Save Money Paying for College with guest Brad Baldridge

About this Episode

Are you worried about the high cost of college? Thinking about how you or your kids are going to afford to pay for college? Wondering if student loans are the right way to go? On this episode of Brainy Moms, Dr. Amy and Teri interview college funding consultant Brad Baldridge. Brad is a financial planning expert and the host of Taming the High Cost of College podcast. 

He shares how complex the college financial planning process can be. From finding scholarships to deciding about loans to deciphering the true cost of college (it’s not always what the school website says), Brad says busy parents can use help with the heavy lifting. And the cost of hiring a college funding consultant is often recovered by the money you can save on tuition! Tune in to learn about working with a college funding consultant and get access to Brad’s free videos about college scholarships.

About Brad

Brad Baldridge, CFP®, is a College Funding Consultant specializing in late stage college funding planning and the chief podcaster of Taming The High Cost Of College.  He provides customized planning using the latest financial aid, tax, cash flow and academic strategies.  With these strategies Brad may help a family save a significant amount of money on their college expenses and make a student’s college dream a reality.

Over the past 10 years Brad has directly helped hundreds of families plan and pay for college. He has provided in-depth college plans resulting in increased financial aid, scholarships, identification of the right schools at the right price, and better loans.

Brad is a registered representative of Cambridge. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, TM, professional and is a member of the local and national chapters of the Financial Planning Association. Brad received his Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1990.

Connect with Brad

Website: TamingtheHighCostofCollege.com
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/TamingTheHighCostOfCollege
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/taming-the-high-cost-of-college/

Mentioned in this Episode

Free Resource on Scholarships:

The Scholarship Guide for Busy Parents (with videos)

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Read the transcript for this episode:

Save Money Paying for College 
with guest Brad Baldridge

Dr. Amy Moore:

Hi, and welcome to this episode of brainy moms. I’m Dr. Amy Moore here with my co-host Teri Miller, coming to you as usual from Colorado Springs, Colorado. We are excited to introduce you to our guest today, Brad Baldridge. Brad is a college funding specialist. In fact, he’s one of the nation’s leading experts in college planning and funding, which makes him the perfect host of his own podcast, Taming the High Cost of College. Brad teaches parents the best ways to save and pay for college, including how to find the right school, maximize financial aid and scholarships, avoid student loan debt and make your children’s college dreams come true without wiping out your finances for your retirement.

Teri Miller:

So this is a very important topic. Brad, we are so glad to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Brad Baldridge:

Yeah, well, thanks for having me.

Teri Miller:

Yeah. It’s this is very important to Amy and I right now. It’s very timely because Amy and I both have kids in college and we both have kids that are coming up on attending college. So we’ve got some experience, but then also a lot of questions and I even have much younger kids. So very, very relevant, no matter the age of your kid. Tell us a little bit about what brought you to where you are today. Brad being an expert in this area and why this is a passion of yours.

Brad Baldridge:

Yeah. So I’ve been involved in the financial industry for most of my career. And about 15 years ago, I started getting more involved in the college planning process because it was coming up a lot more as I was working with families, you know, again, trying to figure out typical financial stuff like retirement and that type of thing, and college would come up and it’d be like, well, this is getting to be expensive. This is getting harder to fit into the budget, et cetera, et cetera. And I realized that there was not a lot of good information out there and certainly not much planning around college. So as I dealt, you know, it got into it further and further, I realized there was a lot of great strategies families could use if they just understood how the system worked. And most families just didn’t do it.

Brad Baldridge:

Most financial advisors and accountants still to this day still don’t really understand the whole process very well. So I decided to become the go-to expert on some of these things around things like need based aid and Meade and negotiating with schools and all these different ideas that some families come up with one or two. But the reality is there’s, you know, 20, 30, 40 strategies. And for each family it’s kind of picking the right ones for you sometimes need based aid is a great idea. Sometimes it’s just not gonna work at all. It depends on your situation. Yeah. And other times it’s ADE or scholarships or saving and investing or taxes or, and again, it’s so I got complicated. And as a planner, once you say complicated, all of a sudden, they say, oh, there’s an opportunity. The more complicated, the more I can add value, because most people aren’t gonna put the time and effort into figuring it all out.

Brad Baldridge:

And quite frankly, they don’t even know where to start many times. It’s, they’re just overwhelmed, but they don’t really know. You know, that’s one of my biggest challenges and that’s why I’m out on podcasts and doing this type of thing is people don’t even know that there’s, you know, people like me out there that can help. So they don’t even bother to, to look for me cuz they don’t know I exist. You know? And the, if your pipes are leaking in your basement, you know, I should call a plumber. They can probably help me with this. I’m trying to figure out college. I’ve got kids in high school. How does this work? Who do you call? And you know me ideally, but you don’t know I exist and you don’t know what to call me and you don’t know how to find me, but there’s a number of us out there. Not, I mean, not the only one, but there’s a, a growing segment of financial planning now that focuses a little bit more on the college aspects and you know, so I get that kinda where it’s all started.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So what’s the best way to talk about this. Do we start at the beginning? Okay. You’re pregnant now let’s start planning for college or is the best way to talk about this throwing out strategies that everybody needs to know?

Brad Baldridge:

Yeah. I, I would say the best is a kind of a combination and that’s, I think that’s one of the challenges that I’ve had. I’m, I’m building some courses now and, and some of that type of thing, and it is very chicken and egg problem of, well, if I talk about this, I gotta talk about this. And if you don’t understand this, then this doesn’t make sense, but I can’t talk about this until you understand that. And it gets to be very convoluted, but so here’s some kind of, some of the basics, right? So the first thing is the difference between early stage and late stage planning. So early stages pregnant, as you mentioned, or I’ve got a two year old five year old, 12 year old, and college is gonna happen someday. We should plan and prepare perhaps whether that’s setting up a, some sort of savings plan or just realizing that maybe we shouldn’t buy quite such a big house.

