Paying for College
Save money on college
We look for opportunities for families to save money on college. Did you know that just a little over ten percent of families pay the sticker price for college tuition? Educ8Fit Consulting provides information and advice about obtaining need- and merit-based financial assistance. In addition, we use our knowledge to help identify ways to get in-State tuition.
We also identify affordability by examining the relationship between loan payments and typical salaries. Here are tools that your family can use to learn about and apply for student financial aid.
Savings and Tax-Advantaged Savings Plans
Tax-advantaged savings plans can help families save for college costs. The College Savings Plans Network provides information about Section 529 College Savings Plans and Prepaid Tuition Plans: https://www.collegesavings.org/. Other sources of information include:
Please also see my blog post on this subject at: Six Things for Parents to Consider When Saving for College (educ8fit.com).
Sticker Price vs. Net Price
Students often do not pay the full sticker price for a school. In fact, sometimes the most expensive college on a student’s list regarding sticker price can be the least expensive in terms of net price. Net price takes into account the cost after scholarships and grants are provided. Here is the U.S. Department of Education’s website about net price: https://collegecost.ed.gov/net-price.
Predicting Need-Based Aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Forecaster: https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/estimate helps families calculate estimates for financial aid in advance of applying for financial aid. This may be helpful for a family to use in a student’s sophomore or junior year of high school before college lists are developed.
The EFC, which originally stood for Expected Family Contribution, is an amount suggested to institutions that the family should contribute to pay for the student’s education. The institutions, however, can determine a different amount. The EFC can be estimated by going to this website: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-calculator.
Merit Aid Scholarships
Below are some websites where you can search for merit aid. Please keep in mind that the likeliest sources of merit aid are (1) the college or university in which you enroll and (2) local entities.
College Board (requires registration): https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search
FastWeb (requires registration): https://www.fastweb.com/college-scholarships
Unigo (requires registration): https:www.unigo.com
Scholarships.com (requires registration): https://www.scholarships.com
Cappex (requires registration): https://www.cappex.com/scholarships
Some schools are more generous with merit aid than others, and some types of students are better candidates for merit aid than others based on how they compare with other applicants. Be wary of organizations that offer to help you find a scholarship in exchange for a fee.
Families should understand how much they can borrow based on a certain salary and the salaries needed to repay loans of a certain size. It’s also important for families to know how much loan payments will be based on the total amount of debt accumulated. These tools can help families perform the calculations:
The Salary Wizard at Mapping Your Future: http://mappingyourfuture.org/paying/debtwizard/
The Loan Repayment Wizard at Mapping Your Future: https://www.mappingyourfuture.org/paying/standardcalculator.cfm
Check “Career Prospects” under this link to see if the likely salary for your intended profession seems to be enough that you could afford to repay loans: Home: Occupational Outlook Handbook: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov).
See our blog post on the proposed new student loan repayment plan: Reduced Student Loan Payments: The New Federal Repayment Plan (educ8fit.com).
Applying for Need-Based Aid
Applying for need-based aid can be simplified if you break it down into steps. Look at it the same way you might approach completing a tax form for the first time. First, you start by gathering the documents you need to respond. It will likely help if you fill out a worksheet in advance of inputting data online. Here is a worksheet you can use: https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2022-23-fafsa-worksheet.pdf.
The parent and the student will each need to generate an identification number, referred to as a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, when you apply for Federal student aid. You apply for it at this website: Create Account | Federal Student Aid.
Note to married and divorced women -- Are you having trouble with your name and social security number not matching when you apply? Be sure to use the name on your social security card, which might be your maiden name.
When you are ready to apply for Federal student aid, you can do so at this website: https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa. Keep in mind that if you make a mistake, you can go back and fix it. If the information from your FAFSA form has gone to the Department of Education already and been processed, you can still request a change to the information. After the information from your FAFSA application is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which you should review for accuracy. On the SAR will be a reference to a DRN, which stands for Data Release Number. The DRN can be provided to a customer service representative with the Department of Education in order to make changes to a student’s FAFSA information. Alternatively, you can use your FSA ID to log in after the FAFSA is processed, click “Make FAFSA Corrections,” make the necessary changes, and then submit the changes. Some applications are selected for verification, so do not be surprised if you are asked to provide documents that support the information you entered in the FAFSA.
Please be aware that the process for obtaining federal financial aid will change beginning with the 2024-25 school year as part of an effort to simplify the process. Here is a summary of the changes: Pandemic Relief Package Simplifies FAFSA (forbes.com).
In addition to completing the FAFSA, you should check with the schools you are applying to just in case they have additional forms for you to fill out. The schools may also have deadlines that you must comply with to receive financial aid.
Some schools require information from the CSS Profile since they are providing institutional aid and not just processing federal aid. Here is basic information about the CSS Profile: https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/getting-started.
Check out resources for under-resourced students here to help identify opportunities to save money in the process of finding a college: https://www.educ8fit.com/economically-disadvantaged.
Appealing Financial Award Offers
You might decide that the financial aid you have been offered is inadequate, or your family's financial situation may have declined since the year of the data. You might want to appeal the financial aid offered and there are some templates you can use to do that here: SwiftStudent | Free College Financial Aid Appeal Resources | FormSwift.
Comparing Financial Award Offers
Educ8Fit Consulting encourages families to look at: the cost after all grant aid is factored in, the affordability of the loans, the ability to work the hours involved in the work-study job, and any unmet need. The College Board/Big Future website provides an online option for comparing award packages: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/tools-calculators. Other information that can be used to help make decisions about what college to attend can be found here: https://www.educ8fit.com/decision-making.
Opportunities to Save Money in Florida
Please see our blog post at: You Can Save Money on Florida Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Opportunities to Save Money in Virginia
Please see our blog post at: You Can Save Money on Virginia Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Opportunities to Save Money in Georgia
Please see our blog post at: Save Money on Georgia Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Opportunities to Save Money in North Carolina
Please see our blog post at: Save Money on North Carolina Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Opportunities to Save Money in Maryland
Please see our blog post at: Save Money on Maryland Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Opportunities to Save Money in Minnesota
Please see our blog post at: Save Money on Minnesota Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Opportunities to Save Money in South Carolina
Please see our blog post at: Save Money on South Carolina Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Opportunities to Save Money in Wisconsin
Please see our blog post at: Save Money on Wisconsin Tuition (educ8fit.com)
Contact me for a free consultation.