FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS*
I heard college costs so much money? Is this true?Cost and value must be put into perspective and this is one of the misunderstood factors of the cost of college. Unfortunately, when considering the total cost of college, many parents and students fail to look beyond tuition for a single year. It is important to recognize the full cost of a college degree, not simply tuition. Other components of the “cost of attendance” include room and board, fees, books, transportation and miscellaneous expenses. It is also important to evaluate how long it will take your student to graduate. The reality, however, is that with proper planning, the total cost of a degree can be well managed.
Is there less Financial Aid than there used to be?It is important to understand that “financial aid” is comprised of two distinctly different components: gift aid, and self-help aid. The former is truly a discount on the cost of attendance while the latter is simply a loan that must be repaid. With respect to gift aid from private sources, the colleges and universities, availability of these awards is largely based on the individual institution and the performance of their investments as well as their success in fundraising.
My parents make good money. Can we still qualify for financial aid?Aid is intended to make a college education available for students of families in many financial situations. College financial aid administrators often take into account not only income, but also other family members in college, home mortgage costs, and other factors. Aid is awarded to many families with incomes they thought would disqualify them. You’d be surprised at how many families that make really decent incomes still apply for financial aid- a lot.
If we saved money for college, can we still get financial aid?Saving for college is always a good idea. Since most financial aid comes in the form of loans, the aid you are likely to receive will need to be repaid. Tucking away money could mean you have fewer loans to repay, and it won’t necessarily mean you’re not eligible for aid if you need it. A family’s share of college costs is calculated based mostly on income, not assets such as savings.
I’m not a straight “A” student, can I still get financial aid?It’s true that many scholarships reward merit, but the vast majority of federal aid is based on financial need and does not even consider grades.
If I apply for a loan, do I have to take it?Families are not obligated to accept a low-interest loan if it is awarded to them. “In my opinion, everybody should apply for financial aid,” says Tally Hart, Director of Student Financial Aid at The Ohio State University. “Student loans are at all-time low interest rates.” She recommends applying and comparing the loan awards with other debt instruments and assets to determine the best financial deal.
Will working hurt my chances at getting financial aid?Students who attempt to juggle full-time work and full-time studies do struggle. But research shows that students who work a moderate amount often do better academically. Securing an on-campus job related to career goals is a good way for you to help pay college costs, get experience, and create new ties with the university.
Can I get financial aid for a private school?Experts recommend deferring cost considerations until late in the college-selection process. Most important is finding a school that meets your academic, career, and personal needs. In fact, you might have a better chance of receiving aid from a private school. Private colleges often offer more financial aid to attract students from every income level. Higher college expenses also mean a better chance of demonstrating financial need.
Is there unused “money” out there?Professional scholarship search services often tout this statistic. In fact, most unclaimed money is slated for a few eligible candidates, such as employees of a specific corporation or members of a certain organization. Most financial aid comes from the federal government, though it’s also a good idea to research other sources of aid.
Do we have to sell our house to pay for college?Home value is not considered in calculations for federal financial aid. Colleges may take home equity into account when determining how much you are expected to contribute to college costs, but income is a far greater factor in this determination. No college will expect your parents to sell their house to pay for your education.
Can we negotiate with the financial aid office?Many colleges will be sensitive to a family’s specific financial situation, especially if certain nondiscretionary costs, such as unusually high medical bills, have been overlooked. However, most colleges adhere to specific financial aid-award guidelines and will not adjust an award for a family that feels it got a better deal at another school.
*From College Planning Relief (www.collegeplanningrelief.com)