As Lawrence High School graduate Tyler Click and his parents prepare for his move to Kansas University next fall, they and many others like them are looking at new ways to pay for college.
At a recent welcoming picnic for new KU students, his mother, Betty Click, said that Tyler and his parents would be both helping to pay for his education.
However, with some of their savings lost in the recent market troubles, student loans may be a more likely possibility.
“We were very comfortable,” Betty Click said, as the family prepared to send its oldest of three children to school. “And now, we’re not as comfortable.”
Still, the family is still hopeful that they won’t have to borrow, as Tyler has some money saved up from years of working part-time, and he’s earned some scholarships, too.
At the picnic, as new students munched on pizza and sang the alma mater with alumni, there were a few other messages dropped in, too. Alumni Association members talked about how it was important to graduate in four years, because after that, tuition increased dramatically because of KU’s four-year guaranteed tuition rate.
An incoming freshman next year taking 15 credit hours at KU will pay $4,102.85 per semester in tuition and fees.
The university is continuing to offer student aid at levels similar to those in the past — it has increased its KU Tuition Grant maximum funding levels by $200 to $2,700. The university spends about $8.6 million in funding for the program.
KU is also seeing more students interested in receiving scholarship assistance. Filings of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, are up nearly 7 percent at KU from this time last year.
More than 17,300 KU students have filed the document that determines eligibility for federal Pell Grants and low-interest loans for students.
Robert Shandy, a counselor at Lawrence High School, said that the economy is playing a role in college decision-making.
“I can think of different instances where people did change their mind,” Shandy said. “Where dad gets laid off, and mom’s income isn’t enough.”
Many students are also opting for cheaper community colleges for their first few years, he said.
While he said he’s seen an upswing in that kind of trend, he thought there might be more yet to come.
“We might see more of that into this year,” he said.
He said he tries to help people in that situation as best that he can, and sometimes, it can have the opposite result as what some people may think. If a family’s income situation changes, they can file an updated FAFSA form, and their new income levels may qualify them for significantly more assistance than before, Shandy said.
Chris Smith, a Lawrence resident who is planning to major in pharmacy at KU, also attended the KU picnic with his mother and stepfather. He will be paying for one-third of his education through part-time jobs, and his mother and father will each take a third, said Rachelle Patterson, Smith’s mother.
She said the family is doing well with financial planning — for now — though she worries about how the state budget may affect her own financial future.
“I’m still doing OK,” said Patterson, a teacher in the Baldwin City school district. “I still have a job.”
Smith said he’s worked hard over the summer, but is still trying to track down a job he can have during the school year that will pay some of his expenses. It may be hard for him, he admits, as he juggles his new schedule, which doesn’t just include classes and studying, but also sports practices and travel as a walk-on for the KU track and field squad.
All that stress of thinking about financial issues hasn’t tempered his excitement, though, as he prepared to embark on a new phase of his life. He said he was looking forward to being a part of the track team, after doing well in the high-school javelin, and even to some of the academic pursuits, too.
“I’m just excited to take classes that actually go toward something,” he said.