Last week I was on the phone with my college bestie, discussing our college-bound children. My oldest is matriculating at the university where her oldest will be a junior. The tuition for this school was due and we were commiserating on the cost and comparing notes on getting our payments in. I described how I handled paying tuition and she said, “That is a great idea. You need to write a blog about this.” So here goes…
It was Monday and the tuition was due by 4pm on Friday. There was an option to mail a check or pay online. The first thing I did was review the itemized bill. I found a discrepancy in the rooming charge. The cost for the dormitory that they billed was greater than the charge for the room he was assigned. I called the school and they made an adjustment that was almost 5% of the entire sum, a win for our bank account. The next thing I did was summon my student and asked him to join me on the porch with his computer. I had him pull up the bill and print it out. Then I handed him a blank check and told him to fill it out and when he finished I would sign it. This kid doesn’t write many checks and the majority of his monetary transactions are in the double digits. Occasionally they slip into the triple digits, so he was wide-eyed writing out a five-figure check. He carefully filled out the information and when he finished, he looked up at me and said, “Is this for the whole year?” I shook my head and his eyes got wider. I told him that this sum just covered first semester, so it was important to go to class. I could feel this information sinking in as he went and got an envelope. He filled out the address of the school, wrote his return address, put the bill and the check in the envelope and sealed it shut. He put a stamp in the corner and placed the envelope in our mailbox for our mail carrier to pick up. I am confident that he walked away with a deeper appreciation for the opportunity to go to college. The hands-on experience of printing the bill, writing out the check and putting the envelope in the mail made the whole thing seem real. I think I am going to have him write out the check each semester.
Having your student handle the payment is just one thing that you can do when it comes time to pay tuition. Here are a few more things to be aware of:
~Health Insurance Many schools will bill for health insurance unless you submit proof of private insurance. This can be $2,000-$3,000 a year. Double check your bill and if you find a charge for health insurance that is in error, contact the school to determine what documentation you need to submit to remove the charge.
~Credit Card Payment Colleges and universities often accept credit cards as a way to pay your bill. Before you have visions of yourself enjoying a Caribbean getaway with all of the points that you will earn, make sure that the school does not assess a surcharge for using this means of payment. In the fine print many schools add a 2-3% charge on top of the room/board/tuition/fees.
~Late Fees Most schools have a penalty for paying tuition after a certain date. My child’s school charges $250 for funds that are received after the deadline, so it is important to keep tabs on when things are due.
~Miscellaneous Charges Comb through your bill to make sure that each item is accurate. If there is a mistake, it is up to you to call the school and ask them to make an adjustment.
Below is a link to a presentation by the great Lynn O’Shaughnessy, called 5 Winning College Strategies to Finding Great Schools and Cutting Their Cost. Enjoy!