Brad Baldridge:

Cause we’ve got four kids and four colleges coming. So if we, you know, realize that we’re gonna be on the hook for some college, maybe we should, you know, have less expenses so that we can save or prepare in some way. So that’s early stage. And, and again, you don’t know a college, you don’t don’t even know if it’s for certain your students gonna go. And if you’ve got really young kids, maybe you not sure what college is gonna look like when you get there, then we get to the late stage. And both of you say, you have kids in college and kids in high school. So, you know, understand what late stage is late stages. It’s go time. I mean, you’ve gotta visit colleges, you know, testing and all the different things you have to do, no matter whether you’ve done a great job and you have a big pile of money or you’ve done nothing at all. When you’ve got a kid that’s a junior in high school, you’re gonna have to figure it out. You have to figure it out quickly.

Brad Baldridge:

So that was what I would call late stage planning is parents of juniors and seniors. Now, if people don’t learn anything at all, other than please start earlier than you think you need to. I think we’ve been successful. Cause a lot of people roll into this their junior year and say, oh my I, God, we’ve been putting this off and putting this off. Now we’ve gotta figure it out. And I’ve had lots and lots of people tell me, you know, we started this too late. We should have started earlier. I’ve never once had anyone ever tell me, you know, I started this too early. I should have, you know, it just doesn’t work that way for whatever reason. So as an example, you can do things your sophomore and junior year, like college visits, that type of thing. If your student is ready now, many students aren’t mature enough to really start doing college that early.

Brad Baldridge:

But that doesn’t mean the parents can’t start figuring it out. I mean, there’s lots of things parents can do, whether your students ready or not, you can figure out, will we qualify for need based aid? How does ADE work? You know, what are the local state schools cost? What would they look like if we sent our kid to the local state school? And what about the flagship in our state? And what about the flagship and states nearby? I mean, what, you know, what are your options? You know, if you’re on the east coast, there’s lots of is everywhere. If you’re in the Midwest, there’s some colleges and if you’re in the mountain states, you know, there’s not a lot of colleges and you might consider more likely going traveling outta state.

Brad Baldridge:

So, you know, there’s all those factors of, you know, do you think your students a far and wide kind of kid where they’re gonna look at schools all over of the country or they very local, you know, just here in town or maybe within an hour or two drive or, you know, again, is it gonna be, we gotta fly to the east coast, look at schools, we gotta fly to the west coast and look at schools. That’s much bigger project. So that’s kind of the, the starting point is what are you up against? If you start earlier, you’ll have more time.

Brad Baldridge:

So you’re, you know, again, another example would be your goal by the end of the junior year is to have a good list for schools. You know, these are the schools we’re considering, you know, maybe it’s five or 10 that you’re gonna apply to or three or four or whatever it is and it’s have to be perfect, but at least has to be, you know, kind of worked out. But in addition to that, you should have a good understanding of what these schools might cost, which is another project of predicting how, what, you know, what the prices are going to be, have a plan for scholarships, hopefully have all your testing done, where, you know, you’ve got the scores that you’re proud of and you’re ready to go. And again, there’s a new wrench there too, cuz testing is becoming optional. So now you have to figure out, am I gonna do the optional route or am I gonna actually test or you know, what’s right. And that type of thing. But then you’ve got your research, your visits, your testing, your scholarship plan. And then the parents have some inkling of budget, you know, what can we afford? And does our budget line up with reality? You know, I’ve had people say, well, we wanna pay for all of college and we’ve got 50 bucks a month to make it happen. It’s like, well, guess what? That it’s not gonna work that way. Most likely.

Brad Baldridge:

So that’s junior year and then senior year, then you can roll into actually applying for financial aid actually for the colleges, getting the offers from the colleges, picking the colleges, committing usually by may, first of your senior year is when you pick the college that you want to go to send in your deposits and then through the summer you might sign up for some loans or do additional things. And then ultimately you’re off to college that fall. So there’s a lot to do. And it goes very quickly as I’m sure you guys can attest to that. You know, they were just starting high school and now we’re off to college. It goes very fast. Yeah. So anyway, so that’s, you know, kind of the broader picture that families need to work on.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So I wanna visit that idea of scholarships. Something frustrating happens among families who have really good income, but not so good that they can afford to pay cash for college. Right? So they might not necessarily qualify for finding financial aid, you know, through the FFA application, but there might be scholarships that they could still explore. Yes. Is that something that you recommend as plan a

Brad Baldridge:

Absolutely. So on my website, I, if you go to TamingtheHighCostofCollege.com/scholarships, I’ve got, what’s called the Scholarship Guide for Busy Parents and I’ll give you the quick overview. It goes in much more depth, but the reality of scholarships is there’s three different categories of scholarship and people don’t understand or realize that when they start talking about it or, you know, again, you’re at the high school, that’s some event with your, your kids are participating in a sport or something and you hear this rumor, right? Oh, so and so got a scholarship for $25,000 and then somewhere else you hear a similar rumor. Oh, so and so got a scholarship for $10,000, but that’s, you know, very superficial information. So was that a need based scholarship? Was that a merit scholarship? Was that an outside scholarship? These, all these different opportunities and most people don’t really understand the different choice.

