Kristina Ellis, Author and College Financial Expert
Kristina is passionate about educating families and students about getting in and out of college debt-free. She was able to graduate from college and grad school debt-free due to her immense success in winning scholarships, and she’s made it her mission to help other students do the same.
To pursue her advocacy, she wrote the books: Confessions of a Scholarship Winner and How to Graduate Debt-free. The books aim to educate parents and students about scholarships as well as connect with 15-year-olds to get them to start talking about money.
Kristina is now part of Ramsey Solutions, and her role revolves around disrupting the toxic money culture and helping people avoid debt. For Kristina, college debt should not be considered normal, and students should not have to suffer the consequences of not being educated about finances.
Questions Answered Today:
What’s the first step in helping my student become financially aware?
If there’s one thing Kristina is most thankful for, it’s that her mom became honest with her about not being able to send her to college due to financial reasons.
As early as her freshman year in high school, Kristina made a decision to devote her time to finding ways to get into college and pay for it. This resulted in getting over five hundred thousand dollars’ worth of scholarship that supported her throughout her undergraduate degree and graduate school. Because of her early awareness, Kristina:
- Educated herself about the process by gathering all the resources she could gather
- Implemented everything she learned all throughout high school
- This included building her resume strategically by getting all the volunteer work and leadership roles she needed and loved
- Treated the scholarship search like a part-time job and devoted as much time as possible to it.
- Imagine this: Applying for 100 scholarships can sound like a lot, right? But if you break that down to 6 months, that is only 4 applications a week, which is very doable. Work smart, but more importantly, be conscious of the time.
Kristina thinks that in order for students to develop early awareness of the financial weight of being in college, parents should not avoid the dreaded “college talk.” Talking about college and finances will give students the power to do something about it.
What long-standing beliefs about college do you wish to debunk?
- “Taking college loans is normal and students should do it.”
Many times, students fall into the pits of college debt because they think that it’s “not a big deal” to get college loans because “everyone does it.” This happens when students don’t have an adult that teaches them how to deal with finances.
Kristina thinks that this should not be normal. It is a big deal to take out college loans.
Students getting into college are normally at the age of 17-18, so, very often, they don’t really know the difference between $2,500 and $25,000.
No matter how uncomfortable the college conversation may be, it’s better if it’s the parents who open the conversation about money rather than a debtor.
- “Only elite schools are the road to success.”
Kristina strongly opposes this. In the company where Kristina works, where thousands of applicants apply, people who went to community college and an Ivy League school do the same job.
It’s never about the school where the student graduated from, so it’s important that families keep an open mind and be smart on the college selection process.
If the family is really struggling financially, here are some tips that may work:
- Start at a community college, then go to a four-year school.
- The four-year school does not have to be an expensive school. It can be a public or a state school.
- Do not assume anything, especially if they’re based on what others say. Base your decisions on research. Don’t assume that a private school will be expensive, and don’t assume that a state school will be low-cost.
- Don’t be swayed by the desire to send your students to the “cool school” everyone is talking about. Talk as a family and decide the best financial path to take.
What are your tips for families who are already in huge debt?
If your family is already in debt, that should be an even greater reason for you to want to send your students to college debt-free.
Therefore, you have to be proactive with your finances and immediately stop yourself from incurring more debt.
There are many ways to educate your family about debt, and Kristina recommended some great Dave Ramsey resources that families should check out:
- Borrowed Future – a documentary that exposes the toxicity of the student loan industry.
- Total Money Makeover – a book about taking “baby steps” to dig your way out of debt.
- Baby Steps Millionaire – a book about the path towards becoming a millionaire after becoming debt-free.
Kristina also wrote two books about navigating college debt-free:
Brad also encourages parents to review his free resource for parents: the Scholarship Guide for Busy Parents.
How else can I personally help my student with getting out of college debt-free?
Kristina speaks based on her personal experience, so she definitely knows how her mom’s support contributed greatly to her success. Here are tips which many parents can learn from:
- Personally understand the process of scholarship searches and walk the student through them.
- Have all the needed conversations.
- Help with the research and gathering of the resources about scholarships.
- Help with filling out the applications.
- Keep your student motivated by being there, instead of just telling your student what to do.
- Help with brainstorming about things such as “What topics should I talk about in my essay?”
- Help students understand that the more scholarships, they apply for, the more chances of winning.
- Encourage students to work (very important).
Kristina notes that while it’s important that parents help their kids, it’s equally important to remain ethical and know the limits of the help to provide (i.e. letting the student write their own essays).
What are the implications of getting out of school debt-free for me and my family?
