College tuition workshops begin tonight in Chesterfield

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -  Many parents may be paying more than they should for their child to go to college. One financial expert said he can help families spend less.

He'll be speaking tonight at the first of three college tuition workshops. This workshop is for parents of college-bound juniors and seniors.

Anyone can sit in on the discussion, but Mike Jones, a college financial consultant, said he's targeting families who don't qualify for need-based assistance.

VCU sophomore Joshua Smith said he didn't get much help from the state or federal government for tuition costs.

"I applied for a few scholarships but really we're paying out of pocket because I didn't get anything," said Smith.

Smith said he would have liked some financial guidance before starting college.

"It would be better if we didn't have to pay as much as we did but, you do what you have to," said Smith.

Financial consultant, Mike Jones, said one important first step in paying less is to match the school with the student.

"Colleges are looking for a particular profile. For example, a school might be looking for a female engineering student and may offer a significant discount for that type of student," said Jones.

When choosing scholarships, Jones recommends narrowing your focus to local and regional ones to increase your chances.

"If you can learn about which ones to apply for so you'll get noticed, what essays to write, what person to use for references," said Jones.

Jones said one big mistake parents make is not talking to their kids about finances.  He said it's important to talk about budget and what's within their reach.

"A lot of parents get themselves deep into debt and so do students," said Jones.

Renee Mellinger picked VCU for its nursing program.

She recommends college-bound kids seek out scholarships where they work. In her case, it paid off.

"I worked in a nursing home for a little while, so I got scholarships for working there," said Mellinger.

Jones also points out colleges may offer significant discounts to students with high GPA's and SAT scores.

Tonight's workshop is the first of three. It's at the Bon Air library from 7 p.m. TO 8:30 p.m.

The other two will be held later this month at the Clover Hill library on October 18th and the Chester library on October 25th.  The workshops are free, to enroll, call 751-2275.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.