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Prepárase Económicamente para la Universidad de Sus Hijos

Prepare for your Children's College

By Miriam De Dios

You have probably dreamed of providing your family the greatest opportunity for success. The sacrifices you have made have been for the good of your children and to help them achieve their dreams.  The continued education of our children has been the best guarantee of family success across generations. However, there are significant challenges to overcome on the road to the continued education of our children.

The high cost of attending college, the complexity of the United States education system, our legal status, and our lack of awareness of helpful resources, are some of the biggest challenges we face as Latinos.

Despite these challenges, you and your children can achieve this dream. The most important factors are setting a goal, fighting for the goal, and planning. Obviously, the sooner you start planning, the easier it will be for you to achieve your dream.

Keep in mind that university costs have increased more rapidly than national inflation over the last ten years.  For the 2009-10 academic year, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $12,804 at public institutions and $32,184 at private institutions (nced.ed.gov). And according to the U.S. Department of Education's annual look at college affordability released in June 2012, the average tuition at a four-year public university climbed 15% between 2008 and 2010, due in part by state budget cuts for higher education and increases of 40% and more at universities in states like Georgia, Arizona and California.

Based on the increasing costs of higher education, you should 1) start saving; 2) instill the will and responsibility within your children so that they will fight for their dreams; and 3) inform yourself about resources available to support your children's education, such as loans and scholarships.

Start saving

Every dollar you deposit at your credit union will help to cover college costs. Before all else, set a savings goal for each of your children. Since the year 2011, universities are required by law to provide a cost calculator on their website, so students can determine how much money they will need to attend the college of their choice. To find the cost calculator of the colleges your child would like to attend, follow this link and enter the name of the school in the space provided. The College Board has helpful web pages in Spanish about college preparation.

When opening a savings account, make sure you save the money under your name and not that of your children's. This will help them qualify for more financial aid.  Also, consult a financial advisor to learn more about Coverdell Savings Accounts and 529 savings programs, which can help you obtain tax benefits. Make the preparation, research, and savings, a family effort.

Motivate your children

Our children will set the goals that we present as options to them. Unfortunately, the lack of educational access that our families may have had may disillusion our young students. Whenever possible motivate your children, exposing them to college graduate leaders and talking with them about the real educational effort that they will need to make in order to have the best chance at continued education and to obtain scholarships. Don't let them feel alone in their efforts. Help them find help and resources, even if it's merely developing a relationship with an advisor that truly knows the steps necessary to enroll at universities.

Inform yourself about resources

Though you may not realize it, there are many resources available for Latino students - immigrant or not.  Starting with your credit union, which will have a variety of savings products which may gain interest on the deposits. Credit unions will probably also have loan products that you may be able to use for your children's studies. Some credit unions may even have Individual Development Accounts.  These accounts match your savings dollar for dollar when you save to invest in something like education and if you qualify based on your income.

Aside from these resources available at credit unions, there are organizations focused on the educational development of Latino students, such as ¡Adelante! (http://www.adelantefund.org/adelante/Default_EN.asp ), Hispanic Scholarship Fund (http://www.hsf.net/ ), Aspira (http://www.aspira.org/ ), National Council of La Raza (http://www.nclr.org/ ), and many other local and national organizations.  These organizations seek to inform and support Hispanic students and their families - sometimes even through scholarships and financial awards for students that excel.

Though potentially a difficult and long road, your children's studies are a worthwhile investment. Set your goal as a family, save, and seek available resources for the good of your kids.

Published 8-16-2012.

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