Gasp! Costs of College Funding Takes the Wind Out of First Genners


At the College Funding seminar held by Ramesh Cherivirala (right) were Devi Sirigiri with the Telegu Cultural Association (left) and Kishore Ramaraju of the Houston Desi Friends group.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  “You mean they should get a part-time job before college? An internship? Or a paid job?” It was a puzzling thought for the man seated on the back table trying to understand the intricacies of funding his son’s college education.

“It’s a first time experience for us,” chimed in another person newly arrived to the US from India. “Why do you need to go on a campus visit? What do you do there?” another asked as he too was puzzled by the concept of college admission that was so different from the one that he endured for his college admission back in India.

There was a general sense of bewilderment, amusement and confusion at the rituals that many kids in the US go through on their first encounter with college as the 30 or so people, all men save for two women, came to experience at the College Funding seminar that Ramesh Cherivirala of New York Life conducted last Saturday, September 26 at the Sri Banquet Hall just one shop down from Vishala Grocery on Highway 6 near Bissonnet.

And Cherivirala explained patiently, walking them through the steps of college applications and how to raise the money, but he started with statistics that were startling and disturbing to many in the room. For the most recent data available, in 2014, the national average for one year of cost of college education for a 4-year public university was $16,943 (in-state) and $32,762 (out-of-state) and $42,419 (in-state) for a 4-year private university. Many jaws dropped and a discussion ensued as Cherivirala explained that the costs of higher education had gone up two to three times over that of other costs, rising 72% from 2006 to 2013.

Cherivirala conducted the seminar for the people pulled together by the Whats App group Houston Desi Friends, organized by Kishore Ramaraju, over snacks and drinks in the late afternoon. He explained the pre-college costs (standardized test fees, test prep courses, campus visits, application fees and moving expenses) and how to go about raising the money, if you didn’t have the amounted socked away.

Apart from the “free money” that was available for those who qualified (Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Scholarships); there are government loans, 529 plans, Coverdell Savings Accounts and Texas Tuition Funds; but usually they ask for a CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile  which is used when in conjunction with a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to report the family’s income and takes into account all forms of assets to decide on how much to loan.

“However, you do not need to mention your house, 401K or cash value of your life insurance policy,” explained Cherivirala who then elaborated on the last and most favorable option, Whole Life Insurance which comes with cash value guarantees and a death benefit. As the crowd of people saw the benefits of this approach, many questions arose, each for an individual case, as well as some general humor. “We didn’t realize that it was so complicated,” said one, as he tried to figure a way around the high costs, wondering where their child might go in a few years.