How Do You Get to $1 Trillion in Student Loan Debt?

Financial Fit™ Asks "Should We Change the Way We Search and Pay for College?"

Jan 14, 2013, 05:54 ET from

CHICAGO, Jan. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey on college costs and college selection finds that three out of four U.S. families are willing to increase their student loans or debt, take on a second job, or sell a car, so their children can attend college. This despite the fact that college affordability and excessive student loan debt are the top two concerns parents have when it comes to college.

"These survey results point directly to the reason student loan debt is outpacing credit card debt for the first time in history—we continue to push a college selection timeline that forces families to make poor financial decisions," said Frank Palmasani, a veteran guidance counselor and former college admissions director, creator of the Financial Fit™ program, and author of Right College, Right Price. "What is needed is a radical change in how families approach their college search."

The survey by, which polled more than 3,000 adults with at least one college-bound child in their household, also found that nearly 80 percent of respondents reported some level of anxiety associated with paying for college.

A quarter of the parents surveyed, however, have not factored college affordability into their search process, while 46 percent are unsure how much total debt is their child is willing to take on to pay for college and 38 percent are unsure how much household debt they are willing to commit.

"Families are told 'don't look at the sticker price—it's not real,' and they believe it because it's true," said Palmasani. "But that doesn't necessarily mean that a school is going to be affordable. Under a blanket of false security, students spend junior and early senior year selecting colleges, testing, and applying, all the while falling more and more in love with their top pick, which may well be unaffordable."

In order to end the cycle of excessive student loan debt, Palmasani has created a first-of-its-kind program that helps students and parents tackle college costs first, at the start of their college search.

The Financial Fit program ($49.99 introductory price for one-year access) gives families a step-by-step process to figure out how much they can afford, which colleges are their financial fits, how to file financial aid documents, options to pay for college, and how to analyze college award letters to get the best deal.

Each step of the Financial Fit program features worksheets and short videos that give families their own virtual advisor in the planning and execution of their college search. Financial Fit also features a College Affordability Calculator, which determines exactly what each family can pay for college by factoring in 10 key components including cash flow, expenses, and savings.

Additional features within Financial Fit include a search function that links directly to each college's federally mandated net price calculator, as well as a College Comparison Chart that families can use to narrow down their college list by comparing net prices with what they can afford.

Just released from beta, Financial Fit has been adopted by more than 50 high schools to support more than 30,000 students and their families.

About the Author

Frank Palmasani is a Chicago-area high school guidance counselor and former college director of admissions. In 1985, Palmasani began delivering seminars on the college financial aid and planning process, and estimates he has reached more than 200,000 people. He is a member of NACAC, IACAC, and the College Board.