"I came from a big family, so only a few of us went away to college. I was one of the lucky ones," observes mom-of-two Maureen Gast, winner of our first $2,500 Nitro Parent Scholarship. Maureen grew up in Elmhurst, a Chicago suburb, and graduated the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Biology, and then went on to the Chicago campus PT school.
"I took quite a few loans. It was so different, so much less back then. When I graduated I owed $20,000, which is nothing in this day and age!" She laughs because her recent experience--helping her son Andrew find the school right for him--was eye-opening: "He looked at small schools and big schools; I was pretty much told where I was gonna go. There are so many options out there now. The whole loan part is just different, and it's just so much more expensive. There's so much more information on line. None of that was a factor when I went to school."
Let's Talk Money
Maureen and her husband also had frank conversations with their son regarding paying for college. We have had that talk: we're giving you this much, so you're gonna be responsible for that much. He's fine with that." In the fall Andrew is off to Butler University. "He's going into business. He wanted to go to Indiana because they have a really good business school but we're out of state. He got in, but it just was too expensive. He understood, and he agreed it's just not worth it to have to pay all those loans back. So Butler was his compromise; they have a good business program as well, and it's less expensive."
Learning The Nitro Score
"I wish I had seen it sooner!" exclaims Maureen about our handy Nitro Score calculator. "It pretty much tells you what your child is going to have to pay down the road. It's a nice tool to figure out how much school is gonna cost. It's just a nice tool to see the realistic picture of what they're gonna face when they're done. If I had seen that we mighta ruled out Indiana in the beginning, and never even gone down that road. We made the right choice!"
After doing some research online and consulting a financial planner, Maureen discovered Nitro. "I have to say Nitro really did help me as far as I didn't understand a public versus a private loan and it helped explain those--we're going to have to for sure get one of those."
What She's Learned
When asked if she had any advice for parents of rising seniors, Maureen was definite: "Use the Nitro Score calculator to see what you can afford and open your eyes. I would say have a real conversation about the cost of college, and I would say apply for a lot of scholarships. It seems like a lot of scholarships look at how much you're involved in school. My son wasn't super-involved in school and I'm gonna push my daughter to do a little more."
Of course Maureen wants her to keep her GPA high, but she's also going to emphasize one other crucial component: "I will encourage her to do more SAT prep work so that she can get that higher SAT score because then you get more money--from private schools, anyway."
Nitro congratulates Maureen Gast and all involved parents. Be sure to check out our next $2,018 Nitro Parent Scholarship. It takes just a few minutes to apply. Why wouldn't you?!
Mike is responsible for the editorial and marketing direction of Nitro. He has a history of helping people through his educational background—first as a teacher at the Pennsylvania State University and then through 15 years of development and marketing of education programs. Read more by Mike Brown