Students should study up on aid

By Erin Kelley

To many students, college is an institution where they will pursue their dreams and learn to become an adult while having a little fun along the way.

For parents, it’s a financial nightmare.

However, with a lot of planning, preparation and help from the right people, it doesn’t need to be.

“You should spend your student’s last months before college watching them grow into mature young adults and not guessing how to correctly travel the college preparation path,” states Collegiate Financial Advisors’ mission statement.

The company was founded to help students and parents help pick the best college for them as well as make sure they do not end up paying more than they should.

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Co-founder of the five-year-old company and vice president, Preston Lettus, said the idea was brought on much earlier when his father, John Lettus, put Preston, his oldest son, through college.

“He made every possible mistake he could,” Preston said. “He got absolutely no help and incurred so much debt.”

Afterward, John Lettus, co-founder and president, started researching better ways to pay for college.

Once Preston graduated from college, the two formulated a company that would give financial advice for families with students in high school to help them prepare for the financial journey they would soon be making, college.

The company will be working with between 500-800 families this year in the Chicagoland area.

What initially started out as a three-man company in a basement and dining room has now evolved into an operation that offers financial workshops and counseling in parts of Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.

“We are preparing to expand, (but) we need to make sure the advice is right,” Preston said. “Right now its about finding the right people and resources.”

Besides offering workshops and personal consultations, Preston has developed a list of the nine most common college funding problems along with explanations of possible solutions that are given out at the workshops as well.

“(We are) looking for a better way to get the message out there,” Preston said.

The company also has an 800 number where families can call with questions and to get advice.

This hot line is open from 1-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

For students, it is important to consider what the study is going to be. It doesn’t make much sense for a student to incur $60,000-$80,000 worth of debt if they are just earning a degree to become an elementary school teacher. The possibility of being able to pay off the loans on that salary in a reasonable amount of time is nearly impossible, Preston said.

College is a business and students must consider how much they are shelling out and what they gain in return.

If the two do not at least equal out, Preston said students should consider a better route.

“It is an exhausting process,” he said. “Five to ten years ago it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference, but now with the cost being so severe the decision is significant.”