Professional Designations

What Is a Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS)?

By  Ash and Pri

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A Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS) is a finance professional who specializes in helping clients with financial planning for college. CCPS members are certified by the National Institute of Certified College Planners (NICCP) to provide advice, education, and ongoing support to prepare families for the financial implications of college. 

This article will define the Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS) designation, why you should hire one, and what it takes to earn and maintain the CCPS designation. 

What Is a Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS) Designation?

The CCPS certificate is administered by the National Institute of Certified College Planners (NICCP). Founded in 2002, NICCP is the only organization that grants a college financial planning designation in the United States. 

The purpose of the CCPS program is to provide financial planning training, specifically in saving and paying for college. 

Leading organizations such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) boards recognize the CCPS designation and allow designees to count their CCPS course completion towards CFP and CFA continuing education credits. 

CCPS holders are finance professionals with extensive experience in guiding students and families through the complex financial implications of attending college. Most CCPS graduates already have other professional designations like the CPA or CFP. They can use their wide breadth of knowledge and experience to guide their clients to the proper financial outcomes. 

Should You Hire a Professional with a CCPS Designation?

A college education is expensive. As per research, the average bachelor’s degree graduate took a loan of $28,400 in the 2019-20 school year. 

Payments for a large loan can impact your financial future for years after graduation. When planning for college, parents and students should be aware of all methodologies and strategies available to them to make the right financial decisions. These scenarios are where certified college planning specialists can make a difference. 

For example, CCPS members can help families with obtaining financial aid. In 2020-21, students received $239 billion in financial aid from the government and private grants, loans, tax credits, and federal work-study programs. The average amount of financial aid received per undergraduate student was $14,800, hugely offsetting the cost of tuition. 

CCPS graduates help clients with college loan processes, paperwork, tax planning strategies, and creative methodologies to raise tuition funds. They can also provide insurance and regular financial planning advice tailored to each client’s goals. If you are struggling to answer any of the below questions, hiring a CCPS professional for guidance may be the right choice for you: 

  • What is a 529 plan, and should I invest in one? 
  • Where can I get financial aid for college? 
  • How much money should I save for college? 
  • Who can help me with all the tuition and aid paperwork? 
  • Should I get a student loan? 
  • Where should I get a student loan from?
  • I own a home. Can I leverage that to pay for education? 
  • How does my child’s tuition affect my taxes? 
  • Do I need insurance? 

What Does It Take to Earn and Maintain the CCPS Designation?

A prospective CCPS must sign up for the college financial planning certification and designation program directly on NICCP’s website. Signing up for the program requires paying a one-time and ongoing monthly fee. 

To apply for CCPS certification, professionals must have a previous designation or license in a financial advice-related field. In rare cases, NICCP may consider applicants with extensive experience and education, even without previous designations. 

The program is divided into three separate self-study modules, which can be completed online or downloaded to your computer. 

  1. Module 1 includes learning how to pay for college. The topics range from financial aid overview, student resources, grants, and scholarships, work-study, college loans, alternative loans, college admission issues, and advanced financial aid topics.
  2. Module 2 teaches how to save for college, including leveraging qualified tuition programs and choosing the correct savings accounts, investments, insurance, and tax saving strategies. 
  3. Module 3 includes advanced college funding strategies, where students can learn about financial aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs, various types of loans, and government assistance programs. 

Each module includes approximately 150 pages of associated study content, exam preparation audio files, and an exam. The audio files contain a recap of the key concepts and material that will be tested in the exam. Candidates are required to score at least 70% on each exam as a passing grade for the designation.

NICCP advises candidates to complete each module’s course content, audio review, and exam before moving on to the next module. 

CCPS graduates must complete 24 hours of continuing education each year. In addition, designation holders must abide by the CCPS code of ethics, which describes the rules governing a CCPS designee’s conduct. These principles include displaying the highest level of integrity, objectivity, fairness, professionalism, competence, confidentiality, and diligence when dealing with clients. Failure to abide by the high standards can result in disciplinary action or revocation of designation by NICCP. 

Featured Certified College Planning Specialists on Wealthtender

📍 Click on a pin in the map view below for a preview of CCPS financial advisors who can work with you to develop a personalized financial plan.


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About the Author

Ash & Pri

Ash & Pri are the founders of AshandPri.com, where they empower readers to make smart money decisions across all aspects of life. 

After achieving their FIRE goals in their 30s, they launched their blogging business in late 2021 and scaled it up quickly to generate a consistent income within a few months. 

You can find their expert financial advice & tips featured on sites like Forbes, GoBankingRates, Apartment Therapy, MSN, and more.

Disclaimer: To make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.