John Belles Transcribed Seminar Presentation

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1 Slide 1 Why don t we go ahead and get started this evening! For those of you whom I have not had a chance to meet, my name is John Belles, and I work with College Funding Solutions. (Give a brief overview of your background as a financial professional. Explain that you have seen first hand that the biggest challenge families face is paying for their children s education without sacrificing their retirement, and that is why you are involved in college planning.) I would like to thank everyone for coming out tonight and congratulate you for having the foresight to start preparing and planning for college. If you are a freshman or sophomore, I can t tell you how much of an advantage starting this process now will give you over your competition. If you re a junior or senior, there s no time to waste if you re going to navigate this process effectively. Slide 2 The information we re going to cover tonight will include who gets the most money for college and why, and how to turn the process in your favor. Much of the information and strategies we ll cover is not readily available to the public, and you likely won t hear it anywhere else. For instance, students, have your counselors spoken with you about how much money you can earn as a high school student before it affects your financial aid eligibility? Has anyone discussed how to put the college on notice that they have some competition without rubbing it in their face? We ll cover some of those topics tonight. Slide 3 The reality is that the odds are against you. Currently, over one-half of the students who start college in pursuit of a degree drop out. The number one reason is the lack of funding, number two is changing majors, and number three is changing colleges. On average, those students who do receive their bachelor s degree take 5 ½ years to obtain it according to the department of education. It s not that most students planned to fail, they just failed to plan. Slide 4 The good news is we can help. For the next 40 to 45 minutes, I am going to go over some of the strategies and procedures that we have been using for almost 20 years to help families like yourself and students like yourself get the best education at the best price. In the 19 years that we have been helping families, over 85% of our students graduate from college, and they graduate on average in 4 ½ years versus the national average of 5 ½. If the only thing we were able to do for your student was to get them in and out of school with a degree a year faster, what would that be worth to you? 1

2 Now there are two primary reasons that we have been so successful: 1) We are very good at what we do I don t want to sound arrogant or cocky but nobody knows more about the college preparation and funding process than we do. We have been doing this for 19 years now and it is all we do. 2) The second reason that we are so successful is that we only work with students and parents who are committed to the education. The college funding and preparation process is a very complex and difficult process. If you are not committed and willing to work a little bit then we cannot do a lot for you. I ll tell you right now if you came here tonight thinking that we have some magic trick or secret source of money to throw in your lap, you re in the wrong place. The good news, though, is if you are committed to going to college and are willing to work some, you can leave here tonight knowing that someone will guide you through the process and that they will be there to help you get the best education at the lowest possible price. Slides 5 & 6 Now I want to give you a little more background on our company and what we do. We started in We incorporated in We have helped over 20,000 students and families in all 50 states prepare and pay for college. We are a member of the Better Business Bureau I know the students in here may not care, but I am sure for mom and dad that is pretty important. We have been nominated for the BBB Business of the year. The Executive Director of our company Coy Howe is the author of the book called Money for College. It is one of the top selling college resources. He is recognized as an industry leader and has been quoted in many national publications. The biggest key to success is starting early and have a complete understanding of how the process works. If you only hear may say a couple of things here tonight, this is one you want to remember: financial aid is first come first served. Slide 7 2

3 Before we get too much further into the steps involved in college planning, there are three things that I would like to discuss about a college education and make sure that we are all on the same page. 1) The first thing is that a college education in today s economy is a necessity. You basically have to have one to compete in the work place. Now I know there are a lot of jobs out there that do not require a college degree but typically they do not pay as well as the ones that do. On average, a student with a college degree makes twice as much money over their lifetime as a student with just a high school diploma, and a student with a degree from a tier one college makes almost 8 times as much as a high school graduate over their lifetime. I know there are a lot of companies that may hire you out of high school but if you ever want to be promoted or you want to move up the ladder then you must have that piece of paper. I do these workshops all over the country and I often meet with parents who tell me they have more on the job training and more experience, but have been passed over for a promotion because they don t have a college degree. I see some of the parents shaking their heads out there so you know exactly what I am talking about. 2) The second thing that you need to understand about college is that it is expensive You obviously all realize that or you would not be here tonight. If mom and dad could just write a check for the whole education and if this was a real easy process then you would be doing something else this evening. Now if you will take a look at the handouts that I gave you when you came in the room. I believe it is on page two; you are going to find a listing of some of the annual costs for the colleges around the state and around the region. ( Review the College Costs Sheet in your handout. Stress that these are the sticker prices, and just like when you purchase a car, you should never pay sticker. Explain that you can attend a higher priced private college for the same amount out of pocket as a local state school in many cases. ) 3) The third thing that you need to understand about a college education is that it is a business, a huge business. Right now there are over 50 colleges with endowment funds over 1 billion dollars. There are over 300 schools who have endowment funds over 100 million. So we are going to talk about some of the strategies and some of the steps involved to try and get more money from the college or university that you want to attend. You need to treat the process like a business. You would never go down to the car lot and sit behind the wheel and tell the salesman, I m dying to have this car. It is the only one we re going to look at. We re not going to shop around and we want it today. Would you give us a good deal?. Yet, when it comes to paying for college, many families do just that very thing. 3

