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Finding the cash for college

Jared Whitley Of the Record staff

When it comes to helping kids pay for college, Park City High School isn’t passing the buck.

Former Parkite and college-funding guru Carl Buck will speak on "College Financial Aid Planning for Any Income Level," a free workshop, at Park City High School on Tuesday, Dec. 7. "I try to say to families I help them out when things go wrong and help them go right," Buck said. He will discuss: Exactly how the financial aid process works Which colleges and universities give the most aid and why How to develop household-specific plans for managing tuition costs Numerous financial aid options and choosing the right mix

Buck has more than 30 years of experience in higher education at a variety of universities, including as director of student aid at University of Utah. He’s now vice president for college funding at theeducation firm Thomas Peterson’s. He recently penned "The Student Aid Answer Book," and will give out 50 free copies at the workshop.

While Park City is an affluent area, there are plenty of families with more modest incomes, Buck said, a segment that might need a significant amount of guidance on financial aid. "If you’re a kid whose parents are making $30,000 and you’re accepted at a private institution and you see a dollar amount you’re pretty happy," Buck said. "But what if that dollar amount is only half of what you need?"

About 10 years ago, he took a break from higher education to work as a host for Park City Mountain Resort. "I’ve always liked the town and I’ve known a lot of people there," Buck said. When he was here, he noted high school counselor Jerry Fiat was particularly kind to him, so this workshop is his "quid pro quo" back to the community. College has become increasingly expensive for a variety of reasons, according to Buck. One of them is combating so-called "brain drain," when talented professors leave education for better-paying jobs in the private sector. To keep such professors, colleges and universities pay out big bucks. "The presidents of institutions realize that part of their attraction is to ensure families and students that they have top flight faculty," Buck said. "There are some institutions that have what they call star professors."

Another reason is disappearing tax subsidies, particularly right now in a place like Louisiana because of the hurricane. Increased fuel costs could be another reason, he said.

"You can’t point a finger at one thing, I think there’s a combination of factors based on geographic region," Buck said.

In soliciting aid, students and families should never give up. If a freshman doesn’t earn an award, he or she should try again as a sophomore, then a junior, then senior, Buck said. Too many fail to earn aid, then "They give up the ghost," he continued.

If a family needs to appeal a financial aid letter, the appeal should always be in person, Buck said. It’s very easy for an aid administrator to deny an email or a fax.

When he lived in Park City, after a presentation on college funding issues, a Delta pilot approached him about his son’s financial aid at Carnegie Mellon. Because he was a pilot, and could fly for free, Buck suggested he fly to Pittsburgh to appeal on his son’s behalf in person. Buck reported the pilot got $5,000 more per year for four years for his son. "When that family’s in front of an aid director, they then are telling their story and it changes the entire dynamic of the interaction," Buck said.

Buck’s advice is for students to find a job on campus, even if it’s only part-time. "Students who work on campus develop immediate community relationship with faculty and staff," Buck said. That community will want to retain students and keep them from dropping out. "They’ll find ways for you to succeed."

Students should also get need-based assistance, like work study, that doesn’t count against them for earning other aid, Buck said.

Buck will also be available after the workshop to answer questions that people might not want to ask in a public forum. He also said he’ll answer phone calls or emails afterward.


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