Planning ahead for college costs

Parents hopeful that students will offset expenses with scholarships
Tuesday, March 15, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:40 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Caroline Sicht, a sixth-grader at Gentry Middle School, isn’t sure what she wants to do when she grows up, but she has started saving for her college education.

Caroline, 12, exhibits show steers for her beef project in the Englewood Hustlers 4-H Club.

The prize money she wins at cattle shows and the profits she receives from selling her steers at the end of the year are put into a savings account.

This money will be used to offset college tuition costs.

Caroline said she wants to stay near home in Ashland when she attends college.

She was quick to suggest MU, but she is keeping her options open.

Tuition increases in recent years are causing potential MU students, like Caroline, to be concerned about how they will pay for college.

According to MU spokesman Christian Basi, in-state tuition has almost doubled in the past eight years from $3,630 in 1997 to $6,276, based on 14 credit hours per semester.

Out-of-state tuition has increased to $7,337 per semester from $5,727 since the fall semester of 2000.

Siri Geenen has two daughters who are considerably younger than Caroline. Solveig, 3, and Linnea, 8 months, will not begin college for a while, but Geenen has started thinking about their college education.

Geenen has played the violin for 25 years, since she was 8 years old. She attended Northwestern University to study music. Geenen hopes her daughters will take to her love for music, as well.

Solveig has recently begun playing the violin.

Geenen and her husband, Richard, hope their daughters, who will be in college at the same time, receive music or academic scholarships to finance their college education, but also plan to assist their daughters financially if needed. They said student loans are a possibility.

The University of Missouri System is financed through state appropriations and student educational fees.

Student fees accounted for more of the university’s revenue than state appropriations for the first time last year, Joe Moore, director of public relations for the UM system, said.

“Dr. Floyd’s major concern is to protect the access and affordability of students and that those who want to attend the university will be able to somehow,” Moore said, referring to UM system President Elson Floyd.

High school counselors try to prepare students for the financial burden of college early.

Hubert Shaw, a counselor at Harrisburg High School, helps students work on their resumes before they graduate.

“Building a resume leaves options open for students to qualify for jobs while they are in college,” Shaw said.

He also makes students aware of scholarship opportunities and presents information on financial savings to parents.

Caroline’s parents, Duane and Kathy Sicht, encourage her to do her best in sports and hope she will earn an athletic scholarship. She plays softball and basketball at her school.

The confidence she gained by talking to judges in the show ring has helped Caroline excel in the classroom and in student organizations.

“I have learned how to be a leader and ways to help other people,” she said.

Caroline has a 4.0 grade-point average and is involved in student organizations, which could make her eligible for scholarships that reward academic achievements and leadership.

Missouri students who are preparing for college can also take part in Missouri Saving for Tuition.

The program was introduced in November 1999 to encourage Missouri students to save for their college educations and to seek federal and state tax benefits.

Participants open an account on behalf of the fund’s recipient.

Contributions are made to the account and those amounts are deducted from Missouri state taxable income amounts.

When the recipient withdraws money for school, those amounts are federal and state tax-free.

MU has budgeted about $25 million in financial aid. Additionally, there are private donors who establish scholarships in a variety of ways. Federal loans and Pell Grants are also available for students.

“In the past year, about 75 percent of our students have received some form of financial aid,” Basi said.

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