Brad Baldridge:

So you can divide scholarships into two main categories. One is the scholarships from the colleges you’re actually attending. And then the other category will be scholarships from everywhere else. So the local charities, local businesses, internal, you know, again, not necessarily local businesses, but business of any sort like Bill Gates Foundation operates a big scholarship. That’s pretty well known and Coca-Cola has a big scholarship. That’s well known and then in Buick and a couple others, but there’s a lot of little scholarships from the, you know, the ice cream shop across the street from the high school that makes a lot of money from the kids. So they decide to give back and they give a thousand to dollar scholarship to whoever eats most ice cream in a week or whatever. Right. I mean, there’s all kinds of different things out there that you can look into. So when you’re talking about scholarships in the colleges themselves, that’s part of the college research project, right? Can I find colleges that are going to offer are my student scholarships, whether it’s need based scholarships or merit scholarships. And then in addition to that, you can consider applying to outside scholarships so you can apply to the Coca-Cola scholarship or many others.

Brad Baldridge:

I had a family a few years ago, they applied to 40 scholarships and the student won seven for $41,000. So again, it was well worth it, but how long does it take to do that many scholarship applications? You know, it’s not something you knock out in one Sunday afternoon. It’s many, many Sunday afternoons and where I’ve seen success, as often parents are involved now, hopefully they’re not actually writing the essays, but maybe they’re, you know, collecting up the applications and keeping track of deadlines and figuring out which ones are a good fit and that type of thing. And then from there, again, you apply to the scholarships, do the best you can. If you’re gonna spend that kind of time, you really are gonna need some sort of plan. If your idea of chasing scholarships is, you know, every other Saturday morning, when your student rolls outta bed at noon, you say, Hey, wait a minute. How are you doing on those scholarships? That generally is not gonna work.

Brad Baldridge:

You’re gonna need some sort of structured plan where maybe the parents are involved. And again, there’s exceptions, but usually the exceptions are the students who realize that perhaps parents aren’t gonna be able to help much with college. And they’re very self-motivated and they realize that if they’re going to college, they have to make it work. Now that’s not the typical middle income, upper middle income family, where again, and most students don’t think and worry too much about money. You know, when they were 12 or 14, they said, you know, that iPhone thing is kind of cool. I wish I had one and the next birthday or Christmas one showed up, you know, and then they’re 16 or 17 and saying, you know, I got all this sports going on. If I had a, my own car, I, you know, you wouldn’t have to drag me around anymore or wouldn’t that be lovely.

Brad Baldridge:

And then next thing, you know, a used car shows up that they get to drive. Well, their next thought is, you know, I’d like to go to college and my parents have always said, I’m going to college. So, you know, I’m just gonna go pick one. I don’t understand the difference between a, you know, a five to a hundred dollars phone and a $5,000 car and a $50,000 education. They’re all big numbers. I’ve never earned that kind of money before to them. It’s all the same. And they kind of trust that. You have it figured out again, typically in the middle income, upper middle income, suburban type families.

Dr. Amy Moore:

You just described me to a T like I sitting there thinking that, but I’m like, yep,

Teri Miller:

Exactly. And that these are

Dr. Amy Moore:

My kids thinking, mom and dad are gonna figure this out. Cause they figured everything else out.

Teri Miller:

And that, and, and I’m even thinking that I have a, I have nine kids. And so we are in this position that, and I think a lot of busy moms are a lot of working class. Parents are where I don’t have time to dedicate to that one kid to create this schedule and pursue that process. And yet they don’t get it. They’re not gonna pursue it on their own. And yeah, it does as you’re talking, I mean, I have to be honest, I’m like, yeah, you’re describing me and I’m feeling like, forget it. This is impossible. Forget it. They can just all go, you know, I don’t know, work at McDonald’s and sling burgers for the rest of their life, cuz this is hopeless. So give me a little, gimme a little encouragement. Throw me a bone here.

Brad Baldridge:

Yeah. Well again, it’s all doable. The good news is, you know, with nine kids I have the third or fourth kid, you’ll have it figured out and it’ll become a little more of a process. Just like everything else you, you do. Right. Where it’s like, okay, we, you know, and, but it’s interesting. You bring that up. There’s things that make your life more complicated. As I mentioned, you know, is your student gonna wanna visit all over the place? Or if they’re just more local, more complications would be multiple kids in college at the same time changes how financial aid works. So you might have an opportunity for more aid while you have lots of kids in college and less aid when you have fewer in college.

Brad Baldridge:

So if you’re a business owner, there’s opportunities to, to set up tuition, reimbursement plans or hire the kids in the business or do various things that help with college. If you know, if you’re in a divorce or blended family, that’s an additional complexity and there’s some opportunities as well, depending on the situation. But again, another layer of complexity that needs to be factored in. But yeah, I mean the reality of it is lots of kids go to college. So eventually they figure it out, right? I mean it happens. Most parents aren’t in that mode where they just say, well, we can’t figure this out. College is canceled at a very minimum. There’s a various loan programs by the federal go that essentially can fill the gap almost no matter what, as long as the parents are. And again, it’s a loan that the parents are responsible for, not the student.

Brad Baldridge:

So if we get into loans a little bit, which a lot of families it’s, you know, it’s one thing where families say, you know, we’re gonna go to this tree, easy, expensive school, and we’re gonna give up our lake home in order to make it happen. It’s like, okay, well, if that’s the way you wanna spend your money, that’s fine. Right. If there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s another thing to say, you know, we’re just gonna decimate our retirement in order to go to this crazy expenses school. Now that’s at the higher ed, but there’s many families out there that are saying, we’re not talking about the high end expenses school we’re talking about. The local state school is gonna be a challenge for us again, because maybe we have nine kids and nine, nine colleges is just gonna be a challenge, no matter how you slice it.

Brad Baldridge:

So even the local state schools are gonna be a challenge. Well, there are loans out there that can fill the gaps. Now a typical student can only borrow 5,500 as a freshman in their own name. Mom and dad can generally borrow the rest, whatever that means. So if you get accepted to Harvard and it’s 80,000, you don’t happen to get any aid from Harvard. Well, mom and dad could sign for a loan for that full 80,000. And again, I’m not saying you should, I’m saying you could. So that’s, you know, so loans are always there to kind of fill the gaps. And unfortunately it’s been a crutch that kind of bails people out of four planning and then it just kicks the can on the road. And now we gotta deal with paying back all these loans that we didn’t really want. But at the 11th hour it was either canceled college or sign on this loan. Well, a lot of parents end up signing on the loan, unfortunately.

