Your clients look to you as their expert when it comes to all things financial, and college planning is no exception. Here are some approaches you can take this fall along with some facts to have at your fingertips when you’re meeting with clients.


  1. Relay facts about the cost of college.

See the research we did last year (Planning for College Has Never Been More Important) which showed that 42 million Americans carry $1.3 trillion in college debt. The average tuition and fees in 2015-16 were $9,410 per year at four-year, in-state public institutions, while room and board were about $10,140 annually.

Most universities continued to raise their tuition in the last couple of years, but less steeply. (You can get 2016-17 data trends by state here.)

  1. Explain FAFSA to your clients.

Many parents don’t know that they’ll have to go online fill out the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid) form to find out how much financial aid their child might receive from their university, which is based partially on parent income.

Here is the website: Your clients can fill out the FAFSA form online starting October 1st prior to the year their child plans to attend college.

“The FAFSA, officially known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the form that families fill out to apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds for college students. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides more than $150 billion in student aid each year.

“Your eligibility for federal grants (which don’t have to be repaid) and federal loans (which do) will generally be based on your financial need, as determined by the information you supply on your FAFSA.

Even if … your family’s income and assets put you out of the range for grants, it’s still worth going ahead and completing the FAFSA. That’s because most colleges, state scholarship agencies, and foundations use the FAFSA in deciding who gets their scholarship money, as well as how much each student will receive. Also, filing a FAFSA automatically qualifies you for low-cost federal student loans of at least $5,500 a year.”1

  1. Help your clients forecast the financial aid they might receive.

Let your clients know that they can get an idea of what financial aid their family might expect by filling out the FAFSA4caster here:

  1. Let your clients know that college costs may adversely affect retirement.

From an article in The Washington Post this January:

“The number of older Americans taking on student debt on behalf of their children and grandchildren has quadrupled in the past decade, with consumers over 60 now holding $66.7 billion in student loan debt, according to a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The skyrocketing cost of college has placed a particular burden on older Americans, many of whom are struggling to pay back growing debts in their retirement years, according to the report. Nearly 40 percent of federal student loan borrowers over age 65 are in default, the highest rate for any age group, the data show.

‘Student loan debt is clearly an intergenerational problem, and what we’re seeing is that this is unfortunately putting older consumers’ retirement at risk,’ said Seth Frotman, assistant director of the Office for Students at the CFPB. ‘Older Americans are struggling under the weight of student loan debt.’ 2

  1. Remind them about 529 plan advantages and disadvantages.

The 529 plan has long been the investment strategy of choice when it comes to college planning. Most states offer certain tax breaks on contributions, and withdrawals are tax-free when used for qualified education expenses for a family member. You can transfer 529 plans to other family members if a child opts not to go to college, and the accounts never expire even down through generations. But they can only be used for educational expenses.3

Keep in mind that 529 plans are considered parental assets on the FAFSA application. While annuities and insurance products are usually not counted as assets on FAFSA (or by the Social Security Administration, for that matter), each client’s individual situation must be considered when recommending any strategy for college expenses. Keep in mind some 300+ mostly private colleges do require the disclosure of annuities and insurance products on the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile which they require in addition to FAFSA.4


Help your clients and their multigenerational family members increase their knowledge about college planning. For more strategies you can use to help your clients, call Shurwest at 800.440.1088.


1 Money | Family Finance, “What Is FAFSA and Who Should Fill It Out?” (accessed August 23, 2017).
2 The Washington Post | Business “Student debt now affects a staggering number of elderly Americans.” (accessed August 23, 2017).
3 “10 hidden benefits of 529 plans.” (accessed August 23, 2017).
4 Forbes “Consumers Beware: The Truth About Life Insurance, Annuities And College Financial Aid.” (accessed August 23, 2017).