Because college loans are so common, not everyone visualizes what a debt-free life looks like. Kristina paints quite a clear picture. Without college loans, your student has the freedom to:
- Take a year off to do whatever they want (e.g. travel the world)
- Start a business
- Get a bigger house
- Spend more comfortably
Similarly, a debt-free college exit impacts parents’ retirement plans positively.
These are achievable if parents have an early conversation about college planning. Parents should never wait until their students are getting college acceptance letters already or when it’s their senior year.
As Kristina said, “Take some time for it now so you can save so much time later.”
Today, I’d like to talk about college for adopted kids and kids in foster care. I was a guest on a podcast called Foster Care: An Unparalleled Journey with Jason Palmer, and I want to share some helpful discoveries we had around financial aid:
In the FAFSA, you’ll find these questions:
- At any time since you turned age 13, are both your parents deceased? Were you in foster care? Or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
If you say “yes,” you become an “independent student” and you get federal government merits, which essentially means that:
- You’re not required to have a guardian.
- You’re no longer required to report any parent income or parent assets.
- You can qualify for a federal need-based aid.
- You can qualify for the $6,495 Pell Grant Program.
Additionally, many states can offer:
- Different types of aid for foster kids
- Reduced tuition
- Added grants or other benefits
Finally, as an independent student, you have perks from the Direct Loan Program, where your supplemental grant can increase by $4,000, which means you can borrow as much as $43,000:
- Freshman year – $9,500 (a regular student gets $5,500)
- Sophomore year – $10,500 (a regular student gets $6,500)
- Junior and senior year – $11,500 (a regular student gets $7,500)
NOTE: Not all colleges provide supplemental grants.
Of course, foster parents have a critical role. They must be responsible for:
- Getting the right information from financial aid offices
- Educating the student what it means to take a loan
- Communicating with the college to ensure support for the student
Not many people know this benefit, but it’s quite great info to help foster parents realize that while sending their foster kids to college seems overwhelming, help is available.
Be sure to check out Foster Care: An Unparalleled Journey Podcast for more golden nuggets about foster care!
Links and Resources
Helpful Articles and Resources
- Taming The High Cost Of College
- Scholarship Guide for Busy Parents
- Foster Care: An Unparalleled Journey
- Confessions of a Scholarship Winner
- How to Graduate Debt-Free
- Borrowed Future
- Total Money Makeover
- Baby Steps Millionaire
- Kristina Ellis’ Contact Info:
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Today we're talking about scholarships. We're going to interview Kristina Ellis, the author of Confessions of a Scholarship Winner.
You have kids, they grow up, and before you know it, it's time to plan for college. Where do you start? How much is it going to cost? Will you qualify for financial aid? Should you be looking into scholarships? When will you be able to retire? What about student loans? The list of questions is never-ending. The good news is all the answers are right here. Welcome to the Taming the High Cost of College podcast. Here is your host certified financial planner, Brad Baldridge.
Hello, and welcome to Taming the High Cost of College. I'm your host, Brad Baldridge. Today we have a great interview with Kristina Ellis, she is an author, she wrote a book called Confessions of a Scholarship Winner. And she also has books around graduating debt-free. And she's now part of the Ramsey Solutions. So she's got a lot of great ideas and information around college and debt. Ramsey has been a great institution. It's also based on Dave Ramsey's work, and Dave Ramsey has been a long-time radio personality, and has talked a lot about finances and depth. And there's many people in the world that love his teachings and have looked back to his courses and books and so forth as a way for them to get out of debt, or get on a good financial footing. So go ahead and check out Ramsey if you think that's something that might be relevant to you. But today, we talked with Kristina about scholarships and the scholarship process. Again, she won over half million dollars in scholarships when she was going through undergrad and grad school. So she was able to pay all of college with scholarships. Now, that's rare, but I think most families need to understand where scholarships fit, maybe it's not 100% of college, maybe it's only 20%. But again, scholarships play a big part of many people's college. So we really need to dig into it. And then on Brad Recommends I'm going to talk about the foster care system and how college and foster care intersect. And there's some leverage that if you happen to be involved in foster care, if a student was in the foster care system at any point, then they may be eligible for some additional grants and additional aid. So we'll get into that a little bit in Brad Recommends. So stay tuned after the interview. Alright, let's go ahead and jump into the interview with Kristina.
Today I'm sitting down with Kristina Ellis. She's an author and also a college financial expert. Welcome, Kristina.
Hey, thanks for having me.
Great that you're here. We actually have a podcast from long ago when you were still an author back then. But you've obviously moved on and a lot of other things since then. But your first book out there was Confessions of a Scholarship Winner. And that's something we talked about probably four or five years ago now. So let's refresh and talk a little bit about your story and why you wrote the book.