4 Slide 8 In addition to starting early, one of the biggest keys to success is to have a complete understanding of the process and how it works together. This is where hiring a professional can help. You will put a couple of kids through college, we ve put over 20,000 kids through. It just stands to reason, we have a better understanding of the entire process and how to make it work in your favor. I would like to allow the students to do some of the talking for a few minutes. I am sure you have heard plenty from me for a while. Students: Why are you here tonight and why do you want to go to college? (Pick out several students from the group and ask why going to college is important to them. Virtually all of them will answer that it is because of the type of income, career path, or lifestyle they want to live. ) I am all for higher education, so please do not take this the wrong way, but I would say that most of us are going to college because of the: Type of money we want to make, the type of career we desire, or just a sense of security that we would like to have for our family and ourselves. Because of that career planning needs to be a very important part of this process. There is no way that you can pick the right school unless you know what you want to study. So students a big part of our program is working with you to help you develop some career interest and find out what field of study will be best for you. We start doing that by helping find out: What your interests are (what you like to do), What are your abilities (what are you good at), and What are your values (what is important to you what us going to make you feel like you accomplished something at the end of the day). Once we find those things out then our goal is to try to direct you in some career paths that might help you maximize your interest, abilities and values. We don t have a crystal ball, but if nothing else, we can eliminate a lot of career paths that wouldn t be a good fit. Remember, you can change you mind about your major while you are in high school and it is free. Once you start college, it isn t free anymore. Once we have a career path in mind for you or maybe a couple of paths or options then the college search and selection process begins. Now there are over 3,200 accredited colleges in the country. I do not know if there is such thing as a perfect college for a student but I will bet you this, I bet you out of all the schools out there that there are 4

5 probably a dozen or maybe two dozen that will be a better fit for you and meet your needs than all the rest of them. There are a lot of factors that go into picking the right school. Obviously your major is one Other factors to consider do you want to stay close to home or do you want to go far away do you want a big school or a small school. Students you need to ask yourself if you had a freshman level chemistry class with 300 kids in it and you could not even see the professor but you watched him or her on a video screen would that intimidate you? Would that be a tough class for you? In many of the larger public institutions, this is how a lot of the freshman level classes are taught today. So you need to keep that in mind. One of the things that we like to look at when we are helping a student narrow down some of their final choices is the Student Loan Default Rate for that particular college or university. Why do we look at the Student Loan Default Rate? If college A has a student loan default rate that is twice as high as college B, what does that tell you? It tells you that the students attending college A are either graduating with more debt on average, or they are having a harder time getting decent jobs after graduation. Now parents and students, I have done these workshops all over the country. I have talked to thousands of families and if you are honest with me then I would like to ask you: How many of you have ever heard of the Student Loan Default Rate or would have even thought to look at that when comparing school? Don t feel bad because I have never had a hand raised and say I could do that. Now that I have told you about it, how many of you think they could go home and find it out for the six schools that we talked about earlier in the next three to four weeks? We also look at the Conversion rate of a college. That is the number of students who were offered admission, that actually attend. We look at this because it will give us an idea of how tough the school will be to negotiate with when we help appeal your initial offer. Now students we ask you to apply to at least six schools even if you are just dying to go to a particular school. It is OK to have a top choice, but let s not let them know that. You want them to know that there is some competition out there. Now students I will say this, if you are taking care of business in the classroom and you are involved in the community in doing the things you need to be doing then it is a lot easier to create that sense of competition. So you need to stay with it on your grades, you need to take care of business in the classroom and out of the classroom as well. 5

6 Slide 9 Now that we ve discussed choosing the right field of study and the importance of having multiple colleges that would be a good fit, let s talk about where the funding comes from. There are two types of College Funding: gift aid and self help aid. Gift aid is money that does not have to be repaid. It can come in the form of scholarships, grants, tuition waivers, endowments, etc. Self-help aid is money you either borrow or work for. There are three sources out there for college funding: Government College / University Private Sector Slide 10 Now students and parents, before you are eligible for any need based funding from the government or from the colleges you have to fill out a form called the FAFSA. The FAFSA stands for Free Application For Federal Student Aid. If I were to hold up a paper version of the FAFSA it almost touches the ground. It is about eight pages long; it looks very similar to a tax return. Now guys, I am not trying to scare you with this form, I am not trying to tell you it is impossible but I will tell you that it is very complex. I will also tell you 3 out 4 of them that are turned in have errors and those errors can cost you funding. So knowing how to complete these forms and complete them correctly is very important. For the families that we assist, you will never complete the FAFSA form. We complete the FAFSA on behalf of the student and their parents. There are three chief reasons that we do this: Accuracy if we do the forms then we know it will be done correctly the first time. We will not have to go back and re-do the FAFSA. This way, costly mistakes won t disqualify you from any funding. Early submission I m not saying you would procrastinate when filing your FAFSA, but I can guarantee you we won t. The FAFSA s for our clients are filed within the first week of January. Remember, financial aid is first come, first served and one of the reasons our students tend to get more money is they re first in line The third reason that we like to fill out the FAFSA and any other institutional financial aid forms that maybe required is because there are some techniques and strategies behind those forms that can really impact your financial aid eligibility. 6

