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Charlotte free service helps parents with college finances

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    AMEDF: www.amedf.org and click the link to the Charlotte chapter. Duncan Wilson: duncan@sfgnc.com.



After Duncan Wilson graduated from the Wake Forest School of Law and passed the North Carolina Bar Exam in 2009, he was set to follow the traditional path from law school to practicing attorney.

But being a lawyer meant short term relationships with clients, which Wilson quickly found to be unfulfilling. He was used to the work found in his father’s financial planning business in Matthews, where connections last years and allow one to make a definite change in clients’ lives.

So, he left the practice of law and joined Sterling Financial as an associate.

Now Wilson, 29, is getting to put his principles into action by volunteering as a college planning specialist with a nonprofit organization called the American Education Foundation, (AMEDF.) Though Wilson is new to the organization, he has already begun helping families.

The mission of AMEDF is to better prepare families for college success by examining the reasons kids go to college and the value a particular degree will have for a student. What makes AMEDF unique is that it’s 100 percent charitable.

“We’re free,” Wilson says. “We’re financial professionals who are just trying to help parents of high school students.”

Being a college planning specialist is more than helping a family determine how to pay for college. Much of the focus is on the students, helping them understand that college is an investment. Because the college landscape is so dynamic, Wilson and other AMEDF volunteers spend time keeping abreast of the changes.

At a time of record student loan debt, families need help. But many families make the same mistakes financing education, Wilson says. They include not filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and paying someone to hunt down scholarships.

Also, the student often fails to think through the reasons he or she is attending a certain college in the first place.

“If the kid wants to be an engineer, why is he gonna go to Carolina?” Wilson said. “Everybody’s situation is different.”

He also believes that more parental involvement would raise educational standards. The school or the curriculum is often blamed for academic shortcomings, when in reality, Wilson says, an involved parent will produce a better prepared student.

It’s also important for parents to know what they can afford to spend on college and to have a discussion with their child about their ability to pay.

As for the students, they should know why they are going to college. AMEDF hosts workshops in the spring and fall. The job of the foundation is to impart good financial principles when considering higher education.

Kris Wampler is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Kris? Email him at kriswampler@gmail.com.
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