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Hampton/Shaler

Free college planning workshops at Hampton

| Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, 8:55 p.m.

Three free workshops will be open to parents and high school students on how to better prepare for college.

The workshops, which will be held at the Hampton Township Community Center, are being hosted by Cathy Lueers, an independent educational consultant, who recently finished her term as a school board member at Hampton Township School District. The college planning workshops for Hampton parents will be held at 7 p.m. March 13, 14 and April 4.

The events will provide tips for high school parents to “connect their student's vision with a strategic plan, understand ways they can save thousands on college and help with the overall process,” she said.

Right now college costs across the board are rising by 10 percent annually, and that doesn't include room and board, said Lueers. Some parents she's talked to have already spent more than they anticipated and don't know how to get out of it.

“Parents are calling me, completely overwhelmed,” said Lueers, who owns My 4-Year Plan, a professional college-planning company.

For example, Lueers said students should take advantage of institutional-merit scholarships, straight from the school they want to attend. She said state scholarships and grants may help, but don't always provide for a substantial amount.

Most organizations affiliated with college planning agree to begin early.

Keith New of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, a well-known student aid organization, said “get started thinking about it at an early age.” He said MySmartBorrowing.org is also a helpful tool. New is not affiliated with the workshops.

Lueers said it's important to look at a student's interests and strengths in making the right decision for college. She also reminds students to keep working on those SATs and grade-point averages as well as innovative, meaningful community service, especially those that display entrepreneurial strengths. These help win those scholarships as well as get into those highly selective colleges.

A rule of thumb for Lueers is “people should not borrow more for their whole college education than what they anticipate making their first year out.”

And if a student can also work at a part-time job now and save, it can really add up.

Lueers said the National Center for Education Statistics, which collects and analyzes data related to education in the United States and other nations, is a great resource to get statistics on colleges. According to the NCES, regarding employment rates in 2016, 88 percent of both males and females, ages 20 to 24, who graduated with a bachelor's or higher degree, were employed. This is compared to 69 percent who solely completed high school.

Lueers said she enjoys working with Hampton residents on preparing for the whole college process.

“It really gives me a deeper love for Hampton students and the community,” she said. “It's rewarding at the end of the day.”

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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