Teri Miller:

So let’s take it back to parents with younger kids, maybe even not itty bitties, but let’s say, you know, I’ve got I’ve for example, I’ve got a fourth grader, I’ve got a sixth grader, I’ve got an eighth, a seventh grader. And how, what can I do now to be planning? What would you tell to parents that have kids say in elementary school? Where do we start?

Brad Baldridge:

Right. Well, and again, I don’t know, depending on your state and that type of thing, but typically for the upper, you know, for the middle income and up, you’re gonna pay between 10 and 15 and maybe 20,000 out of pocket as a parent for the low cost local state school again, because what does that mean? Well, if you’re in Illinois and New Jersey and some states like that, they’re low cost state schools, not so low cost compared to Wyoming and which very low and some of the mountain states are very low. And then the average right, Wisconsin, and, you know, Alabama, et cetera. You know, there’s lots of schools where, you know, they’re just kind of average where maybe it’s about 15,000, but here in my state of Wisconsin, as an example, the flagship university of Wisconsin and Madison costs about 25, 20 6,000 all in student can borrow 5,000. Maybe the student can also earn another 5,000 between what they’ve earned in high school, what they earn while, you know, summers and weekends and whatever else. So let’s say so they can cover 10. That means mom and dad cover 15.

Brad Baldridge:

And that’s about the lowest cost that you’re going to see for a typical family here in Wisconsin. Unless again, if you’re lower income and you start qualifying for PE grants and other, you know, highly need based aid, well then that chips away at that 15. So maybe you get it down to five, but we’re talking about incomes below 50,000 a year. So now that chips it down to 5,000, but 5,000 is just as painful as 15 for a, you know, a family earning 150,000 paying 15,000 or a family earning 50,000 paying 5,000 either way. It’s a significant dent. So I think the first challenge is to realize that college is coming and, and put it in the budget because what I see a lot of families do is they roll into college with a 17 year old and they have decent income, but they’ve learned how to spend every penny, right?

Brad Baldridge:

Well, we got the bigger house, we’ve got the nicer cars and we go out to eat a lot and the kids are in sports, you know, and the coaches are expend, you know, and then we’re doing this tutoring and we’re doing this and we’re, and you add it all up. And it’s like, okay, every penny they have has been accounted for. And then you say, okay, now we need 15,000 or 20,000 a year for college. And they’re like, we don’t have it because again, they learn how to spend every, and I, again, the old ad is, you know, what’s the difference between a family earning a hundred thousand and a family earning 150,000 as far as lifestyle, the reality is not much right. One family goes to McDonald’s and orders, anything they want. The next family goes to Sizzler orders, anything they want, you know, one, they have the, both have two cars in the family, but one buys a new car every five years. And one buys a decent used car every seven years, you know, whatever it might be. So, you know, they figured it out, but from the outside, it doesn’t look a lot different. And then you add even more income and what happens well, instead of going to MC Arnolds and Sizzler, now you go to the more expensive steakhouse and you take the family and you spend two or $300 on a meal.

Brad Baldridge:

That’s kind of the difference. So what it boils down to, like I said again, is saying, well, once daycare is taken care of, and we used to pay 3000 a month or 2000 a month for daycare, and now that it’s done, now, we got this extra money. Should we be, you know, allocating some of it towards the college savings plan, or maybe just putting more of it into retirement or the next raise I get, we can’t just automatically increase our lifestyle. We’ve gotta start chipping away at some of these other issues that are coming down the pipe you, or does that make sense?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah, it’s good. So let’s get away from talking about the money that we need to save and look at how we’re misled maybe by what we think the costs actually are. Like. I think you say that just because it says it on the website, that’s not necessarily what we’re gonna pay. Right. And then I think you’ve also said that you can go to a private school for the same cost as a public school, which blows my mind. I have no idea how that math adds up. Yeah. So talk a little bit about how we navigate the, the dollar signs attached to the tuition,

Brad Baldridge:

Right? So the typical private school, so I’ve got, you know, I’ll, you know, Marquette or is here in town that I’m pretty familiar with, but there’s the, you know, university of Denver, university of Tampa or university of Pittsburgh, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a, all these private schools out there that realize that the local state school is 25, 30,000, something like that. And their price, 65 or 70, or some, you know, double or some very big number, relatively speaking. And the reality is they generally, that’s a tough sell, right? So they’re gonna have a hard time attracting students if they’re actually gonna charge 60 or 70 or whatever the number is. So what they do is they offer scholarships, especially the kids that they want sometimes need sometimes merit, sometimes both, but a lot of times it will, for some of the families it’ll bring that cost from 60 or 70 down to 35, let’s say after scholarships.

Brad Baldridge:

So now it’s like, well, I go to the local state school for 25 or 30, but I can go to the private school for 35. And some families look at that and say, well, if I’m in for, you know, a hundred thousand at the state school, does it matter if I go to one 20 to go to the private school that we like, you know, maybe we’ll have the student borrow a little money, little money, or co-sign loan for the, to cover the difference. Or again, a lot of parents will say we value the private school for whatever reason, right? I mean, they have a place. There’s reasons that people choose one school over the other. And if you choose that one and you wanna pay for it by all means, do it.

