Schools want students to start thinking earlier about where they’ll go to college and what they’ll study, but first they have to educate both the students and their parents.
At Creekside Elementary School and other Franklin schools, counselors and teachers start talking with students in every grade about what kind of job they might want when they grow up, and the type of education they’ll need. School officials want students to know early that they might need anywhere from two years of technical training or a doctorate after they graduate high school in order to get their dream jobs. Schools also start taking students on field trips to area colleges to show them early that they have college options within an hour of home, Creekside Elementary counselor Samantha Vidal said.
Elementary school counselors have also started talking with students’ parents to encourage them to start saving now for college, which at state universities, such as Indiana University or Purdue University, can cost more than $20,000 per year.
Up until last year, Vidal and the staff at Creekside Elementary typically didn’t talk with students or parents about where they wanted to go to college or what that would cost.
But school officials realized students had a better chance of being prepared for their careers if they knew earlier what kind of degrees or certifications they would need. They also knew families would have a better chance at affording the cost of college if they started saving earlier.
“We want to have a college- going culture at our schools. So we want students to think about what they want to do and where they want to go, not if they’re going to go,” Vidal said. “So we want to make college and career readiness available for every student. And part of that is getting started early and helping parents to start planning now, while their children are still young.”
Parents trying to save money for their child’s future tuition have several options to consider, including investment plans and scholarships as well as an income-based program that will cover the cost of tuition for students who keep up their grades and stay out of trouble in middle and high school.
But families don’t always know what their options are. And even if they do, the prospect of saving between $80,000 and $100,000 for each of their kids can be overwhelming, Vidal said.
Last month, Creekside Elementary provided an overview for parents, breaking down some of the help they can get saving and paying for some of their students’ college costs, and Vidal wants to continue that outreach to families.
“I want them to understand that it is possible, so they don’t count it out before they even start. Even if it just got them thinking about (saving) a little bit, that’s progress,” Vidal said.
A single father is trying to find the best way to ensure he can help pay for tuition and other expenses when his daughter is ready for college in nine years.
Steve Dahl’s 9-year-old daughter, Sophia Dahl, already has money from an inheritance that can help cover her college costs, but Steve Dahl wants to start putting some of his own money aside as well.
He knows he has investment options such as Indiana’s 529 plan, which was created specifically for parents trying to save money for college. But he isn’t sure he should invest his money because of the risk he could lose it all.
“We don’t even know what the government is going to do tomorrow,” he said.
For now any money that Steve Dahl can set aside is going into a traditional savings account. The money can’t disappear, but it also can’t grow as large or as fast as if it were invested in the stock market.
Steve Dahl, who manages a record store in Columbus, said he didn’t go to college because he didn’t know how he could cover the cost of tuition, books, room and board. Right now Sophia doesn’t know what kind of job she wants when she grows up, but her father wants her to go to college so she’ll have a better chance of getting her dream job.
“I just know I didn’t have the opportunity, and I really would like her to,” he said.
He also doesn’t have a goal yet for how much he wants to set aside.
The cost of a state college or university, such as Indiana University Bloomington, is now more than $20,000 per year for Indiana residents, and thinking too much about those numbers can be overwhelming — almost enough to stop someone from even trying to save money, Steve Dahl said.
“I really want to get the ball kind of started, and then see (what) I can do,” he said.
Melanie Kramp started training for a second job last week, and she hopes the added customers she serves and tables she cleans will help her finally save for her daughter’s college education.
For years, she and her husband, Timothy Kramp, haven’t made enough money to save for their 10-year-old daughter’s future college costs. But Melanie Kramp is hopeful that with a second job, she and her husband might be able to repay money they owe and start setting cash aside for tuition, books and housing costs.
Melanie Kramp has worked for 18 years as a full-time server at Applebee’s in Franklin, and she’s now also picking up shifts at another local restaurant. Timothy Kramp is an iron worker, meaning he can have six prosperous months filled with projects, followed by six months without work.
The Kramps have five children, including Trisha Kramp, 10, and four older kids from previous relationships. Trisha Kramp loves animals and sometimes talks about becoming a veterinarian, and her mother wants to find a way for her to earn her degree.
Melanie Kramp wanted to attend Indiana University in Bloomington after graduating from high school in 1982, but she didn’t know about grants, loans or other ways she could cover the cost. She got a job working at a nursing home shortly after high school before being hired at Applebee’s; and while the money she makes at the restaurant is usually enough to pay the bills, there’s rarely anything left to put aside in savings.
Two of Melanie Kramp’s older children attended college, and one of them graduated after finding the money for the expenses on his own. She wasn’t able to help either of them with the costs, but she wants to have something saved for Trisha Kramp’s college education by the time she’s 18.
When she graduates, she hopefully won’t have as difficult a time earning a living for herself and her family, Melanie Kramp said.
“She’s a pretty smart girl. And I think nowadays that’s what she’s going to have to do get a job,” Melanie Kramp said.
Last week the couple attended a presentation at Creekside Elementary School in Franklin to get more information about possible savings options, including 529 investment plans and Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program. Melanie Kramp isn’t sure how quickly the family will be able to start setting money aside for Trisha’s college expenses. She wants to start soon, but paying off the family’s debt could take up to five years, she said.
But she is working on other options, too. She enrolled her daughter in Girl Scouts and wants Trisha to get involved in other activities and keep her grades up, so she can get as many scholarships as possible.
“If she uses her brain like she should, maybe she can get scholarships to help get it taken care of,” Melanie Kramp said.
Taken for granted
A look at some grants and scholarships that are available for parents looking to send a child to college. See Page A8 for more.
What are they: Essentially free money students can get from colleges and universities, community groups, jobs and other organizations. The money may help cover some — or all — of their college costs.
How to qualify: The qualifications vary, and many times students don’t know they exist. But they’re not exclusive to National Merit finalists, or students with 4.0 GPAs. That’s why it’s important for students in middle school and high school to start getting involved in as many community groups and other activities as they can.
How to find them: Once they’re in high school, students need to contact their guidance counselor to see what grants and scholarships they could qualify for.
Source: Samantha Vidal, Creekside Elementary counselor