Middle class find it harder to pay for college
EVERETT - The rising price tag of college is pinching the middle class.
“It seems like you have to be really rich or really poor” to afford college, Tiffany McCutcheon said last week.
The Bothell mom is looking for ways to pay for her 13-year-old son Orion’s college tuition. Orion goes to Heatherwood Middle School in Everett. McCutcheon and Orion’s father started saving late, she said.
She is a dental assistant. Because of her tax bracket, her family doesn’t qualify for as many grants, she said. “We don’t fall into the right areas, but we’re not rich either,” she said.
McCutcheon is among hundreds of parents who came to a public information night at Everett Community College last week. The sessions included a presentation on how to pay for college.
EvCC is getting an “exponentially” increasing number of financial aid requests each year. The pot of money available empties quicker now than ever before, said Andrea Wilson, EvCC director of financial aid and scholarships.
Wilson urges people to file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form as soon as possible. You can file online at fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA lets colleges know about your family’s income and eligibility, but if you miss the priority filing deadlines you can lose out on grant money.
In one case, a student was one day late with his FAFSA and lost out on $7,000 to $11,000 in grants. Wilson’s job is to give out grant money, but she runs out quickly, she said.
The deadline for priority grant funding at Everett Community College is March 15. Some state universities’ priority FAFSA deadlines have already passed, Wilson said.
EvCC is receiving more financial aid applications now than ever before. More than 11,000 students applied for financial aid last academic year. Only 3,400 received aid. In 2008-2009, 6,800 students applied for aid.
EvCC’s final filing deadline is June 30.
You do not need to plan to go to EvCC to apply with the school. You must be registered, though, to receive money.
“It’s OK for them if they’re shopping around to colleges” to apply, Wilson said.
Wilson encourages people to complement applying for grants with searching for college scholarships.
Wilson recommends using the website thewashboard.org, a database site that sends out personally tailored e-mails about which scholarships a family is eligible for.
Wilson also recommends students calculate in the costs of books, rent and food as part of the cost of going to college away from home. Everett Community College’s tuition rate for a full-time student is $1,171.90 for 15 credits per quarter. That’s still about one-third the cost of a state school, EvCC representatives say.
Parents are trying to figure out how to pay for college.
Everett resident Terri Amburgy’s strategy for her daughter, Hannah, is to use the state’s Running Start program to collect college credits while Hannah is in high school.
“With Running Start you basically get two years of college paid off while in public school,” Amburgy said.
Amburgy’s in the middle class. She’s feeling the pinch of finding grant money.
“That’s exactly what we’re feeling: You might look like you can afford college, but it’s the pinch we feel,” Amburgy said.
“How do you save when you have day-to-day expenses?” Amburgy said.
Dan and Chris Hornung of Lake Stevens already are prepared to pay for college. They timed the refinance loan on their house to end when their son Zach, 16, enters college.
Zach wants to go to Western Washington University, which is where his parents went.
“So instead of paying for the home, we’ll be paying for college,” Dan Hornung said, adding, “It’s a big expense.”
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Feb. 22, 2012