College planning is not a new concept for me; before my career in financial services, I spent 12 years working in Enrollment Management (admissions and financial aid) at Colleges and K-12 Independent schools.   My daughter is now a sophomore in high school and the college search is getting real… fast!  Since there are a lot of young families in Carolina Park (where I live) and in Park West, I thought I would pass along some neighborly thoughts on planning for college.

With college costs steadily rising, a four-year education has become an increasingly expensive proposition. Over the last 10 years, published tuition and fees and room and board (TFRB) expenses have increased 15% above inflation for public four-year institutions and 17% above inflation for private nonprofit four-year institutions. Since 1983, college tuition has increased 822%… so yeah, college is expensive; and every dollar spent on college is a dollar that is NOT going toward your retirement or other personal goals.

college planning

While a traditional college education may not be a good fit for everyone, those with a bachelor’s degree earn 86% more on average than high school graduates. Those with a professional degree earn 288% more than just a high school graduate.   Is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not.  If you end up paying $200,000 in tuition, and immediately earn $33,792 more in compensation for your lifetime, it would take just under 6-years to break-even on the return of increased compensation (assuming a 4% student loan interest.)  The trouble is, not all jobs will yield that kind of salary.  For example, the 2020-21 minimum salary for a South Carolina Teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 0 years’ experience is $35,000, well below the national average earnings of $73,163 (  The deficit in these earnings would result in a 27-year break-even; mind you these are extreme examples, but I hope you get the point. How much you spend, and what kind of course of study matters a great deal.

Plan early!  There are 98% more college funds for families with a plan vs. those without.

Apply for Financial aid – no matter what. Knowing the average discount received by families that are not candidates for need based financial aid can be very helpful for determining college affordability, and college funding strategies.

Many schools offer a significant discount off the advertised cost of attendance for families that do not qualify for need based financial aid. Work with your college advisor to start with the right college list.  If your student is in the top 20% of the incoming applicant pool, they may receive a more generous merit award which would further reduce your college costs.

When you file the FAFSA, in October of your child’s High school Senior year, you will be using the tax returns from the prior year. Work with your financial planner to clean up your balance sheet, if you plan on shifting financial assets around, you will need to do so before January of your child’s sophomore year of high school!

college planning

Some professional advisors subscribe to an approach that addresses college planning as essentially a savings issue. I do much more. Beyond just savings, I focus on identifying strategies that leverage your unique situation to help you save ON college costs.

I take into consideration topics like specialized college-planning strategies for business owners, planning for financial aid, school-specific scholarships, coordinating college planning with grandparents, cash-flow strategies, and options for covering shortfalls, to name just a few. If the expense of college is a concern, as it is for most families, reach out to me. I’m happy to discuss your individual situation – it is never too early or too late to make an impact.

Michael P Green is a Certified Financial Planning Professional™ and Wealth Management Advisor with Apollon Wealth Management, an Independent Registered Investment Advisory Firm with offices in Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. He earned his B.A. from the University at Albany and M.B.A. from the Sage Graduate School, in Albany, NY. In addition to being a Certified Financial Planning Professional™ (CFP®); Michael holds the Certified in Long Term Care (CLTC®), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®), and Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP®) designations.


South Carolina’s 529 college Savings Plan

Saving for

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)

National Association for college Admission Counseling – Knowledge Center

College Board: Trends in college Pricing and Student Aid 2020

COVID & college: Preparing for the financial aid crunch, 07/06/2021 Michael Conrath

Fiscal Year 2020 – 2021 State Minimum Teacher Salary Schedule

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