Yeah, well, the first day, of my freshman year of high school, my mom sat me down and she said, 'Kristina, I love you. And I believe in you. But there's just no way that I can support you financially once you graduate from high school. So you need to figure out your own way to pay for college.' And at first, I was shocked. I thought why are you telling me this? I am a freshman in high school, what can I do about it? But at the same time, I knew that she was just trying to help. One of our seven years old, my dad passed away after a long and painful battle with brain cancer. My mom, she did the best she could to support me my brother, but we still struggled financially. So even though it was really hard to choke on that statement, I just knew she was trying to help. She actually said, 'Kristina, you're not meant to struggle with money your entire life. And I know that if you work hard enough, now you can go on to a great college and start fresh.' She actually cast this vision for me to win scholarships. She said, 'You know, there are these great scholarships out there that can help pay for your education. And I think you should start pursuing them.' And so I got really hungry to figure out how did this process work? I started reading every book, every article, every resource I could find on scholarships, and just trying to figure out how could I stand out. And then I put together strategy, and I implemented it all throughout high school. In my senior year of high school, I treated the scholarship process, the application process, like a part-time job, I just applied, applied, and applied. And thankfully, all that effort, it paid off, I was able to win over half a million dollars in scholarships, and go to Vanderbilt University for undergrad and Belmont for grad school completely debt-free.
Wow, that's fantastic. So then, that was where you started. And then obviously you wrote a book about it. And I think when we last spoke you were visiting high schools and doing the speaking circuit and some of that, but recently you had a career shift as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yes, I just joined the team in October from Ramsey Solutions. So a lot of people are familiar with Dave Ramsey. He's got this incredible company called Ramsey Solutions. And we are just out there trying to disrupt the toxic money culture and help people figure out not only how they can avoid debt, but how they can have successful financial lives. And it's just been amazing, a huge division within the company is Ramsey Education. And they have this incredible high school curriculum called Foundations and Personal Finance. And it's been in 50% of high schools throughout the country and has been really transforming young people's lives, we kind of call it the 'preventative medicine.' So it's touching kids before they get into the system that tells them, 'You know, debt's okay, that they should take out student loans, and that's normal.' We're trying to teach them how to have great financial lives from the get go.
Right, that's fantastic. So and for those that aren't familiar, Ramsey is a very popular radio show. And they have a very popular debt programs and stuff that a lot of people have rave about as far as, that's how they got their debt under control. So if you're in that boat, you may want to check some of those things out. But obviously, you're expanding now and providing education, resources, and everything else. So that's fantastic. That's a lot of, you know, what a lot of people are trying to do. What has been your experience, as far as dealing with the typical teenagers, though, does it take sometimes a little bit of a disconnect where a lot of teenagers, if the money side of the world doesn't, they don't own that side of their life, at this point, any recommendations for parents on how to up the game a little bit? Again, most students don't understand the difference between 5000, 50,000, and 500,000. As far as money is concerned, they're all big numbers they've not, they've never earned it, they've never had it. And I think a lot of cases, they're insulated from it because their parents may deal on those kind of numbers. But this students never see it. So any ideas on what parents can do to maybe make, what the the tough love, so to speak? With that you got as a freshman, obviously, that is one method, but what else have you seen out there that might be effective?
I have two thoughts on that one, I think it's important to meet them on their level. So whenever I wrote Confessions, I knew that students were going through a lot, they can be emotional, they can have their own things are going through, I remember being in high school, I remember what it felt like to feel moody and frustrated and discouraged and scared of the process and not believing in myself and all these different emotions. So when I wrote that book, really, I think a lot of people see it as a financial book. It's a tactical book about how to win scholarships, but I really saw it as a support, but for students. I talk a lot about my story. In that book, I talked about the struggles I went through with bullying, with grief, of losing my father, and all these different things. And that's all interwoven in the scholarship talk. So I tried to really, when I wrote that book, I think, if I was 15 years old, how would I perceive this book and what I still, when I stay engaged, or when I zone out. So I think it's important, regardless of what you're talking to students about in the money space, to have empathy with them, and try to meet them on their level and realize, you know, they don't know all the stuff yet. But at the same time, you do still have to have that conversation. And that's the other thing I was thinking about is, it's so important for parents to have those real conversations, I think a lot of parents do kind of assume, 'I don't, they're not ready for this, they don't need to talk about this,' and they don't have that conversation. And then they get to time for college. And they're 17-18 years old, and somebody is going to talk to them about it. And a lot of times it's somebody with a student loan, who's saying, 'Take out this debt to get this college degree, it's no big deal.' And since no one's talked to them about money, they think that, okay, it's no big deal to take out $25,000 in student loans from my freshman year of college. They just don't have any perspective and knowledge on what that actually means. So even if it's hard, even if they're confused, or uncomfortable, parents need to have those conversations, because if they don't, somebody is going to have that conversation. And you want it to be on the positive side of things when they can make really proactive, positive financial decisions, versus when there's somebody who's trying to sell them debt.
