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Paying for College

Save money on college

I look for opportunities for families to save money on college if that is one of their goals.  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, I use my knowledge to help identify ways to get in-State tuition. 

College Affordability

I 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:  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 (


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 is 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:


Predicting Need-Based Aid

Need-based financial aid is typically determined by one of two forms, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the CSS Profile.  Schools that tend to provide a lot of their own money for need-based aid use the CSS Profile, but most just use the FAFSA.  


The FAFSA collects data to determine the Student Aid Index (SAI) for an individual student.  The lower the SAI, the more need-based financial aid a student is likely to receive.  The number can be as low as -1,500.  For now, this seems to be the best way to predict your SAI:  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 CSS Profile form generates a number for an "EFC."  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:

The College Navigator website has a helpful tool to let you know what your price will likely be after you receive need-based aid.  You can first look up a college by its name, then click on the link to "net price."  You can find the website here:

Colleges are required to include something called a "Net Price Calculator" on their websites.  Families enter financial aid information into these systems and get an estimate as to what they would need to pay.  Some colleges will offer a more official financial aid "preread," but most do not have enough staff to offer the service.

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. 


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 outside of the college 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:


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 (

See my blog post on the proposed new student loan repayment plan:  Reduced Student Loan Payments: The New Federal Repayment Plan (  

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:

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:  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 (

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:

Check out resources for economically disadvantaged students here to help identify opportunities to save money in the process of finding a college:

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.  Other information that can be used to help make decisions about what college to attend can be found here:

Opportunities to Save Money in Florida

Please see our blog post at:  You Can Save Money on Florida Tuition (

Also see:

Opportunities to Save Money in Virginia

Please see our blog post at:  You Can Save Money on Virginia Tuition (

Opportunities to Save Money in Georgia

Please see our blog post at:  Save Money on Georgia Tuition (

Opportunities to Save Money in North Carolina

Please see our blog post at:  Save Money on North Carolina Tuition (

Opportunities to Save Money in Maryland

Please see our blog post at:  Save Money on Maryland Tuition (

Opportunities to Save Money in Minnesota

Please see our blog post at:  Save Money on Minnesota Tuition (

Opportunities to Save Money in South Carolina

Please see our blog post at:  Save Money on South Carolina Tuition (

Opportunities to Save Money in Wisconsin

Please see our blog post at:  Save Money on Wisconsin Tuition (

Opportunities to Save Money in New York

Please see our blog post at:

Opportunities to Save Money in New Jersey

Please see our blog post at:

Opportunities to Save Money in Pennsylvania

Please see our blog post at:

Opportunities to Save Money in Texas

Please see our blog post at:

Opportunities to Save Money in California

Please see our blog post at:

Also see:

Opportunities to Save Money in Michigan

Please see our blog post at:

Contact me for a free consultation.

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