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How to afford college

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 11:31 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of the bestselling book “The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price,” will present strategies at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Sycamore High School Auditorium, for cutting through college-marketing hype and finding the most affordable schools.

A veteran financial writer based in San Diego, Calif., O’Shaughnessy is the college columnist for CBS MoneyWatch and has been featured in such national publications such as U.S. News & World Report,Wall Street Journal,The New York Times, Parade Magazine, Smart Money and Money Magazine.

O’Shaughnessy, who also writes her own blog at TheCollegeSolution.com, was driven to research her book when she and her husband began contemplating how they were going to afford college for their two children. She was ultimately able to shave roughly $125,000 off the price of college for her daughter, who is a college graduate, and her son, who is a junior at Beloit College. Families can make college more affordable if they become empowered consumers as they navigate their college choices, O’Shaughnessy says.

O’Shaughnessy comes to Sycamore through a grant from the Sycamore Education Foundation, said Sycamore High School Principal Tim Carlson. Carlson said that he likes O’Shaughnessy’s practical approach to cutting college costs.

“Parents need that kind of information,” Carlson said.  “In Illinois, 62 percent of students graduate with debt, on average $23,000. More than 210 Sycamore High School students apply to college every year. If 130 (or 62 percent) graduate with the average student loan debt, that represents $2.9 million.”

O’Shaughnessy will cover such topics as finding the most generous scholarships; why not just “A” students earn scholarships; who qualifies for financial aid; ways to increase scholarship and admission chances; why parent assets rarely hurt financial aid chances; using college net price calculators to save money; special financial aid rules for divorced couples; the “real story” on athletic scholarships; how to use college rankings; and free SAT and ACT resources.

Everyone who attends will receive a free download of her 75-page workbook, “How to Shrink the Cost of College,” a $14.95 value.

O’Shaughnessy will give separate presentations to Sycamore High School students and to high school guidance counselors earlier in the day, Carlson said. He also noted that some local colleges, including Northern Illinois University and Kishwaukee College, will be at the evening event with representatives and information for interested parents.

Affording College

7 p.m. Jan. 31

Sycamore High School Auditorium

Financial writer Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of “The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price,” will present money-saving strategies to pay for college.

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