Right, for sure. So, obviously, you were able to win a large number of scholarships, and I guess it's, at people that work in the industry understand that the, quote, unquote, "full ride" is relatively rare, probably less than 1% of students out there get it all covered. So there's almost always a net cost. And for the middle income and upper middle income, that net cost can be 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 a year. And again, many parents are prepared for it, but some are not. From someone that works at a company that just says student loans are are not the answer. And again, not just loans, but debt is not the answer. And I think Dave Ramsey's philosophy is very much anti borrowing and debt. What are your thoughts on the parent coaching around well, my student, I'm failing as a parent because my student wants to go to this fantastic school. And the only way we can make it happen is for me to co-sign a lone.
Well, I actually have written two books. My first book was Confessions of a Scholarship Winner. My second book is How to Graduate Debt-free. And the reason I wrote the second book is because I realized not all students are going to win full ride, there's a limited amount of scholarships. While a lot of students will win that money. There's a whole group of students who, they're not going to get a full ride to college. So how can they go to school debt-free, what's available to them? And scholarships, that's not the only route. We talk a lot about exploring your options and seeing what's out there. I think one of the biggest problems in this culture today is people get locked in on one school that cost $50,000, that cost $70,000. And they think, 'This is the only way to success. If I don't go to this school, then I'm not going to be successful in life.' And that's just not true. We are really trying to encourage students to explore all of their options, we have over 1000 people who work here at this company, and it's a really competitive workforce to get into we have a ton of people apply each year. And if you go through the office, you'll see people who went to an Ivy League school and people who went to community college sitting right next to each other doing the same job. And so we need to break down this thought process that you have to go to a fancy elite school to be successful, that's just not true. If you don't have the money to pay for college, you can start at a community college and then transfer to a four-year school. And that four year school doesn't have to be a fancy private school, it can be a cheaper public school, in state school. So it's about really exploring all of your options and keeping your mind open. And you know, we're about going to school without debt. And that can be done many different ways.
Right, for sure. So I think it's important that families understand that there's many different price points, both in the public and the private schools. And sometimes the private school will be more generous and cost less than the public school. So don't automatically write off a private school, don't automatically assume the state school is going to be the low cost. It's the price to beat for most families, I mean, many times your local state school is going to be the price to beat. But sometimes the local private schools or even private schools cross country may actually step up. And
You know, there are scholarships or other avenues.
And that's why it's so important to really do your research and do your homework, like everybody's situation is going to be different. And everybody's path is different. So don't get lost and thinking, 'Well, my neighbors doing this, or, so and so's kid's doing this. So this is what my kid has to do.' It's just not true. You know, I've talked to several parents recently, who feel overwhelmed with almost this competitive nature amongst parents, where it's like, this parent, like, they feel this pressure of all these parents have their kids go into these cool schools, and maybe I need to sign a loan, because I need my kid to go to the cool school. And that just doesn't need to happen. There also needs to be a conversation amongst parents of, you know, level setting and saying, you know, well, this is what's best for my family. And this is, you know, the best path for us financially.
Right. So now, since you're at Ramsey, hopefully, you can help us with this question. But what about parents that are already buried in their own debt, maybe they've got, still have loans leftover from college or grad school, or whatever it might be. And now they're feeling the pinch where, I still have tens of thousands, or whatever, of debt, because of my education. And now we're rolling into my kids education. Any thoughts on ways to think about that, or strategies that families might be able to use?
Yeah, I think even more, so they should be super motivated to help their kids go to school without debt, but they're already experiencing it. They're already weighed in, weighed down by the burden of it, then they need to prevent our students from feeling that as well. We all often say like with debt stop the bleeding. That's like, the first step is like, stop more debt from coming in. It's important for them to... I want them to become advocates for their students and really fight to help them have a debt-free education. We recently came out with a documentary called Borrowed Future, and it exposes the toxicity of the student loan industry. It highlights stories of people who have tremendous amount of student loan debt. And it also highlights stories of people who did it without debt, and different stories. You know, I'm in the documentary, and I talk about the scholarship journey, there's somebody in there who worked a lot as he went through school. And basically, the whole goal is to show people that this shouldn't be normal, this route of student loans should be normal. And there are other ways to do this. So I would just really encourage parents to show that to their students, especially if they're buried in debt, help their students realize that there needs to be another way. And I just feel like this documentary gives a really good and easy foundation to help do that.
Right. Okay. So that say the name of that show again?
And how would we get a hold of that, is that on YouTube or where will we find that?
It's on Prime Video and Google Play.
Okay. All right. We'll put links to that in the show notes as well. Yeah, I think that's a great opportunity to get some education to the kids as well as the parents.
