The ClientWise Blog

Back to School

Posted by Chris Holman on Aug 24, 2010 5:25:00 PM


Regardless of where and when you went to college, chances are things are a lot different today, especially the cost of a four-year college degree. For most people, college is a four year commitment; however, what’s accomplished in those four years impacts an entire lifetime. Deciding where to go to school and what major to declare is almost as important as figuring out how to pay for it.

What’s clear is that a college degree is much more valuable than a high school diploma. According to the U.S. Census, the total annual family income when the head of the household has earned a bachelor’s degree earned almost twice as much ($110,587) as a head of household with a high school diploma ($59,904). Multiply this over the course of a career and we are starting to talk real money!

U. S. News and World Report just released their rankings report of the best colleges for 2011. This is the 27th year the magazine has been educating parents and children about the best colleges and universities in the U.S. In addition to ranking the overall top universities and colleges, the magazine ranks schools in other categories, as well. There are regional rankings, college rankings by high school counselors, up-and-coming colleges, business programs, engineering programs, and more.

Not surprising, the top 5 universities are:

Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and Stanford

The top 5 liberal arts colleges are:

Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Middlebury, and Wellesley

Here's a link to a complete listing of U.S. News & World Report University and College Rankings.

It’s widely known that one of the main reasons people save and invest their money is to pay for their children and/or grandchildren’s college education. As a financial advisor, you are probably already helping many of your clients do just that.

However, as a wealth advisor today, you can help your clients do so much more. Become an expert and trusted resource regarding all things college-related.

  • Learn everything there is to know about 529 college savings plans (remember tax implications vary by state).
  • Compile a listing of college prep course instructors in your area. There are chain programs, such as Huntington Learning Center, with centers across the U.S. and Canada. There are also smaller, independently run centers that provide more than just tutoring services for the SATs and ACTs. Ivy Educational Services, for example, provides tutoring, along with counseling on how to write an essay that will get the attention of college admissions officers.
  • Depending on the age of their children or grandchildren, open a dialogue with your clients about the latest college rankings. Some sample questions may include...

Questions for those with high school aged children:

  1. Have you seen the latest U.S. News & World Report college rankings?
  2. Has your son/daughter started talking about where he/she wants to go to college?
  3. What subjects are he/she interested in?
  4. Has he/she taken the SATs? Have you considered a prep course to boost scores?
  5. Do you know the approximate four year cost of that school’s tuition?
  6. Do you currently have a college account for your children/grandchildren?
  7. Will you have enough to pay for school when the time comes?

Questions for those with younger children:

  1. Have you seen the latest U.S. News & World Report college rankings?
  2. Before you know it, your children/grandchildren will be talking about college. Do you know the approximate cost of a four year college education?
  3. Do you currently have a college account for your children/grandchildren?
  4. Will you have enough to pay for school when the time comes?

If some of your clients are thinking about sending their kids to a smaller, less popular school thinking it will be less costly…forget it. These days, college is expensive no matter where you go. I would never have considered going to Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA. It was ranked #18 on this year’s U.S. News and World Report list. I have nothing against the school…I’ve just never heard of it. I was shocked; however, to discover that one-year tuition at Harvey Mudd for the 2010-2011 school year is $40,390.

Believe it or not, #1-ranked Harvard University is cheaper at $38,416…just try to get in!

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Topics: Financial Planning