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A college bound student is likely to pay a huge price for that coveted sheepskin…$9,000 a year to cover tuition and fees at a public institution…more than $36,000 per year at the average private college according to the College Board and this doesn’t include book food, room and board, books and supplies, laundry and more.

The College Board tells us that last year that college students in the United States received $178 billion worth of financial aid from 2010-2011. The American Council of Education estimates that more than 10 percent of those who didn’t apply would have been eligible for some aid.

There is plenty of financial aid available to those who learn how to use the system and resources available according to student loan originator, Sallie Mae.  On January 1, 2012, the Department of Education began accepting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

The FAFSA process is needs based, taking into account parental and student income, age and assets and determines how much the family is expected to contribute toward the student’s education.  If this number is less than the amount charged by the selected college, the student is eligible for the difference which can come in the form of grants, scholarships, or low interest loans

To understand the FAFSA process, go to the web site, www.finaid.com where you can input your financial information and calculate an estimated family expected contribution rate.  You may also visit www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Sallie Mae’s website connects with an estimated $3 billion in private scholarships awarded nationally each year.  The Fund aims to send the message that money is available to those who make the effort to apply.  Since 2011, the Sallie Mae Fund has awarded more than $15.5 million in scholarships to more than 6,350 students.

For families facing college expenses those likely to qualify for financial aid should strive to get into the best colleges possible and those likely to not qualify should seek out the most economical college programs.

In the case of the former, if the family is expected to contribute $10,000 and the cost at an Ivy League school is $45,000, the family is going to pay $10,000 whether the student goes to a state college next door or to the Ivy League institution.

In the case of the latter, parents and student should shop for the best school possible within their budget.  The student might consider enrolling in Advance Placement classes while in high school to earn college credits.  These credits may cut the college stay from 4 years to 3…a significant savings!

Scholarship and aid money typically is handed out on a first come basis.  So learn the system, apply early and apply often.

For more information or support with college savings plans, please contact our office at 925.462.6007 or e-mail us at info@wealth-mgt.net.

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