Local nonprofit organization helps students plan for college

Parents and students, now is the time to plan for college and to discover the many programs available for funding college that are not used.

A local nonprofit organization helps with the “do’s and don’ts” of college planning.

Wendy McNarney, who teaches entrance college prep at Lawrence North High School, knows financial preparation is key to getting a higher education, so she brought in representatives from an Indy-based nonprofit called ISM College Planning.

“And they talk to the kids about the dangers of credit cards, what interest is, what a student loan is, the commitment, and how the government plays a role in it,” said McNarney. “They also are telling our students what the obligation is for the rest of their life if they take out a loan.”

ISM’S director of planning Bill Wozniak wanted to make one thing perfectly clear to concerned students and parents: any help they give to any school, family, or class, is completely free.

However, schooling of course is not free, without a full scholarship, and Indiana students are knee-deep in student loans, ranking eleventh highest out of the 50 states. One key to fixing that is filling out the financial aid forms, and soon!

Many families think they make too much money, so they don’t bother filling out the FAFSA forms.  That is the biggest mistake.

“The other biggest mistake [is when] students and families say ‘I will not get a scholarship,’” said Wozniak. “If I’m not a straight-A student, there’s no scholarship money for me. That’s completely wrong.  There are billions of dollars and it’s easier to at least get a portion of that.”

Another big tip for parents is to do your taxes as soon as you get your W-2′s and not to wait until April. You can link your returns directly to your online financial aid applications, and with a click of the mouse, it speeds up the process immensely.

Finally, resources like the “Student Loan Game Plan” provided by ISM can go a long way in stretching consumers’ dollars. They say it can make college an affordable dream instead of a financial nightmare by avoiding a loan altogether.

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