And also if the parents are struggling with debt themselves, I encourage them to read Total Money Makeover. That's one of the foundational books here at Ramsey about digging their way out of debt and o follow the baby steps when we've seen so many people dig themselves out of a mountain of debt using the baby steps and the Debt Snowball, and it's just worked countless times. So I also encourage parents, if you're in that boat where you're struggling financially, be proactive with your own finances, you don't have to stay under this mountain of debt for your whole life, or until they finally go away. Like you can start tackling these right away.
Right? Absolutely. So you said Total Money Makeover? That's a book?
Yes, it's a book. And you can also go to ramseysolutions.com. And we have all sorts of great tools and resources to help you throughout your whole debt-free journey.
Yes, yeah. And again, I mentioned earlier, but, in my travels, and working as a financial advisor, etc., I've run across a lot of people that are, they call themselves 'Dave Ramsey graduates' or various terms like that. But they say 'Dave Ramsey is why I am where I am, because I use their system to get out of debt. And once we get out of debt, our financial life turned around.' And again, I'm seeing situations where parents are paying a lot of money for college. And they don't mind because they've got a lot of money. Because they did the Dave Ramsey, when they were younger, and they got their life turned around. And they were able to save and invest and spend money and what they felt was important. And if they felt college was important, and they've got extra money, that's a completely different decision, than... You know, I always use the example of if you're giving up the lake home, so you can spend crazy amounts of money on college. I mean, I guess that's your choice, right? It's your money. But if you're giving up your retirement, or you're burying your yourself or your student in debt, to go to a crazy, expensive college, you maybe need to have a second look at that and think it through a little bit more.
Right, well, one of the cool things about the baby steps, one of the baby steps is to save for college. So once you're out of debt, the baby steps, it's not just about debt repayment, but it's also about building wealth and being able to give. So Dave just put out a new book called Baby Step Millionaires, and it's all about the journey. After you've paid off your debt, how do you eventually become a millionaire? And that's just part of the process is saving up for college so that you're not caught off guard, we want people to be able to have the great full 529 account or to have a great savings account to just be able to cash roll college. I mean, that's ideal. We talk about all these different options and to explore options. But I mean, how great is that to be able to pay with cash? That's the ideal. And that's what we ultimately hope people do in following the baby steps.
Right, absolutely. So any other thoughts? As far as if you're a parent that's rolling in the college? I mean, what would you consider kind of the top things to do as you're, let's say you have a sophomore, you're just starting to think about college. Any other thoughts or ideas that, or mindsets that would help families get on the right direction for college versus, the negative side that we're we've been talking about is, 'Well, I didn't really do any effort didn't put any planning, and I got to the end of the process. And now, the only way to make it happen is for me to co-sign this loan.' Because
We're out of options, we didn't plan well, etc., etc. So what do we do when we have that freshman, sophomore, junior, to set ourselves up to go down the right path instead of the wrong path?
Yeah, well, I think those conversations we were talking about earlier about having those conversations about money, those need to happen early. That's one of the things I'm so thankful about with my story. And what my mom did is she had the courage to have that conversation, my freshman year of high school, I think some people may have thought that was harsh, or, is she ready for that? But I am so grateful now that she was willing to have that conversation so that I knew what I would be up against. And also the, the sooner you have that conversation, the sooner you can help them, your student light that fire to go for scholarships. You know, one of the benefits of learning about scholarships my freshman year and doing all that research is that I learned what stands out in the scholarship application process. So I had time to strategically build my resume throughout high school. And I had that motivation to take up leadership roles and do a lot of volunteer work, because not only did I love the things I was doing, but I also understood that they would help me in my college and scholarship applications. So having that extra time is just very, very valuable. Be willing to have those conversations early. Your students, they may get defensive at first. I mean, I did at first I was like, 'Why are you telling me this? I'm a freshman, what do you want me to do about it?' But my mom really walked me through the process. And she was there with me, she was willing to have those conversations. Again, she was willing to dive into research with me and read the resources with me and just help me navigate the process even if she had to try more than once. She was willing to continue to stay in the ring with me. And then of course, obviously with that conversation, encourage your students to apply for scholarships to actually fill out the applications, and fill out a lot of them. You know, the more scholarships you apply for the more you have a chance of winning. I think people will often fill out like 10 applications and be like, Oh, well, anytime now I'm gonna get my full ride. It's like a... Apply for 100 scholarships, apply for 1000. If you have time, go for it and break it down into manageable goals, like let's say you want to apply for 100 scholarships, that sounds like a lot like that might be like, 'Whoa, that's a lot of scholarships!' But if you break it down over the course of six months, that's like four scholarship applications a week, that's very doable. So have your student apply for a scholarship a day, when eventually that adds up over time and increases the likelihood that they're going to get one of those scholarships. Then I also would encourage parents to have their students work, you know, have them help contribute and save for their education, and also build up that muscle of work ethic and discipline, because that not only will help you with college applications in the scholarship process, like that's just gonna help you all throughout life.
