College Planning Sure Isn’t Disney World

I’m going to Disney World!

Wouldn’t you just love to say that right now?! With a few extra dollars and some time to collect it, you could probably make a 4-day visit to a place you know is going to rock your socks off with entertainment. Disney presents you with easy choices, easy facts to understand, and some pricing structures that you can easily handle (well, I know, “easily” is relative, but hang in there with me).

What Disney didn’t do is send you a thousand brochures to fill up your mail box and tell you that college planning means you have to fork over your life savings to go there. But isn’t that what the colleges do? Colleges are constantly saying, “Buy our stuff!” with stuff being their history, size, state-of the-art gyms, coffee bars, and maybe a rose garden that lasts for life. You know, “college is an investment” stuff, not to mention creature comforts that have nothing to do with education, along with the expensive brochures that solicit more money from you while your kid is still attending! As the former President of Harvard once said, these colleges have the attitude that they just never have enough money.

Let’s take a look at college visits. It’s the intentions that drive me crazy. “Forget the planning. It’s too much work. I haven’t got time for this. Let’s just get in the car and drive to a college and see what it’s all about.”

It’s the familiar talk I hear from frustrated parents who come back to reveal the waste of time it was to visit colleges, not knowing which one to visit or why. It’s the “why” that’s maddening.

These are the same families who spend weeks planning for their trip to Disney World, which doesn’t cost $50,000 a year over four years. Well, with all due credit to the family that plans for Disney, Disney is really easy to figure out. There’s no confusion and a million different opinions about what your visit is going to be like. There won’t be any surprises in the price of everything once you get there. And once you’re there you won’t be trapped by a 6% increase in prices each day of your four-day visit.

By contrast colleges will nickle and dime you to the tune of at least a 6% increase in tuition each year, and when they announce an increase of only 2% this year, they will frame the announcement like a politician frames a scandal: it sure  looks bad, but nobody was killed.

Are you getting this? Colleges love you! I mean, your MONEY! And you have to research your brains out and spend hours upon hours researching what you need to know. And what you need to know are the right questions. And there are a ton. And please, please, don’t ask a college official for help in how to afford what they’re selling. Call an IRS agent and ask for help in how to pay less taxes. You’re getting this!
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If you would prefer professional help for college planning, go here.

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