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38 MARCH APRIL 2016 goodADVICE Tuition Turmoil WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR FINANCES ARENT READY College is expensive. According to the College Board the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015 2016 school year was 32405 at private colleges 9410 for state residents at public colleges and 23893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Perhaps you started putting away a little each month when your children were just infants and youll be ready to write each semesters check as it comes with extra for books dorm fees and a student meal account. But what if you arent ready By AliciaWanek Lets face itthere could be any number of reasons why youre not. Any of this sound familiar I just didnt save enough. Our finances took a big hit when I was out of a job. I paid for my own college my kids can too. The divorce changed our situation. I just didnt have enough time. We have more kids than we have money for college expenses. The good news Bryan Camper certified financial planner with Camper Rogers says Its never too late. The first rule though is to make sure you dont sacrifice your own financial security. Dont put college before retirement. After all there are outside funds available for education and time to pay loans back. But retirement is coming sooner and you are the only one contributing. If however you know your retirement account is in order you can consider decreasing the amount youre contributing for a short period of time to put those additional funds toward college tuition. On the flip side because retirement accounts are not considered as part of your assets by financial aid sources you may consider increasing your retirement investment quickly to shield those assets in order to increase the amount your child may get in financial assistance. For the student needing additional funds applying for financial aid is the first step Bryan says. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid FAFSA is available online. Any student who meets basic citizenship and enrollment criteria can fill out this application annually. The most common funds available are via Pell Grants which do not have to be repaid and Stafford Loans which offer funds at very low interest rates currently 4.29 that the government covers as long as the student is enrolled half time. Once students graduate and get that great job they can start to pay their loans back. When students fill out the FAFSA they will need to be able to enter the expected family contribution. This amount considers everything from parents income number of Ideally yes you would have started at birth by setting up a 529 plan for your child and saving monthly. However dont let your children think college isnt in their future because theres not enough money. You can definitely work together to make sure their future is all they imagined it to be. - Bryan Camper Camper Rogers