What a welcome tuition freeze looks like

This year, the General Assembly made a significant proposal to state colleges: agree to freeze in-state tuition and certain fees for one year, and receive a share of a special allotment (of over $50 million) from the state.  Other fees were allowed to increase.

The following table is our calculation of tuition and mandatory fees for next year for in-state freshmen at selected colleges.

Tuition and Mandatory Fees'18-'19'19-'20 
George Mason$12,462$12,564
Old Dominion$10,872$11,016
Virginia Tech$13,620$13,691
William & Mary$23,328$23,328
Christopher Newport$14,754$14,924
James Madison$12,016$12,206
Mary Washington$12,654$13,098
Virginia State$9,056$9,398

Sources: SCHEV, various news reports, and school websites


529 Plan Changes for 2018

It’s official. The tax legislation passed late in 2017 will allow for K-12 tuition costs up to $10,000 per year, per child. But before you run out and start making withdrawals, there are some important caveats, including one mistake that could cost you dearly.

As of February 2018, you could face recapture of deductions you claimed on your Virginia tax return for 529 plan contributions if your withdrawal is used for the new K-12 expenses.

Please read our recent newsletter for the full details of the changes, and if you have any questions, please drop us a note.


On-campus news

We like to report from time to time on goings-on at different colleges. After all, this is part of what you pay for. 

The current news that caught our eye is from Stanford. Stanford students will be voting soon on whether to reinstate a two-quarter Western Civilization course requirement covering the politics, history, philosophy, and culture of the Western world. It would seem like a no-brainer right? You might even have thought that such a course would be already required at one of our country’s most elite institutions.

Maybe you didn’t know that instead of such a course, Stanford offers “Food Talks: The Language of Food” and “The Science of Mythbusters.” Current Cost of Attendance: $67,000 per year.

However, it’s not clear if the effort will prevail. An opinion piece in The Stanford Daily quotes a student, Mara Chin Loy, saying that the initiative “actively participates in my dehumanization and the dehumanization of my communities…We don’t need to learn about Western civilization and its ideals, because we have spent every moment of our lives resisting and fighting to live and love ourselves, so that we can transcend Western values.”

As we’ve mentioned before, don’t assume your teenagers will be taught the same subjects that you were or that you want them to be taught. The best resource we know of for help in this area is by ACTA. (Stanford rates a C, by the way.)

We will provide updates as the story develops.



FREE Workshop, “Making College Affordable” – Monday, Feb. 8th

Join Us For Our FREE Workshop, “Making College Affordable,” hosted by the Twin Hickory Library on Monday, Feb. 8 at 7:00. No registration is required. See more details here:…/lib/eventsignup.asp…


Getting in to out-of-state public schools has never been easier

We’ve noted for some time that out-of-state public colleges often take a more casual admissions approach to full-pay out of state students. Out-of-state students supplement the tuition of in-state students. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, colleges need to balance their budgets and cover their very expensive overhead and pay for the growing number of departments, etc. However, as taxpayers of a state, do you believe your students should at least have first crack at state supported colleges? Most residents do.

 Look at some of these numbers, according to the Washington Post.  Forty-three of fifty flagship state universities enrolled a smaller percentage of in-state freshmen in 2014 vs. 10 years earlier.

The University of Alabama enrolled 72% Alabamians in 2004.  In 2014, that was 36%. It’s a fun campus, especially during the football season. Might at well take advantage of that popularity by boosting tuition revenues.

The good news is that UVa did not significantly increase the percentage of out-of-state freshman over this time. It remained at approximately 67% in-state. 

As you consider colleges to attend, parents need to know that out-of-state public schools might be very willing to admit your son or daughter.  However, don’t confuse admission with affordable, unless you have some serious academic smarts. There’s something in it for the schools too.





New FAFSA EFC calculator

For years, the Department of Education has kept the FAFSA4Caster EFC calculator at the same URL. Now they have moved it! We will update the links on our site, but archived issues of our newsletter will still contain the incorrect URL (as they cannot be changed).

In the meantime, the EFC Calculator can be found at this URL, which really rolls off the tongue:

Tech note: the website is not URL-friendly. If you get an error or “Session Expired” page, try closing your browser and reloading the website. If that doesn’t work, do the Google trick.


Where to find answers?

There are lots of people offering help about paying for college.  The problem is, the advice is often wrong!

