student Loan Forgiveness—Solution to Student Loan Debt?]

Doing the math is key, Lynn explained in her interview, and not just in the ways I expected. Here’s what I learned:

1. Average college costs are meaningless. That’s because most students don’t pay full price. Two-thirds of students at private and state schools get some type of grant, and private schools discount the tuition for students on average by 49%. Lynn warns parents not to dismiss a particular school based on the price listed. “Don’t look at the price listed and move on,” she warns.

It’s important to research and find out the percentage of students who get financial aid, and how much they get. She talked about a free tool on The College Board website, the College Quickfinder tool which lets you search for the cost and financial aid of a given school. Using this tool, I learned that my daughter’s dream school costs about 40 grand a year (!) but 375 (of 525) students got 100% of their financial aid needs met, with an average financial aid package of $37,362. That’s more within our reach. (I also learned the average student graduates with $22,000 in student loans—more than I’d like her to take on.)

[Free Tool: Obtain your Identity Risk Score from Credit.com]

2. Math is important for students, not just parents. Like her mother, my daughter excels in her verbal skills and written skills, but struggles through math class. Good communication skills are a big plus, Lynn says. She believes that employers are looking for employees who can write and communicate well, and have strong critical thinking skills.

But Lynn also suggests we don’t let the math skills slide.  The top paying degrees all rely heavily on excellent abilities in math, but even students who are not bound for careers in engineering or aerospace should do their best to keep up. She encourages parents to make sure that their children get help with math if they need it, so they don’t fall behind. “It will just get harder,” Lynn warned. (My daughter already knows she’ll have a math tutor and homework this summer. Fortunately, she’s motivated.)

3. Statistics are surprising. Lynn explained the difference between universities and colleges, and described the benefits of a liberal arts college education. She then surprised me with statistics about the high rate at which liberal arts majors are accepted into graduate programs.

Listen to my interview with Lynn O’Shaughnessy below, and visit her blog TheCollegeSolution.com.


Image: Robert S. Donovan, via Flickr.com

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team