College Planning for Busy Parents: A Guide to Affordable Colleges, Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Tax-Saving Strategies

by Troy Onink

What's in the book?

Effective college planning made simple.

    • All About College Admissions
    • Understanding Financial Aid
    • Financial Planning and Tax Strategies
    • Comparisons of Good and Bad College Advice
    • And More!



The most important thing to remember about my College Crossroads blog at is that my posts are different than what is typically written elsewhere on college planning, and that is because I bring a rather unique perspective to this specialized area. For almost twenty years I have specialized in helping families determine their best strategy to pay for college, and doing so requires a rare knowledge of how four key areas must come together to form a family’s best strategy: College selection, financial aid, tax aid, and personal resources.

College admissions and financial aid professionals know their respective areas well, as do tax and financial advisors, but virtually none have a solid grasp of the areas outside their own, let alone how each area impacts the others for college planning purposes. That’s where I come in. I have spent twenty years working with families and collaborating with these other professionals, making it my business to make the connections, gain the insights, and innovate ways to help families determine their best strategy to pay for college and enjoy a Real Life Retirement.

My blog posts are less about what the latest studies or headlines say, and more about what you really need to know. I am about answers, not more and more information. If I think you need to know about a single topic in more detail, I go to the experts on those topics and interview them in the context of the four key areas: College selection, financial aid, tax aid, and the use of your personal resources to pay your share of the cost, with or without financial aid. It keeps the focus on strategy and simplicity; the best strategy to pay for the colleges that are the best fit. Finally, unless a student is independently wealthy, getting a college degree is ultimately about getting a job. The blog and this book cover that too.


Troy Onink is a nationally-known authority on college planning. Troy has specialized in college planning for twenty years, during which he pioneered this specialized field by integrating the areas of financial planning, investing, college admissions, financial aid, tax strategies, and wealth management, for the purpose of determining each family's best strategy to pay for college. Troy views college as a tollbooth on the road to retirement, and by having a strategy families choose the right exits, pay the toll as wisely as possible, and stay up to speed for retirement.

Troy is CEO of, the firm he co-founded to create innovative college planning software to help families identify where their children may be able to get in to college and get aid, and determine the family's best strategy to pay for the colleges that are the best fit for their children.


Why College Co-Op Programs Totally Rock

“I made $46,000 working as a Co-Op student for a great company while I was getting my college degree from a well-known university, and now the company that I did my Co-Op with wants to hire me.” This isn’t too good to be true. The truth is that College Co-Op programs totally rock, and I could have gotten that quote from

thousands of Co-Op students nationwide.

There are several reasons why college Co-Op programs rock.

Added Work Experience and Job Offers

Think about this: One student goes to college, tries to find a job in the summer just to help with expenses, and then graduates on time with good grades but no work experience, and a boat load of student loans. Another student goes to college for the first half of the year, then goes to work at a company that is part of her university’s Co-Op program, gains six months of work experience for which she is paid $11,000 – $18,000, then goes back to campus to learn in the classroom, repeating this cycle until she graduates with both a degree and meaningful work experience.

Both students apply for the same position at the company where Student Two worked in her Co-Op.

Student Two has the same degree as Student One, but Student Two has substantial work experience with the hiring company. Which student gets the job?


Financially, Student Two is likely to be about $30,000 to $60,000 better off on the day they toss their hats into the air at graduation, because Student One had to take out $27,000 in Federal Stafford loans to help pay for college over four years while Student Two, even if she does take out the same amount of student loans, would be $30,000 ahead because she did three Co-Ops that paid her a total of at least $30,000. If she was in a program of study in which Co-Op students are earning as high as $18,000 and she didn’t need to take out any student loans, she would be over $80,000 ahead of Student One.

Now, I’m not saying that a Co-Op guarantees anyone a job, and some Co-Ops don’t even pay students, but education and experience are critically important when competing in our modern day ultra-competitive workforce. Thus, Co-Ops make a lot of sense even if they don’t pay kids a whole lot of money; but the fact is that they usually do, up to $46,000 in fact at Drexel University, RIT and the University of Cincinnati to name a few.

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