Top Seven Questions asked about College Funding

Top Seven Questions asked about College Funding

In this past January’s issue my article centered around the top ten mistakes that families make on a consistent basis when it comes to attending colleges.  This month I thought that I would list the most Frequently Asked Questions from Parents that I receive.  I have narrowed it down to seven questions, here they are.

Do we have to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) out application?

The answer is no, you do not.  If you can write out a check for the full amount of attending college.  Usually the colleges will not give you a financial aid package until they have received your Expected Family Contribution also known as (EFC) which is generated through the FAFSA application.

So, the real answer is yes if you want any financial aid in any form, from the college you will need to fill out the FAFSA application.

We are divorced and remarried.  What parents’ information needs to be reported and to who? 

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is required from all students seeking funding for college, asks questions specifically about the student’s current household.  This could be natural parents, step-parents, or a combination of both.

The CSS/Profile, which is a more detailed version of the FAFSA and is required in addition to the FAFSA by approximately 10% of the schools, may also ask questions about the non-custodial parent if the natural parents are divorced.

What is the difference between an un-subsidized and a subsidized loan? 

An un-subsidized loan accrues interest while the student attends college; whereas, the government pays the interest on a subsidized loan during attendance.  Please note that a student must demonstrate financial need to qualify for a subsidized loan.

We have heard we might make too much money to qualify for college funding – is that true? 

No – not anymore!  Colleges are now willing to offer funding (basically through their endowment funds) to families with higher annual incomes and greater net assets.  Students from families with annual incomes of $250,000+ are commonly offered very attractive funding packages.

Who really receives the most money for college and why? 

Although college financial aid was originally intended to go to those students who needed it the most, in many cases, it may actually go to those who know the most about the process.  Colleges now use financial aid as a marketing tool to attract the students they would most like to enroll.  The more you know about the overall process, and the more you are able to implement what you know into a workable plan, the more likely you are to receive the best education at the best price.

Should we go on campus visits with our student?

Yes – if at all possible.  It’s very important to let the student “do the talking” However, an extra set or two of eyes and ears will certainly pick up a great deal of additional information that can be discussed and weighed into the final decision.

Should we talk with the colleges or should we let our student? 

The student should be at the center of the process – especially the attendance decision-making process.  Parents however certainly play a very important part – guidance, suggestions, and support are essential.  Colleges like to see the student who has a great support structure, but the student’s ability to “stand on their own two feet” is very important.

What is the most important part of the college planning process? 

Understanding the fact that college is not only essential and expensive, but it is also a business.  Colleges consider themselves communities and look for a wide range of students to diversely fill each community.  Keep in mind that colleges typically offer admission to 3, 4, or even 5 times as many students as they need to keep their seats filled.  Being accepted for admission is by no means the end of the “battle.”  The institution making the student’s attendance possible by offering adequate funding is the real key.

There you have it.  These are the most common questions that I think I get asked on a regular basis from the parents.  By all means, it is not a complete list of every question I have ever been asked, that covers most of the variations of the ones that I receive.  I realize that I have not gotten into all the specifics for every question, I just don’t have the space in this article to do so.  Feel free to give me a call or come to one of my workshops to receive a lot more detail information to the seven questions above.

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