Brad Baldridge:

But again, where people get frustrated is imagine if this is like buying a car, imagine if you were gonna buy a car and there was sticker prices in the window between 25 and $80,000. But you also knew there was these weird government incentive programs that you didn’t quite understand that occasionally brought the prices down to, you know, 40,000 off if you qualified and that type of thing. And it was up to the car dealer or to determine which programs you got and that type of thing. And then on top of that, before you go look at cars and negotiate prices of cars, you’re gonna send a complete financial profile to the car dealer. They’re gonna over your income and your assets and all the details. That’s kind of how the process works, right? Is we work with the schools. Now, if you’re doing this at the dealer and you know, you go pick out the types of cars you like, maybe you’re looking for a four door sedan and, you know, surprise, you get 10,000 off or 20,000 off this sedan.

Brad Baldridge:

That’s 75,000, but the sedan over here, that’s 40,000. You don’t get anything off of, and this one, and it’s just this mismatch of, you gotta spend time to work through the process to figure out what each one’s actually gonna cost. But what people are really another concern that you would have is, well, imagine if you had chose a car spent $40,000, and then you discovered that essentially the same car is available across the street for 20,000. Doesn’t matter that the, or you could afford 40,000 or not. That wasn’t the point. The point is essentially the same thing is half price across the street. I just didn’t know how it worked. And I didn’t know that it was there. Yeah. So that’s part of the process that where families get frustrated is they hear about, oh, so and so got to this school and they got a big scholarship and it turned out to be a good deal. And so, and so got to that school and seems like they just paid full price. And, but there’s no rhyme or reason and hard to take that information and say, how do we build a plan for ourselves? And how do we make sure we’re paying a fair price for a fair education that meets our needs.

Brad Baldridge:

And that I think is the challenge that families are going through. So, you know, the solution to is understanding the system and figuring out how need-based aid works at least on a basic level and ADE and figuring out if you’re gonna qualify for those things and figuring out how to price colleges ahead of time, the way the system works now is you apply. They figure out your package and they give you an offer. And then you’ve got about six weeks to figure out, okay, here’s the six schools and the six prices. Now I have to pick one. Now, oftentimes people are surprised then they either shockingly high or shockingly low, it’s like, oh, I didn’t realize that that one was gonna be that low or that high or whatever it might be.

Brad Baldridge:

But part of the process that I work with families through is trying to figure out what that price is gonna be ahead of time. So that we kind of know that, you know, the state schools are gonna be 25 or 30, and these schools have a shot at least to being 35. Or we know for certain that this school’s probably not gonna give us much and it’s gonna be 60. Now we could be pleasantly surprised and it might come in at 40, we, you know, some program we don’t know about or something, but you kind of go in knowing what what’s going on. Parents. When I first got involved in college planning, you know, 10, 15 years ago, many parents would say any college, any price, we’ll just figure it out. Parents have very much stopped saying that because what they’re committing to now is a much bigger scarier proposition where if your student falls in love with their wrong school and it costs, you know, 50, 60, 70,000 a year, a lot of parents are saying, well, you know, can I do that?

Brad Baldridge:

Should I do that? And what are my alternatives, right. If I could have gone again to a school, that’s almost as good, but it would’ve been half price, you know, would that have made a difference? And it really depends. Again, some families where, you know, they’ve got the money. Maybe they only have the one student. So it makes life a little easier where they say, well, we spend an extra $50,000 in education. We, we value education. We’re willing to do it and we can afford it. Well, that’s, you know, again, many of those same families are gonna say, but if we don’t have to spend it, we don’t want to, we’d rather do it as efficient as possible, but that’s kind of the reality that we’re up against.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So how do we find out as a parent, if that private school is willing to lower their price tag for us, like, do we pick up the phone and call the financial aid office? Who do you talk to? Like, how do you find this out? How do you get the offer?

Brad Baldridge:

Right. So all, I mean, it’s a challenge. I have some software that I work with that helps us, you know, figure that out. But first you would start, you know, I have a, in my course, that’s kind of the process is you figure out if you’re gonna qualify for need based aid, and then you’re gonna explore whether or not the school offers marinade. So, and then a lot of schools will have, what’s called a net price calculator on their website, where you put in a bunch of information and they run the calculations and they give you an estimate. Now there’s another challenge there in that some schools, net price, calculators are very good and very accurate, but you gotta fill out the data properly. So you gotta know what you’re doing when you put the data in, otherwise you won’t get a very good result.

Brad Baldridge:

And then a lot of the calculators are just bad. They don’t, you know, they don’t cover the situation you’re dealing with. You know, they don’t cover multiple kids or they don’t cover divorce situations or they don’t. So they’re hard to work with, or they’re just outta date. You know, all colleges have to have a net price calculator because the government said, essentially, if you accept federal aid, which all colleges do, essentially you have to have a net price calculator on your website. So they all put one up. Now, some took it seriously and put up something good and some didn’t take it seriously and they put up something that’s not so good. So that’s kind of a place to start is you can work on the net price calculator. You can work with the school themselves to get an idea of what type of scholarships, you know, there’s, you know, I, I just did some research or, and I found a couple of state schools where they four out of state for students that are coming from out of state to a public school. So like Alabama and Iowa, they have some information right on their website to say, if you’ve got grades like this and test scores like that, here’s the scholarship you can expect. And it turns out that university of Alabama for the academic rockstar is a really low cost option.

Brad Baldridge:

And for the reasonably academic can be a, you know, a competitive with your local state school. And, you know, again, maybe it’ll be, so the out-of-state high out-of-state price that they published doesn’t apply to everybody. It applies to just some. So if that school was of interest, you’d have to spend the time to dig into their website, find out about the scholarship, figure out which one would apply to you, you know, do the math and figure out, okay, well, this is what the list price is, but these are the per, you know, these are the discounts I can expect. And then do that over and over again with all the schools that you’re considering. So it’s not, you know, the concept is easy, but it is some, some work, unfortunately.

Dr. Amy Moore:

So when you work with a college planner like you, what role do you play in that process?

