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Company steps in to help with college

Posted: July 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

From left, Hart High graduate Bobby Block and his mother, Josie, meet with counselors and consultants at College Bound Strategies in Santa Clarita. From third from left: college counselor Peggy Stabile, owner Suzanne Duncombe, vice president Karen Towles, consultants James Duncombe and Chris Towles.

Going to college today resembles something more like an obstacle course than a clear pathway to higher learning.

Rising costs and ongoing funding cuts during the lengthy recession have taken their toll on the number of students colleges can admit, and classes schools have to offer.

“Schools are being much more selective,” said Suzanne Duncombe, owner of College Bound Strategies.

Seed of an idea
The idea to start the college assistance service business came from a business run by Duncombe’s husband, John. A financial planner, he found that more and more people needed help with the increasingly competitive and complex college admissions process.

Duncombe, a teacher for 15 years in the Sulpher Springs School District, decided to launch College Bound Strategies in the fall of 2010 to help students with that process.

Joining her as vice president was the wife of her husband’s business partner, Karen Towles.

John Duncombe and Chris Towles provide financial-planning services, as it relates to the college expenses, for the families who come in for college planning assistance. Combining the services of both businesses allows College Bound Strategies to provide a complete package of services to each student and his or her family.

The business has a college counselor working with it and is in the process of hiring a couple more, Suzanne Duncombe said.

“Students really can’t get through a state school these days in four years,” Suzanne Duncombe said.

With cuts and reduced classes, it often takes a student up to seven years to complete a degree. And that can add up to a much bigger expense for college than families expect.

But Duncombe dispels a myth that there is a savings to be had by going to state universities.

“There isn’t the savings people expect,” she said. “A student can often spend as much or more at a state school than a private college today.”

College Bound Strategies helps direct students to schools that offer scholarships, and helps them find schools that offer strong financial aid packages.

Prepping students
The best time to begin working with a college planner is when the student is in the ninth or 10th grade, Duncombe said. Students often don’t take a look at their options until their senior year, and that’s too late.

The admissions process is huge, she said. And grades are more important than ever. A student’s community service and extra-curricular activities also factor heavily.

“We work with students one-on-one,” Duncombe said. “And we also guide students through an online service that helps them explore careers, options and interests to find the schools that interest them.”

College Bound Strategies also sets up a timeline to help students prepare and apply for college admission, as well as assists each student with essay writing and interviewing skills.

“I found the service very helpful,” said Bobby Block, 17, a recent graduate of Hart High.

Block, a child actor who appeared in commercials and small parts in movies and television shows, said he really had no idea what sort of school he wanted to attend. He just knew he wanted to attend college. He’s interested in European history and government studies.

“They introduced me to a school I had never heard of but completely  fell in love with,” Block said.

Block will be attending George Washington University in Washington D.C. this fall.

Whole package
College Bound Strategies helped Block’s family navigate through the entire process, Block said.

“We had no clue how to go about budgeting money for college,” Block’s mother, Josie said. “They gave us some really good strategies for investing.

College Bound Strategies helps take the stress out of the college acceptance process, Duncombe said.

“Business is taking off,” Duncombe said.

College Bound Strategies is located at 26415 Carl Boyer Drive, Suite 160 in Santa Clarita. They can be reached at (661) 222-9976 and their services can be viewed at


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