Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the August 21, 2002 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

On the Move

The cost of college is rising at two times the rate

of inflation, says Kevin Simme of College Funding Alternatives on

Princeton-Hightstown Road. "When I started college 20 years


he says, "the family contribution was 1/25th of the parents’


Currently, because the formula hasn’t really changed, it is about

1/5th of the parents’ income, factoring in the number of children

and so on. I believe that has to do with the price of college more

than anything else."

"No matter where you go to school costs are going to continue

to rise because professors need increases in their salaries, overhead

is huge, and schools need to keep dumping money into technology


they have to stay up with it," says Simme.

Simme is a college funding specialist who moved in June from 600


Road. He aims to fill the void between the college officer, the


counselor, and the student’s family. "I help parents with


aid to maximize the aid available and show them how to pay for schools

in the most tax advantaged way." Some special plans are tax free,

but if the parents don’t set it up appropriately it will hurt them

for financial aid, Simme warns. "Yet if the grandparents are doing

the saving, it is not a problem."

He offers a free one-hour consultation and speaks at various seminars,

but his per family fee is $895, except when he runs a sale twice a

year for $700.

Simme did not come from a "silver-spoon-in-the-mouth"


But by working three jobs in the summer and being a resident advisor

during the school year, Simme graduated from Houghton College in


New York in 1985 with only $15,000 in student loans, which he paid

off in three years. He managed his own finances; his father was a

construction worker, and his mother stayed at home with seven children

and a Tupperware business. So when Simme applied to college, he did

his own paperwork. "I was known as a penny pincher, and I saved

a lot of money. And as student government president in my senior year,

I got free room and board."

He worked in marketing for seven years, first as membership manager

at Central West Jersey AAA and then for a financial services company,

the Guardian. "I saw that most advisors were dealing with people

on how to save money but not on how to pay for college." Now,

he says, he can help 90 percent of his clients reduce the family


in a significant way. "I’ve seen clients who earn six figures

actually get some kind of need-based aid. But nine out of 10 fill

out the forms wrong not because they are dumb but because the forms

are so complicated," says Simme.

"Parents spend a lot of time and money looking for scholarships

when they really should be spending more time looking where the money

comes from," he says. An important thing for parents to consider:

"Whether you’re applying for need-based aid or merit-based aid

you have to go through the same process," says Simme. He suggests

parents keep the following in mind:

Do your homework. It’s worth the effort, whether you think

you can do it on your own or not.

Look at the numbers. Make sure to apply to schools that

are giving the most financial aid.

Be more frugal, and start now. If you are not saving,

and you not getting ready to retire, you are living beyond your means.

"Thirty percent of the people I deal with have no savings for

college and have no plans to save. They are living pay check to pay

check. A dramatic number of people are living above their means."

Reevaluate your lifestyle. "Sometimes people don’t

want to hear this. One family had to move to a smaller home to pay

for college."

Get forms in early. The financial aid process is first

come, first serve so don’t procrastinate.

Be absolutely accurate. The Department of Education


that 90 percent of financial aid forms are turned back due to error,

which means 9 out of 10 applications get bumped back in the


first serve line-up, says Simme.

Expect to negotiate. The colleges don’t assume you will

take their first offer. Many colleges offer less and expect to


"The colleges don’t want you to know this," says Simme,


many will under-award you or mis-award you." Parents need to learn

when to say a financial aid package is unacceptable and how to


College aid scams generally guarantee a certain award.

When seeking professional help in the financial aid process, watch

for promises. "If someone is guaranteeing you a particular amount

of money in return for a fee, that’s one thing that you might want

to stay away from," says Simme, who offers a simple satisfaction

guarantee. "Anybody who has any expertise in the area or is a

good risk is going to do a very simple satisfaction guarantee,"

he says.

Don’t take what "they" say as gospel. When


aid officers of colleges speak at high schools, he warns, "90

percent of what they say is good, and 10 percent is not good. It can

be dangerous to your wealth."

Simme says he is in the position of being able to be truthful.

"I fit the position of being able to play the game," he says.

"The guidance counselors either don’t know or can’t be


College Funding Alternatives Inc., 186


Road, Windsor Business Park, Building 3A, Suite 210, Princeton 08540.

Kevin Simme, president. 609-799-2500; fax, 609-799-5648. Home page:

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