Brad Baldridge:

I do. I do all the heavy lifting around figuring out will you qualify for need-based aid? Will you qualify for Meade?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Okay. Talk about, so you don’t just sit down and say, here’s some tips you’re actually doing this work for the families that hire you.

Brad Baldridge:

Correct. For sure. Now I’m putting a course together for people that don’t wanna hire me. And they would rather just get the tips and kind of do it themselves. So there is, you know, if you go to my website, I’ve got a course available that teaches you the, the system and gives you some spreadsheets and walks you through the process. But that, you know, and again, one of you mentioned how busy you are. That’s the challenge, right? Is it’s gonna take hours and hours for you to work through the process and understand what you’re up against and do the math. And, you know, it’s kinda like doing your own investments or doing your own taxes or your own car maintenance. Right, right. You can either completely do it yourself and learn how to do it. You can maybe find, you know, in this example of taxes, there’s, you can buy software, that’ll help you through it. Or you can just outsource it to a tax person and say, here you go, tell me how big of a check to write, to pay for your service. Cause I don’t wanna deal with it

Teri Miller:

Right. Time more money. That’s how it goes, time or money.

Brad Baldridge:

Right. And that’s, you know, and that’s the way it is with college too, is it’s complicated enough now that you either stumble through it, do the best you can and hope you didn’t make too many egregious errors or you spend the time to figure it out or you high or someone to figure it out for you. Or you find some that middle ground of taking a course that, you know, but unfortunately it’s kind of gotten like taxes where, you know, it’s not necessarily hard. There’s lots of people that are capable of doing it, but capable and willing. All of a sudden that list gets shorter again, cuz it’s like, well, I’ve got other things to do. And especially if you like, you’re a business owner, right. If you’re a real estate broker, let’s say, and you could, I could go sell another house, which I know how to do, or I could figure out college, which I don’t know how to do. Maybe I’ll just sell a house and pay someone to do the college stuff cuz or improve my marketing around selling houses that I sell a house every year. That’s better use of my time than figuring out college and using it twice for my two kids and then never really needing it again.

Dr. Amy Moore:

That’s right. That’s a good takeaway. Yeah, that’s good. So I wanna ask about college majors and return on that investment and how we should be, you know, talking to our kids about it. So for example, I feel pretty strongly that if you choose a $60,000 a year, liberal art, liberal art, liberal arts college, to get a liberal arts degree like English maybe is not a great return on your investment as opposed to spending $60,000 a year on tuition for an engineering major, which would have a good return on the investment. Is that something that we need to dissuade our children for, you know, to do? Is that, I dunno, what are your thoughts on that?

Brad Baldridge:

It’s more nuanced than that for sure. Right? So if you look at the general student population, there’s the top kids that are the go getters that, you know, whether it’s academic or whatever, but they’re gonna figure out life and they’re gonna do well, no matter what path they take, right? I mean, bill gates was on his way to being bill gates. He didn’t need college to do it. He was just a very brilliant driven person and it didn’t matter what path his parents endorsed or didn’t endorse. He was gonna be fine. Maybe he wouldn’t have been where he is now, but he would never, you know, be the starving artist kind of person on the other end of the spectrum. We’ve got, you know, a batch of kids that are just gonna, you know, gonna struggle and maybe forever, or maybe they just need to get out there in the school of hard knock has to knock ’em around a little bit before they decide to focus and figure out what to do.

Brad Baldridge:

And then there’s the group in the middle where I think we can make a, a big difference by doing the right things in the right order and making sense. So, you know, cuz there’s a lot of, you know, top executives and stuff that have very windy paths with very weird majors that, you know, again, because they learned how to think critically and some of that kind of stuff, right? That’s the liberal arts mantra, right? Well what we teach people how to think critically. And that’s great for kids that wanna learn how to think critically. But if you have a, you know, a C student that goes to a relatively low level liberal arts school and they do the minimum that they can do in order to get that piece of paper, they didn’t learn how to think critically. They did whatever was required to get the piece of paper. So they can say, I’m now a college graduate and they don’t have the drive to say, well, how do I, you know, take this to the work old and figure out a career out of this,

Teri Miller:

Which unfortunately it seems like that’s more the norm. That’s more typical. That’s what we’re seeing is all these crop college graduates that just thought they needed to go to college. There wasn’t a lot of motivation or reason or what am I pursuing doing the bare minimums. We’ve got all these young people, 20, 30 year olds with college degrees, they’re doing nothing with their college degree, you know, bouncing back and forth back at home with mom and dad.

Brad Baldridge:

Oh yeah, yeah, for sure. Right.

Brad Baldridge:

Right. I mean, I think you’re relatively lucky if your student happens to be the science geek. Right. Because there’s lots of careers that they can do well at and they all pay well and if something they enjoy, then their path is easy. Yeah. But if you don’t, you know, if you don’t have the sci, you know, the engineer or the nurse or the, where they’re saying, oh, well I don’t know maybe business or communications or I like psychology. It’s like, well you wanna be a psychologist? I don’t think so. Okay. Well what do you plan on doing with psychology then? I don’t know. Well that, you know, that, that is that tough path. Yeah.

Brad Baldridge:

You know, the reality of it is many students are also very undecided where they’re gonna change majors, change schools, that type of stuff. And I think it’s a bigger system issue where many, many employers out there essentially said, you must have a college degree and they didn’t get sued. And they got plenty of applicants and it prevented them from getting those applicants that, you know, quite frankly, couldn’t do very much math or couldn’t read, couldn’t think critically all those things because they didn’t even have a college degree. So it was easy for them to just limit now that they’re struggling getting applicants, a lot of the application or a lot of the employers now have dropped that college requirement because they’re saying we can’t limit it to that. We’ve gotta get more applicants and spend more time. You know, finding people that have, you know, experience, you know, 10 years of experience is just as good as college and many, many jobs, but they didn’t bother figuring it out.

