Read an Excerpt
FastWeb College GoldThe Step-by-Step Guide to Paying for College
By Mark Kantrowitz
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Mark Kantrowitz
All right reserved.
Paying for College 101
Following the junior class assembly, Matt Gordon2 walked through the exit and across the school parking lot. It was the second Thursday in June, and the seniors would graduate on Saturday. Matt arrived at his dented black Bronco, tossed his backpack behind the driver's seat and then positioned his acoustic guitar carefully in the compartment, wedging the case so it would not shift during the drive to work. He paused, momentarily wondering if his enthusiasm for classical guitar would help him get into college. His senior class friends Sherry and Al, both classical guitar players, would attend great music schools in the East in a few months. Matt imagined the transition he'd undergo in the coming year; what would it be like, he speculated, to know what the next four years would hold?
He climbed into the cab, scanned the school exits for his sister Sarah and thought about the bombshell Ms. Breen had dropped on the 163 juniors of Mansfield High School. After forty-five minutes of year-end awards for best this and most improved that, the principal had ceded the podium to Sherry Breen, a financial aid counselor from a local college.
"The seniors are graduating, so you're going to be the big men and women on campus," she had said. "Most of you havealready started thinking whether you're going to attend college. Have you thought about which colleges you might attend? Are they in-state or out of state? Should you consider two-year or four-year colleges? What about the armed forces?
"Do you know what you want to choose as a major? Is it okay to change your mind fifteen times before you graduate, or will you have wasted your time and money?
"And speaking of money," Ms. Breen had continued, "do you have any idea how you're going to pay for college?" Dead silence. "That's okay," she had concluded. "The seniors survived, and so will you. Take this seriously, though--and be ready for some major sticker shock."
Matt saw Sarah across the parking lot with two friends. He drummed the steering wheel. Ms. Breen's question wouldn't leave him alone.
Matt had already received literature from a few dozen schools--but the envelopes lay unopened in one of his mother's ubiquitous milk crate organizers. Today, with most of his class, Matt had been stunned by the numbers Ms. Breen had emphatically recited in the M.H.S. auditorium.
"One hundred forty thousand dollars," she had begun. "That's right; let me say it again: One hundred forty grand for four years in the Ivy League. For the state university, more like seventy thousand. Do you have that kind of money? Almost nobody does. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do about the problem."
Now, sitting in the driver's seat, Matt played with the $140,000 figure in his imagination: That's three Lexus SUVs o r . . .after calculating some quick math . . . 1,200 pairs of his favorite running shoes. That buys 140,000 songs online . . . at four minutes each would make 560,000 minutes of listening time, divided by 60 equals 9,333 hours. How long would it take to earn that? wondered Matt. At $9.50 an hour for his summer job as a camp counselor that would take more than 14,000 hours o r . . . how many weeks of work is that?
"Hey," he said as Sarah opened the passenger door. "If you make $9.50 an hour, how long before you have $140,000?"
Sarah, who loved to display her quick math skills, didn't hesitate. "Okay, $9.50 an hour at 40 hours a week makes $19,000 a year. Delete the thousands, that's 140 divided by 19 which is a little more than 7 years," she said, concluding, "Call it seven-point-something years."
"Wow," said Matt.
" 'Course that's seven-point-something times fifty weeks. Call it 370 weeks. But you wouldn't have $140,000 at the end of that," said Sarah. To Matt's puzzled look she said, "Well, taxes and stuff. You wouldn't actually save $140,000 in seven years. It would be more like nine or ten. Why do you ask?"
Nine or ten years of work to pay for college, thought Matt. Is it worthwhile? Ten years of work--how many cars could I buy with that?
"I'm trying to figure out if going to college is really worth it. We had an assembly today and $140,000 is what it costs. Of course, when you get a college degree you make a lot more money. Twice as much, they said."
Sarah considered the numbers. "So if you go to college, you pay a lot of money but you make it up later."
"Sure," said Matt.
"And because you'd make more money," she continued, "you'd have more money to pay back what you owed for school, and later, when school's paid back, you would be able to afford a better car, and a house and stuff."
Matt started the truck. "I can't keep this all in my head. I need to write it down," he said.
Driving home that evening, Lynn Gordon realized the time had come to organize the college search for Matt. This would be the first time she and her husband, Jim, would help one of their children through the process of choosing a college . . .and paying for it. Lynn knew from having managed complicated projects at work that they had to have a plan if they were going to get anywhere.
Matthew's a great kid, she knew, but he wasn't the best at following through . . . what kid was? A schedule would help them all stay on track.
An hour later, Lynn and Jim sat studying the kitchen table, which was now crowded with applications, brochures, catalogs, notepads, a calendar and a calculator. They decided to discuss Matt's college options when he returned from dropping off Sarah at her play rehearsal. Waiting for Matt to return, they scanned the tuition and college cost information.
Excerpted from FastWeb College Gold by Mark Kantrowitz Copyright © 2006 by Mark Kantrowitz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.