Right, for sure. So since most of our audience is parents, there's a little nugget in there that you said, and I just want to tease that out a little bit more, you mentioned that your mom sat with you and worked through some things and helped you through. So what was her role in your, quote, unquote, success? When you say that she helped? Did she write essays? Or was she, what was she doing that helped you in the process?
Definitely not writing essays
I always encouge them to stay ethical
There's a section in the back of my book to parents. There's a place hanging up, what's ethical and what's not? That's definitely encouraged, that's really important to say on the ethical side of things, but the thing I felt like she really did that was huge for me in the secret sauce is she really kept me motivated, I think a lot of parents will give their students like to-do list like you do this, you do that you do this, you do that. And she actually would like, sit with me at the library at night, we would sit there for hours, at times, while I was filling out an essay, sometimes she would just be like reading a magazine or doing something else. But the fact that she was willing to sit with me, and you know, if I started getting bored or discouraged, she'll be like, 'Let's go, let's go grab a bite to eat or something.' And she just like, would be present with me, parents can help their students do research. So one of the things that often bog students down is the actual searching for scholarships process. So finding those right scholarships that you want to apply for, you can help with that part of the process. And that's actually going to help students stay motivated, because figuring out that right list of scholarships to apply for that's just a huge thing. And just helping students brainstorm and think through 'Okay, what extracurricular activities have I done? What kind of topics can I talk about my essay?' Just being that person, that point person to be able to bounce ideas with, and to just keep that fire lit throughout the process, because it can be a lot like it can be discouraging at times when you're sitting there filling out essay after essay or application after application. But if you know you have that cheerleader up in the ring with you, it can make such a big difference.
Right, exactly. And the way I explained it is, if your idea of getting scholarships is every other Saturday morning, when your students stumbles out of bed, you say, 'Hey, how those scholarships coming?' If that's the effort that parents put into it, there's a good chance it's not going to be successful. And especially in the upper income levels, where the student is never worried about money doesn't really understand money to turn around and say, 'You're responsible to go raise tens of thousands of dollars.' And they have no idea where to start. And again, the typical student has got AP, this going on, and tests and athletics and prom is coming, and maybe they're working, and they've got all kinds of stuff to balance. And it's like, they're intentionally going to say, 'I'm just gonna blow off scholarships,' but they're gonna sit down and spend spin their wheels for three or four hours, when they have a lot of time. They'll get discouraged, they'll put it away, and they won't come back to it for a month. And next thing you know, six months or a year ago by and they will really have not done much, because they don't know what to do, they don't know how to do it, it's very overwhelming. And as a parent, it's probably overwhelming to you too. But hopefully, with a little life experience, you understand that overwhelming can be broken down. And so again, that's what I see a lot of as well, parent, a few parents will say things like, 'Well, it's their job to go get scholarships, just why aren't they doing it?' And it's like, 'Well, do they know what to do? Do you know what to do? Have you sat with them and showed them what to do?' Well, I don't know what to do. Maybe you need to figure it out? It's like, okay. Well, theoretically, that can work. And if someone, you figured it out, you worked hard, but your mom at least helped and was there. And there's a few students out in the world that have gone out and got scholarships with no help whatsoever. But a few students have gone on and won gold medals at the Olympics since that's what's going on right now, it happens, but that isn't how you make a plan, right? Well, this one person got a gold medal and ice skating. So that's what my kid's gonna do. It's like, well, that's an interesting strategy, that wouldn't help pay for college. But there's a lot more to it than just saying we're going to do it. And but I think scholarships can be an important piece of the puzzle. I offer the Scholarship Guide for Busy Parents, obviously, you've got your books out there that people can read. Any other thoughts around, I guess coaching for parents around the scholarship process? When I, again, I pointed that out, but I think they need to be involved, any other ideas of what they can do and how they can do it?
