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Paying for College

Why I'm Not Worried About My College Bill

Ways to stay calm include having no surprises, saving for college, utilizing a monthly payment plan, knowing about education loans available, and taking advantage of free guidance and advice.

I'm Julie Shields-Rutyna and I'm the Director of College Planning at MEFA. I am also a mother with two kids, one who just finished college and another who just started. Friends always say to me, "You'll be fine paying for college," because they know what I do for work. But really, paying for college is as daunting for me as it is for everyone else. The only difference between me and everyone else is that, because I work in this college planning field, I have done a few things to make all of this easier for myself. The good news is that everyone can take many of the same steps I've taken to help them stay calm about paying for college. Read my reasons below for why I didn't panic when I received my son's college bill in the mail:

  • There were no surprises. I knew what it was going to say. My son's college, like every school, posts its billed charges right on its website, so I knew of the costs to come. I had also applied for financial aid, and knew of the aid we had received. MEFA encourages families to begin to think about finances during the college search process, and has information and resources to help you do just that. I had also carefully crunched the numbers using MEFA's College Cost Calculator to estimate our family's share of costs based on the direct costs of the school minus the financial aid we received. You can do the same if you haven't yet received your bill.
  • My son's dad also knew what to expect. Whether you're married for 20 years or divorced for 10, two people will have some differing opinions when making decisions about financing a large expense like college. We made sure to talk through our thoughts about borrowing, working, expectations for miscellaneous expenses, etc. If you haven't yet talked to your child's other parent about paying for college, have the conversation now. And have the conversation with your student too.
  • I've saved. My job is to encourage families to save and plan for college. I always tell families that putting a little away each month is the most concrete way to prepare for college expenses. I did. And I'm glad I did. It wasn't always easy, but I knew that it would make a difference when this day came. This is the number one reason I am not stressed right now about college costs.
  • I know I can pay via the college's monthly payment plan. Practically every college has a monthly payment plan that allows families to break up the cost of the balance due over the course of several months. If this interests you, ask the financial aid or billing office for details.
  • I know that there are good educational loan options available. There are several reputable lenders, banks, and credit unions that offer financing options to help pay for college. MEFA offers low-cost, fixed interest rate college loans available to any student in the country attending college. You can learn more about MEFA loan options here.
  • I know there is free guidance and advice available. Just because I work in this field and I can talk with colleagues down the hall about these issues doesn't mean you don't have the same access to guidance every step of the way. MEFA provides free assistance to families across Massachusetts in every stage of the college planning and paying process. You can always connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for relevant content or with any questions, and you can also reach out to us here anytime for help at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) and collegeplanning@mefa.org.






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