College Planning in the Pandemic Era

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Weighty issues need to be considered before making expensive college commitments that could easily be disrupted in the coming months.

Families of college-bound students had made $500 billion in tuition commitments for this coming September. Many of those plans have been abandoned, torn up, forgotten about, or, at best, – put on hold. They will remain on hold until some semblance of certainty settles into the economy. Issue number one is that if a parent loses a job, how will the family pay for the college costs that they didn’t even fully understand before the COVID-19 crisis hit?

There is significant tension and stress relating to college plans for this September. Parents want their kids in college this fall, yet the overwhelming worry is the financial consideration of their ability to pay for a large future obligation. There is the uncertainty of whether or not colleges will even be open in September and beyond.

Colleges have not done the public any favors in terms of providing clarity or reliable assurances regarding their plans for the fall semester. Some are insisting they will be fully open, come hell or high water. Others are saying they hope to offer in-class instruction and that curriculum delivered via Zoom will be on standby. Stanford and some others have said that they may not reopen until January, 2021. The largest university system in the country, California state universities, announced on May 12 that it will offer only online instruction for the fall semester. The most forthright statement a college could make would be, “Our status will remain uncertain until the health authorities determine when we can resume normal operations.”

If your clients are confused, it’s through no fault of their own. Most likely, they’re trying to get through this current spring semester hopefully financially intact, and then start thinking seriously about what the coming college year might look like.

As an advisor, you can provide your clients with valuable insights, strategic guidance, and free college planning resources that would bring immense clarity to the fall semester outlook. This is a very good reason to engage with them. Our firm has been providing college-planning data to families for over a decade and this data is based on the actuarial work we do for student lenders. We have “done the math” to ascertain the value of specific colleges, academic majors, and the ROI that can and should be attained in order to justify the college investment. Our guidance and new programs are the benchmark for decision making for September 2020.