Yeah, I think again, going back with what you were just saying, to meeting them where they are, that's why I've just in my content, I've been very intentional about trying to talk to that student that's feeling nervous, that's feeling overwhelmed, that feels like they maybe can't stand out in the process, or it's not for them, just trying to speak to a lot of the concerns that high school students have. And then also, I challenge parents to try to find that trick, your point that motivates your students, help them cast a vision for their life. And, you know, a lot of them have no clue they've never even you know, paid for their own bills, or ran a budget or anything like that. So when people talk about student loans, it's like Monopoly money, when people are like, 'Oh, avoid student loans, it's like, that doesn't matter them right? Now, they don't understand what it's gonna feel like to actually pay for that after school.' So if you can help them pass division one for their life, like, why is it motivating to be able to pay for college and to like, what does a debt free life look like? Like, once you graduate from college, if you don't have student loans, and you want to take a year to travel the world, you have the freedom to do that, if you want to start a business, you have the freedom to do that, if you want to buy a slightly bigger house, you'll be able to do that without student loans. But if you have an $1,100 student loan eating into your budget, that's gonna hurt, that's gonna affect what you're able to do, and it's gonna limit what you're able to do. So you know, that conversation, it's going to be different for every parent, it's gonna be different for everyone's situation, like, like you said, you there are some parents who have a huge savings account. And maybe they don't want to spend that money on college, but it's available, maybe you talk to your students about, 'Hey, if you apply for scholarships, and you win some of these scholarships, we're gonna be able to use this money for a down payment on a house. How will that feel? I want you to apply for the scholarship, so we can use that money for something else?' You know, there are all sorts of conversations that can be had in this space, but try to think through your situation and your individual student, and what's going to be that trigger that's going to motivate them to push forward.
Right? Absolutely. I think that's a, key point is a typical family, mom and dad may may work and earn certain amounts of money, but in the over their lifetime, they're going to earn what they're going to earn. Now, if you're efficient about it, what they earn can buy more than if you're not efficient about it. And I think that is a great example of that, where if you spend a lot, if a lot of your money goes towards interest, and late fees, and all that kind of stuff, that means a lot of your money then didn't go for a new car, or college education or any other something of a benefit that you'd much rather have. And then to say, 'Well, I just paid a ton of interest in my life. And that's all I did.' So for a lot of families, it's you know, general planning, around budgeting, and all that type of stuff, retirement, all those things are all intertwined, if you mess up college, and you might impact your retirement, and if you mess up retirement, that can have an impact on other areas. So it's a, it's a challenge, I think, for families to just figure out the whole process and link it all together and spend the time and effort at a time when you're crazy busy, and again, having high school kids at home. And typically working as well, all of a sudden, you've got lots of responsibilities. And I think college just gets the short end of the stick a lot. Because nobody forces the college on most families, especially the early planning the sophomore and junior year, there are no deadlines, there's nobody saying, 'Oh, this has to be ready for this.' The first real deadline is applications are due sometime in the fall of your senior year, and financial aid forms or do fall of your senior year. But you need to have a lot prepared well before then, ideally.
Well, I think that's the thing, too, is that a lot of families aren't even thinking about the cost of college really, until they're getting their acceptance letters alongside their financial aid package. And they're going, 'Oh, my gosh, we can't afford this.' But I encourage you to look at the net price of the schools you're applying for, and talk to financial aid officers trying to get a good idea of what your net price will be early on, like don't wait till spring of senior year to be getting those financial aid letters and going, 'Oh, my gosh, we can't afford this!' You need to know early on. And you need to know, obviously, you're not going to know for sure if you're going to get some of the scholarships senior year. So it's great to still apply for reach schools. But you also need to have those backup plans to go, 'If we don't get scholarships to this school, we need to have this school that we know we can afford, as a backup plan.' Have those conversations and do that research early on so that you're not caught off guard at the last minute.
And everybody's busy, like he said, but taking the time to do this early on. It can save you so many dollars in the long run. Because I mean, if you're going to have to pay back student loans at some point in life, think of all the hours that are going to go into paying off $50,000 in student loans, make some time for it now so you can save so much time later.
Right? Absolutely. All right. Well, that has been fantastic. If people want to learn more, or get in contact with you, or where can we go to gain more after this podcast?
Yeah, you can follow me on Instagram, @iamkristinaellis. Kristina's with a K. @iamkristinaellis, or visit my website at krristinaellis.com.
All right, we will put that information in the show notes as well. I really appreciate you spending more time with us. If people are interested, you can go back to the archives there is a, we can can see how Kristina has grown over the last six years. We talked to her quite a while ago. There's more information there as well. Thank you, Kristina.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
All right, that was a great interview with Kristina. Hopefully, we learned a bit about scholarships. As always, we put all the links in the show notes. So if you're interested in the Dave Ramsey Solutions, and their various benefits, products, books, that type of thing, links will be in the show notes, tamingthehighcostofcollege.com/146. I'll stick around for Brad Recommends where we get into foster care and college.
The latest tips, tricks, and tools you can use today. This is Brad Recommends on Taming the High Cost of College.
