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Meet a College Finance Expert: Alex Bickford

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Alex Bickford College Coach

Written by Alex Bickfordon February 8th, 2024

I joined College Coach as part of the college financing team from the education finance department of Citizens Bank. Before my stint with Citizens, I worked as an Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Southern New Hampshire University. I've spent most of my professional career working in financial aid and have assisted traditional undergraduate, adult learners and master’s degree students in financing their educations. I have a master’s degree in business education, a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management, and an associate’s degree in culinary arts.
Learn More About Alex
Our Meet a Finance Educator series introduces students and parents to members of the Bright Horizons College Coach finance team. Drop in to see what we do to relax, where we went to college, the best financial advice we’ve received, and how we work with families to navigate the college finance process. Whether you’re looking to appeal a financial aid offer, maximize merit scholarship opportunities, or spend your assets strategically, our college finance experts are here to help. Today we introduce Alex Bickford. Where are you from, where have you lived, and where do you live now? I grew up on the seacoast of New Hampshire. After college I lived in Connecticut for a couple of years, but moved back to New Hampshire in 2009. What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to lately? I read mostly fiction crime novels. My wife and I are watching Dopesick right now, a crazy look into the world of opioids and pharmaceuticals. My podcast picks range from comedy to true crime, with some golf mixed in. What do you do for fun or to relax? My main activities are gardening and golfing. I am a pretty good gardener. I grow a ton of vegetables and it consumes a lot of my time. I am a pretty bad golfer, so I try to hit the course at 6:00 a.m. and play alone. I grew up with chickens so I’m excited that I finally am able to raise some at home. -- Where did you go to college and what did you study? Did you work while in school? I went to New Hampshire College (now Southern New Hampshire University). My degree is in Culinary Arts, but I decided during my internship that I didn’t want to pursue that career path. I was able to complete a second degree in hotel and restaurant management and then I stayed for a master’s in business education. I had several jobs as a college student: front desk at the athletic facility, resident assistant, tutor, teacher’s assistant, tour guide, and of course, student worker in the financial aid office. Where did you work in financial aid? Any other relevant experience? I was offered a graduate assistant position at Southern New Hampshire and worked as an assistant director for several years after graduating before moving on to a private student loan lender. I am an Accredited Financial Counselor and continue to take finance courses that nicely complement my current role at Bright Horizons College Coach. -- How do you encourage families to incorporate financial fit into their college search? Families need to understand that a true fit for a college is not a true fit unless it is also a financial fit. I try to help families understand the game of options. I have heard too many stories of students being left with one or two options when making their final decision and, when that happens, it is typically one school the student never wanted to go to and one school that is too expensive for the family. I always want the student and the family to be in a position to make a really good choice out of several options. What aspect of the college finance process do you most enjoy working on? It is important to think of the whole financial picture. Families think about tackling the cost of college, but this decision impacts every other area of your financial life, including day-to-day living budget, retirement plans, options for your other children, and your children’s life post college. What is the advice you give students who are thinking about borrowing loans for college? Loans can be a great investment or a great burden. If you borrow wisely, having your end goal in mind and fully taking advantage of your college environment loans can be a great investment in yourself. If you borrow more than you need, if you are not thinking about what you may make later on in life, and you do not immerse yourself in the experience, you will likely borrow too much and it will force you to make sacrifices later in life that you wish you had made when you were a college student. What is the best financial advice you ever received? One thing that has always stuck with me is the concept of cost per use. I believe that spending money on something, maybe spending more than you usually would be willing, is worth it if you are going to use that something constantly over a long period of time. This can include experiences and education, but you still have to spend within the confines of your overall family budget.

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