Brad Baldridge:

Cuz again, they had plenty of applicants. So the idea around you must have a degree. You know, you hear that all the time. I gotta go get my degree finished so that I can get that next step up at work. They won’t let me take the next step until I have a four year degree. And so all they’re doing is getting a piece of paper. They’re not, you know, where, how can I get the piece of paper so I can take the next step. So they’re obviously they’re qualified, they’re not learning something and finishing their degree. They’re just going through the motions, which is, you know, a waste of resources and just let everybody’s opinion. But you know, again, it’s the kind of that system that we set up, you know, I noticed one of you is the doctor. So obviously lots of education, but you know, you, we see that at all levels, right?

Brad Baldridge:

Where there’s more PhDs in English than there are English teaching locations at college. And if that, you know, so you had figure out, well, what’s the other use of a PhD in English. And in many cases it’s hard to come up with. You could become a writer, et cetera, et cetera. But there’s, you know, so there’s jobs where you need an education cuz that’s, you know, in order to become a MD type doctor, you gotta go through medical school and get that specific training in order to be a nurse, you gotta get the specific training and accountant, you gotta get the specific training and then go for of the CPA. What degree do you need to be a MRI salesman or a cell phone programmer or whatever. Right. I mean there’s cell phones came along, along before there was any sort of schooling on how to build cell phones.

Brad Baldridge:

You know, first people that build it, didn’t learn it in school. You know, they, you know, didn’t exist. So whoever was willing to apply themselves. And then there’s the careers where show me what you can do. And if you can do it well, I’ll hire you graphic designer, right? Show me your portfolio. If, if I like what you do, I don’t really care where you went to school. Or if you went to school, as long as you can do what I need done new musician, you know, go ahead and play for me. And yeah, well you did great. Okay, well you’re hired or the rock star, right? I mean, can you get people to buy your music? Does it really matter where you went to college?

Brad Baldridge:

So there’s, you know, people try and simplify it of, well, you should only, you know, do these technical degrees or you should only do this or you should only do that. That’s one piece of the puzzle. The other piece of the puzzle is that what I call the hard left term, I have an engineering degree. I haven’t done engineering and I did it for five years outta school, got involved in the financial world and haven’t looked back. I, I don’t regret getting the engineering degree, but I don’t really use the engineering degree other than the critical thinking ideas. Right. I was as college planning is a very complex math driven thing that I certainly got a good education in engineering to help me with the, the concept of solving complex math problems and building spreadsheets and all that kind of stuff. But other than that, I had, it was a learning as you go kind of process. And I think that’s the working world in general, where we need to think more along the lines of continuous learning.

Brad Baldridge:

And I think colleges are right for a, you know, for change. But I guess one thing we haven’t talked about is why colleges aren’t changing and that’s because, you know, kids still come, right? They raised the prices. Kids still came, they raised the prices again. They still came. And why is that? There’s enough parents out there that want their kids to have the college experience. It’s not a math problem. It’s not a, well, which degree is better. And that kind of stuff. It’s I enjoyed myself for four years going to exploring the world, you know, growing up a little, making good friends, et cetera, et cetera. And I want my kids to have that same opportunity and I’m doing well enough that I can pay to make it happen. So I will, that’s the bottom line in for a lot of these colleges, that’s their market, right. Is providing the college experience to whoever wants it. So that, because of that, there’s that layer of there’s nothing too good for my kid kind of mentality as well. That’s, you know, kind of drives up prices and competition and some of that stuff as well.

Dr. Amy Moore:

Yeah. So we need to take a break so we can let Teri read a word from our sponsor LearningRx. And when we come back, Brad, I want you to talk to us about what it would look like to work with a college planning expert like you, when the best time to start, that process would be. And how affordable is it? Just talk to us about what that would look like for parents. Okay. Who would be interested in not having to do the work themselves, but letting a financial planner do the heavy lifting.

Brad Baldridge:

Right. Okay.

Teri Miller: (reading ad from our sponsor, LearningRx)

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Dr. Amy Moore:

And we’re back talking to Brad Baldridge, a college planning and funding expert. And so Brad, talk to us a little bit about, well, first of all, let me just say, I think the message that you have given us is that this is complicated. Yeah. And so finding funding, understanding how much it’s actually gonna cost, what all the options are, you know, how to save which way to do this is it’s super complicated. And so we’re busy parents and need some help sometimes. So if we wanted to get some help, what does that look like? How affordable is it? Talk to us a little bit about the process,

Brad Baldridge:

Right? So again, the typical fee that I charge is, you know, $2000, $2500, or $2,750 depending on complexity. So the base fee would be, you know, one student doing typical schools. If you had multiple students at the same time, or if divorce or business owners or other trusts things that make your life more complicated, tends to bump up to the higher fee.

Dr. Amy Moore:

And is that generally I can say, is that an industry standard? Like, is that like a car? The board?

Brad Baldridge:

Yeah. Yeah. I don’t, there is no industry standard. It’s a very burgeoning industry. So I’ve seen fees, you know, starting at $2000 up to, you know, sky’s the limit. Okay. Now to differentiate myself, you know, one important thing to realize is I tend to work with parents doing the parent side of things. So saving and investing and understanding need based aid and how to be fair among multiple children and need based aid and Meade and loans and all that kind of stuff. There are other experts out there that work with students where they help students figure out, do they wanna be when they grow up applications and essays for college, choosing majors, choosing careers, all that kind of stuff. Now that’s, you know, I don’t meet many students. I work with, I meet maybe 20 or 30% of the students. So I primarily work with the parents and I partner with one of those other advisors if needed, if the student is struggling with the, their types of things.