Andrew Ferguson has an absolutely hilarious version of this in his excellent book Crazy U. He spends an evening reading message boards on College Confidential where he finds a mix of good advice, bad advice, and non-advice. Add to that some petty bickering and downright rudeness. In the end, he says, “…nobody can tell you [the answer] because nobody knows, and nobody will admit that nobody knows.”  He concludes with, “How seriously are we supposed to take the opinions of a person who identifies himself as ‘boogerman’?”

Too true!

Looking at College Confidential today, a poster asks if there is any harm in not accepting federal student loans that were offered as part of a financial aid package. The simple answer is no. Loans are not discretionary, basically every student can get a federal loan for unmet need, and you can take it or leave it, it’s up to you. But the thread goes on for post after post, with comments about effect on grants, asking what school the poster is talking about, bringing in subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans.

In the end, the poster says the consensus is that it won’t hurt, she that’s what she’s going with!

Advice on how to pay for college doesn’t have to come from taking a consensus of anonymous opinions. Our blog and newsletter are free and address the very issues that affect most families.  We are always available if you have unanswered questions too. 

Remember, every family’s situation is unique. Even the best advice from a friend or family member might not apply to your family.  Please let us know if we can help.


Is this what you want to pay for?

As parents, you are going to pay tens of thousands of dollars for your kids to go to college. You have a voice in what you are buying, but that begins with actually knowing what is going on behind the ivy covered walls.

You might have read that UNC-Chapel Hill has been under scrutiny for several years for academic misdeeds with student-athletes. What you probably don’t know is that, according to a null from the UNC Writing Center, UNC advises against using words such as “mailman”, “man-made”, and “policeman”.  After all, the guide says, “English has changed since the Declaration of Independence was written.” The “guide” continues with ways to make sure you don’t offend anyone by using such phrases.  Are our students so weak that something like “all men are created equal” is offensive if you are female?

UNC isn’t the only school up to these sorts of shenanigans. They are going on at colleges everywhere, but they don’t point this stuff out during prospect visits or orientation sessions for parents. This is the day to day nitty-gritty.  A professor at NC State says she will mark down grades if students write “mankind” in her women’s and gender studies class. Washington State is reeling and back peddling after a professor there said students would be marked down for using words such as “illegal aliens”.  Really?

Free speech seems to only go in one direction these days.  You might think these are extreme examples, but colleges across the country are including “trigger” warnings about course material.  Student groups that don’t like on-campus speakers often demand some alternative “safe space” where they can go after hearing some view that conflicts with their own (see “In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas” – Strong Language Warning!)

When it comes to education, ACTA does a terrific job of analyzing the core curriculum at colleges all across the country. You’ll be amazed to see how easy it is to meet the most basic requirements with silly courses.  Visit

There’s no reason to ignore your values when choosing a college. It’s true it’s your son or daughter’s experience, not yours, but if you are paying for it you might want to be informed about what’s going on.  


Do your kids know what college costs?

Probably not.

According to a Brookings study from December 2014, half of incoming freshmen cannot get within $5,000 of how much their first year of college will cost. Less than one-third can predict within 30% what they are actually paying for college.

If you don’t tell them what college costs, you cannot expect the college to tell them. They are too busying worrying about trigger warnings for “offensive” material and microaggressionsWashington State instructors have reportedly told students that they risk receiving a failing grade for using offensive language. Okay, so what’s offensive? “Male” and “female”.  In one class, students will lose one point every time they say “illegal” alien.

Don’t expect your kids to learn anything about financial responsibility in that environment. You might want to have that conversation yourself. Just be careful what words you use.


Paying college tuition bills

Your son or daughter has ‘overlooked’ the tuition invoice that came by email, and now it’s due. In a hurry, you have them set you up as an authorized payer so you can pay the bill online.  You go online and pull out your credit card to pay the bill and wait, what’s this about a Service Fee???

Yes, most every college will charge somewhere around 2.5% – 3.0% if you want to pay by credit card.  That’s huge (and ridiculous).

But they do give you another option – enter your bank account information. You can do that but before you jump at that, remember those headlines you’ve seen about online hacking. Target, Home Depot, Anthem, the Federal Government…it’s not to say that your information is not safe, but make sure you take that risk into account.

One possible way to mitigate it and still use online access (remember, you can always mail a check if you have time) is to have a College Account at your bank. You can use that account information and not have to share your primary checking account information.  This can offer some level of practical security. You would transfer money from your primary account to the College Account and then pay the invoice.

Of course, you can have your student handle that too and deposit the money into their checking account – there are a number of ways to solve the problem. But don’t pay the credit card fee, and don’t jump at the chance to give your checking account information until you’ve thought about the alternatives.