7 Now if you will turn into the hand-outs I would like to give you a couple of examples of some of those financial aid forms and the strategies behind them. If you would look at page three, you will see an example of a Student Aid Report. The Student Aid Report is what you get back from the government after they receive your FAFSA. There are several important parts of information on this and what we are going to focus on is in the right-hand corner where you will see the letters EFC and a number. EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. You would think based upon it s name that it is how much money the family is expected to contribute each year, but it s not. It is part of a bigger formula. In many cases, the EFC has very little to do with what the family actually pays. However, a lower EFC is going to increase the family s eligibility for need based funding, so helping the family to have the most manageable EFC possible is part of the process. (At this point review one or two SAR s in your handout and show the differences in the two EFC s and the increase in funding eligibility the family receives each year. Multiply those savings by four and you ll have the total increase in eligibility. It is important to stress to the families that we can t guarantee what their EFC will be. It could half of those shown in the examples or it could be ten times higher. The key is that with our help, they ll know it is as manageable as possible and that they didn t miss anything. ) Parents, if your EFC is high, don t panic. Many of our clients have high EFCs that doesn t mean you won t receive any gift aid, it just means you won t be getting any money from the government, and I doubt you have been getting much from them up until this point. Even if you won t qualify for government funding, we need to go through the steps of filing the FAFSA. It is important to show the school that you won t receive government funding to entice them to dig into their coffers. Remember, the schools don t look at the money they give to students as a handout. They look at it as an investment. And in many cases, they make a nice return on their investment with students from affluent families. Slide 11 Let s talk about what you can do to try and get more money from the colleges.. As I mentioned earlier, the schools do have a lot of money but just because they have it does not mean they are going to give it out to you. There are a lot of different steps and lots of different strategies that you can employ to try and maximize the amount that school will provide for you. A big key is to keep your options open and separate yourself from the competition. In the spring of your senior year, you ll begin to receive award letters from the schools where you have been offered admission and you ve completed the financial aid forms. When you receive those we ask you to send them to us to evaluate them. ( At this point ask if any of the students have a college in mind that they would like to attend. Pick one and ask them, if your school offers you $7000 (any amount you choose) in gift aid, is that a good offer? When they answer, ask How do you know? Then explain that if the school normally offers families in your financial situation and students with your academic strength 7

8 $10,000, it isn t a good offer. If they normally offer $5,000, it is good. Then explain that we have that information on just about every major college in the country and that type of information isn t floating around on the internet.) (Review two or three award letters in your handout focusing on before and after awards, early FAFSA awards, or offers of gift aid to families with high EFC s ) Slide 12 The final source for money is the private sector. The good news about the private sector is it is all free money. They typically don t give loans in the private sector but the bad news is they only account for about 3% of all the funding awarded annually. Now if you guys went home tonight and got on the Internet and looked up scholarships I bet you if I called you back in 3-4 weeks you would still be looking at them. They are all over the place! We don t feel that this is the most efficient way to go through this preparation and funding process. Don t spend 80% of your time going after 3% of the money. We ll help you work the private sector smarter, not harder. The other bad news about the private sector is that it generally helps the school more than the student. (At this point go back to the student you selected earlier when discussing the money awarded by the college and whether it was a good offer. Explain how the school will make an offer of funding and it is accepted by the student. Then, at a later time, if the student wins a private sector scholarship, they have to report it to the school. The school will then typically take that back off of the gift aid the already offered. You can then explain that if we are working with the family, that is something we would appeal.) Slide 13 and 14 Before we wrap up, I want review all of the services we offer to help the family through our College Graduate Program - what all our program includes, the college graduate program. ( Review the bullets on slides 13 and 14) I know I have thrown a lot at you tonight. Do you have any questions, other than, how much does it cost? That is what I would want to know if I were in your seat. Slide 15 For us to do all of the details and all of the work that we just talked about whether you are a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior in high school our price is: $2,500 - that has a money back guarantee that says that if we do not provide everything outlined in our list of services then you get your money back. I like working for a company that is willing to put its money where its mouth is and that is what we are willing to do. 8

9 Now we have several payment plans available if that works better with a family s budget. Now we are going to do an individual interview to decide if your student qualifies for our program. Because of all the work involved we cannot take just any student into our program, and if we don t feel we would benefit your family, we don t want you to pay for the program. So students we are going to talk about your grades, look at your test scores, your community activities and most importantly, we are going to look at your commitment to go to college. If you are committed then we will work with you. We will help you prepare, plan, and secure funding for that first year of college. After your first year of college, if you are happy with our services and would like us to continue to help you through the process and secure funding for your second year, our renewal fee is $349. Now the way we do our interviews is first come first serve so we take you the way that you signed in tonight. If you are sitting there right now and you feel that this is not for you, then there is no reason for you to stay for an individual interview but thank you for your time. I hope you found it educational and I hope you have a great weekend. For the families that want to know if they qualify, I will look at the sign-in sheet and call the first person back. It takes about 5-10 minutes per family so please be patient with me and I will get to you as soon as I can. 9

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