Brad Baldridge:

So again, I’m more on the dollars and cents and the, you know, the financial side and working with parents generally, I can save people much more than I cost. So that’s one challenge. And the other thing is of course streamlining the process of, you know, as an example, you know, do you have an athlete? Yes I do. Are they gonna play in college? Maybe. Okay, well then here’s a, we gotta go through that process of figuring out, but if you said, no, I don’t have an athlete. Well then you don’t have to learn anything about that. Right? Well, some similar things around ADE and need based aid and all many other strategies, right? As this is an interesting strategy, but it just doesn’t apply to you. I could learn that pretty quickly. So I’m, we’re not even gonna talk about it cuz it, it’s not relevant to you.

So taking all the interesting stuff and focusing it down on just the things that are important to your situation, understanding what’s going on in your state schools, understanding your state aid programs, your, the federal aid and federal loans and all that type of stuff. So my goal is to start working with you, you know, sophomore, junior year and walk you through the process till your student is off school. And just, and it’s a, it’s a learn as you go system a little bit as well because you go visit some schools and you realize, oh, well maybe we’re not interested in the liberal arts private schools. We’re more interested in the large state schools. So we’re gonna go look at those now instead. Oh, we changed our mind again. Now we’re back to the liberal, you know, there’s a process as you’re walking through where it’s not something where you figure it all out, put your plan together and then go execute it. It’s, it’s a process of, you know, you start with testing and all the junior stuff that we talked about, visits, figuring out what kind of aid, figuring out what kind of schools might be a good fit.

But as an example, there’s generally six types of schools. So it might be appropriate to look for a, you know, out-of-state state schools might be a good fit for you or the very high end private schools, the Harvard and Stanfords of the world might be the, a good fit or not. And just, you know, figuring all that F out. And then as you move through the process, when we first start, you don’t know school, you don’t know prices, you don’t know aid, you don’t know anything. We work through that eventually you get down to, well, these are the schools that we like that we’re likely to apply to. And we have a good idea of what they’re gonna cost and that all fits together well with our system, right? We don’t want to say, well, here’s five schools. They’re likely they be crazy expensive and we can’t afford ’em.

Well then obviously that’s not a good plan. So then we keep working until either we figure out how to, how to afford them or change the list. Eventually it’s like, well, these are the five schools. Then there might be additional based on that, around taxes, around negotiating with the schools around all the different pieces. And then at the very end, eventually you get offers from the schools. We help compare them, put together a four year projection of what it might look like. And then ultimately you pick a school and then we start executing the kind of the final step of right. Here’s where the money’s gonna come from for the first semester and the first year, and then plans for the rest of the years. And hopefully by then, you know, you’ve got it kind of worked out, but does that make sense?

Dr. Amy Moore:

Absolutely. And then what kind of topics do you share on your podcast?

Brad Baldridge:

Podcast is all the stuff we’ve just been talking about? There’s a 10 episode series I did with one of the admissions consultants that I mentioned earlier. So Chuck and I go through scholarships and negotiating with schools and visits and the common application and about five of ’em were my side of the fence. And five of ’em were his stuff around visits and choosing a major and college applications and testing. And I also did need-based aid and scholarships and merit aid and need-based aid and all that type of stuff. And then I’ve got a number of guests that, you know, I, I talk with test prep, people. I talk with people that are building new and exciting websites around scholarships or other are education related topics as well. So spend a lot of time, you know, all the different niches, you know, what can business owners do and what can athletes do?

We just had an interview with, you know, talking about athletics and couple of consultants that spend their time helping students figure out career path. Because again, the changing majors, changing schools is very expensive now. So if you spend a little more time and more accurately figure out what you wanna be when you grow up, you know, theoretically, if it prevents you from changing majors or at least as a chance of preventing, it is probably worth exploring, right. Or again, right in the past when you and I went to school. And again, I don’t know how old you guys are, but certainly when I went to school, it was not unusual to run into someone that’s on the six year plan because they, you know, picked three different majors and yeah. Changed schools once or twice. And because college wasn’t so expensive, it didn’t matter that much.

Now, if you say, well, I had to pay an extra two years of school. Woo. You know, we’re talking 40, 50, 60,000 plus yeah. Type of mistake where you really wanna avoid that, where you can. Yeah. So, yeah. So that’s the kind of stuff that’s on the podcast on my website has all kinds of great free resources. You can also sign up for a course where again, now you’re starting to get some and spreadsheets and some how to, and some, how does this work and how’s that work and kind of walks you through the process. And then if you’re wanna get in contact with me, that’s available there as well. So it’s all at TamingtheHighCostofCollege.com.

Teri Miller:

Okay. Excellent. So much, so much need for this. My goodness. Yeah. As, especially, yeah. As busy parent it’s like Amy said, clearly we’re hearing that there’s so much complexity that if we just kind of fall into this tumble into it, we are likely to make very expensive and time costly mistakes. So sounds like you offer a really valuable service.

Brad Baldridge:

Yeah. Yes. Thank you.

Dr. Amy Moore:

All right. So we are out of time and need to wrap up. Brad, thank you so much for joining us today. Listeners, if you would like to listen to Brad’s podcast Taming the high cost of college, take advantage of his resources, sign up for one of his courses, or actually work with him in helping you plan for how to fund your child’s college. Like he said, you can find him at TamingtheHighCostofCollege.com. We’ll put that link, the link to his social media profiles, all of that in our show notes. 

So look until next time we know that you’re busy moms and we’re busy moms. So I was getting ready to sign out, but forgot that we need to tell you how to find us! So you can find us on social media @TheBrainyMoms. We are on YouTube if you would rather watch us. And if you loved our podcast, we would really appreciate it if you would leave us a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. So until next time we are out.

Teri: See ya!

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