Getting a leg up on college expenses | SteamboatToday.com

Getting a leg up on college expenses

Tamera Manzanares

Dealing with college tuition and expenses can seem like a no-win situation.

Often, parents don’t start thinking about paying for college until their children start applying to schools — that’s when panic sets in, Hayden school counselor Danica Moss said.

Some families plan ahead with extra saving, but don’t understand how that can count against them in the financial aid process, said Norma Jordan-Backe, a consultant who helps families navigate the college funding process.

Jordan-Backe will speak about common mistakes families make when planning for college and how to find financial aid resources and develop a funding plan during a free workshop at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Hayden High School auditorium.

The program is aimed at freshman through senior students and their parents and is open to families throughout the Yampa Valley.

“People will go away from this with information they can’t get any other place,” Jordan-Backe said.

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In Colorado, in-state tuition and expenses at public universities range between about $13,000 and $18,000 a year. Private schools can come with a four-year price tag of about $160,000, Jordan-Backe said.

“It’s a huge challenge for families,” she said. “For most, the cost of sending a child to college will be the second most expensive cost next to buying a home.”

Even as tuition and costs increase, more Hayden students want to attend universities, community colleges and vocational schools, Moss said.

“In this day and age, the reality of getting a high-paying job is you need some sort of training after high school,” she said.

If state funding for public colleges continues to decrease, parents likely will have to foot more of tuition bills, Moss said.

She noted that community colleges and vocational/professional schools also can be very expensive. However, many parents don’t realize financial aid also is available for those types of schools, Moss said.

During the workshop, Jor–dan-Backe will discuss the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form — which determines any federal loans, scholarships and grants students receive — and what can count against families in that application process.

She will talk about the importance of choosing schools with financial aid resources that will address students’ needs.

However, a good college plan also takes into account how families will pay for expenses not covered by financial aid, Jordan-Backe said.

Jordan-Backe has given college finance workshops at schools across Colorado. She wrote the book “A Parent’s Guide in the College Financial Aid Jungle,” and she is president of the nonprofit College Funding of the Rockies Inc., which helps families develop plans for paying for college.

— To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

What: College finance workshop

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Hayden High School auditorium

The event is free and open to parents and high school students throughout the Yampa Valley