Today, on Brad Recommends, I want to talk about the intersection of college and foster care and or adoption. So I was a guest on a podcast called Foster Care: An Unparalleled Journey. And Jason Palmer over there interviewed me and we talked a lot about college and the foster care system, and how that works together. And there's an interesting thing that we discovered around financial aid. Putting a highlight here, and again, if you happen to have adoption or foster care in your life, it would be great to go listen to that episode about college. And of course, you can also just subscribe and listen to the entire podcast as well. One of the things that we were talking about and was discovered that on the FAFSA, there's a question that essentially asks, 'At any time since you turned age 13, are both your parents deceased? Were you in foster care? Or were you a dependent or ward of the court?' That question essentially, will allow you, if you answer yes to that, will allow you to become an independent student. And then you're not required to report mom and dad. So there certainly would be situations where if you're a foster parent, your foster children may not have to report you as Mom and Dad, for sure. And even if you adopted them after the age of 13, if they were part of the foster program, there's even a note in here that says we're in foster care, even if you're no longer in foster care, as of today. So if you're in the foster care system, but then have come out, whether that's reunited with your biological parents, or if you're adopted or somehow moved out of the foster care system, the answer is still yes. And therefore you should still qualify to be an independent student. Now, once you're an independent student, you're no longer required to report any parent income or parent assets and that type of thing. And it makes it much more likely that you're going to qualify for federal aid, and especially federal need-based aid to a typical 18 year old that doesn't have any income and doesn't have any assets. And is not required to report mom and dad, all of a sudden, they're likely to qualify for about 6495 and a Pell Grant and up to $4,000 in a supplemental grant. Now, that's from just the federal government. Many states also offer different types of aid for foster kids of various sorts. So you may also qualify for reduced tuition at in some states or additional grants or other benefits. And then on top of that, as an independent student, you're able to borrow more money on the student loan program, the direct loan. So a typical direct loan is 5500, for freshmen, 6500 for a sophomore and 7500 for a junior and senior. And that would be for a typical family where parents are involved. But again, if you're an independent student, you can increase all of those by $4,000. So now it becomes 9500, 10,500, and 11,500 for junior and senior year, for a grand total of $43,000. So it looks like because you can become independent, you're eligible for about $43,000 in loans, plus another approximately $40,000 in grants potentially, and again, that's not a guarantee on the grants somewhere between 6500 and 10,000 Because the supplemental grant is not operated by all colleges and therefore you may or may not get a supplemental grant. But it's possible that you could get almost $10,000 in grants per year or $40,000 plus another $43,000 in loans. Then on top of that, whatever your state may provide, and that can make a pretty big dent in the cost of college. That's where the numbers come in. But I think the challenge for most foster kids, and adopted kids, etc, is believing that they can get there and believing that they could go to college. And then of course, understanding what the benefits are taking advantage of. I think it's a challenge that where, if you have, you're doing good in the world, and you're helping foster kids, knowing how the system works, and just helping them through the process. Again, I think it's overwhelming for a typical 18 year old to understand how the college process works, and they're not likely to know that they have access to this stuff. And therefore they may give up before they even start. Or they may not get the right information from the financial aid office, and they're not going to be tenacious enough to demand someone look into it further and figure it out. Because based on their knowledge, they're getting bad information, but they may not knowing. But again, the being the adult that kind of CO pilots and sits next to him when they go to the financial aid office might be all they need, in order to access this extra money. So it may not cost you personally as far as dollars to support someone in foster care. It may cost you a little bit of time, and willingness to stand up for their rights and get involved and make sure the college does everything they can for a particular student. And it's just realizing that the way the question is worded, you got to dig into it and make sure that even if the student is currently no longer part of foster care, are no longer a ward of the state. Or perhaps they've been adopted by an aunt or uncle or something like that. If they have that history, they're going to qualify anyway. So it's an interesting little area that I think families need to look into. And again, if you're interested in more on foster care, there's a great podcast, Jason Palmer, who interviewed me runs a podcast called Foster Care: An Unparalleled Journey. And he's over there at fostercarenation.com. So we'll put all these links in the show notes as well. But I found that to be a little interesting tidbit, where a relatively small number of people that can take advantage of this benefit. But if you're aware of it, it can make a huge difference in the college process for a foster kid, or someone that's lost both their parents. All right, that's all we have for today. I appreciate you listening. As always, show notes are available at tamingthehighcostofcollege.com/146. I hope you enjoyed this episode with Kristina. And we'll see you next week.
Thank you for listening to the Taming the High Cost of College Podcast. Now it's time for you to take action. Head to tamingthehighcostofcollege.com for show notes, bonus content, and to leave feedback for Brad. The next step on your college journey starts now. Brad Baldridge is a registered representative of Cambridge Investment Research and an investment advisor representative of Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a registered investment advisor. Securities are offered through Cambridge Investment Research Incorporated, a broker dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC. Brad owns two companies: Baldridge Wealth Management and Baldridge College Solutions. The Baldridge companies are not affiliated with Cambridge Investment Research.
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