Local author guides families through college financing

CLARK, NJ — With college costs increasing between 5 and 7 percent each year, financial planning is imperative for those who want to attend.

Christopher Curran has compiled his vast knowledge of college planning into “College Funding Secrets,” a book released Friday, Sept. 22. The Clark resident and father of two started out as a financial advisor in 1995, helping families with retirement, investment planning and insurance. It was during the early years working within the financial industry when he realized there was little understanding about how college planning and financial aid worked, Curran told LocalSource in an email on Sept. 27.
This desire to fill the gap sparked extensive research on the issue, leading to Curran’s discovery of the strategies people can use to reduce the cost of college.

“I felt this was just as important as recommending investments to accumulate funds for college,” Curran said. “I started my own college planning practice and eventually merged with another firm that specializes in this field.”

During the past 10 years Curran has met with more than 2,000 families and appeared as a guest speaker at hundreds of informational workshops across New Jersey, providing insight about how to finance college. While he has plenty of financial knowledge, the book unites research with personal experiences.

Curran has sent his own daughter to college, now a senior, and is in the process of preparing to send his son, a high school senior, to college.

“I’ve had the benefit of going through this process with so many families, including my own, and because of this, I have experienced almost every possible situation that could arise,” Curran said. “I decided to encapsulate all I know into an easy-to-understand format.”

Curran says the book is meant as a resource for families who may not have guidance along the college-planning route, and serves to help them avoid overspending by thousands of dollars.

“Based on my experiences and instincts, I would estimate that the average family pays at least 15 to 20 percent more for college than they need to because they don’t understand the rules,” Curran said.

According to the National Center for Education statistics, the 2014-15 academic year averaged annual current dollar prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board. This was estimated to be $16,188 at public institutions, $41,970 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,372 at private for-profit institutions.

Private institutions can be either for profit or nonprofit. The difference lies in whether the college strives to make money. A nonprofit institution receives funding from the government, tuition and endowments, and puts back received money into the curriculum, instruction and other college operations that support students and faculty.

Between 2004-05 and 2014-15, prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board at public institutions rose 33 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 26 percent, after adjustment for inflation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Since the release of his book, Curran told LocalSource, he has been asked by several guidance departments at local high schools to be a resource to their staff when financial questions come their way.

“Now that the book is done, I can help more people by giving them a guide book to help them avoid the costly mistakes,” Curran said.