What can you expect to pay for college?
What can you expect to pay for college?
Financial Aid | Colleges offering scholarships
Financial Aid forms | Financial Aid resources
While this question cannot be fully answered until you and your student receive financial aid packages from colleges, you can gain insight into your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You can use FAFSA4caster to learn about the financial aid process and get an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.
Another helpful resource is the FinAid website, which provides a financial aid calculator to allow you to calculate your EFC by Federal Methodology and then by Institutional Methodology. The earlier in your child’s life that you calculate your EFC, the better you will be able to develop a financial plan for college.
Sources of Financial Aid
There are two primary sources of financial assistance available to families: need-based aid and merit-based aid.
Need-based aid depends on a family’s and a student’s income and assets. The federal government has established standards for eligibility that change each year.
Merit-based aid is awarded for academic excellence, athletic accomplishments, musical, artistic, and theatrical talents, leadership, and community service.
Financial Aid Forms
Every parent of a college-bound student should complete a FASFA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The only way to determine if you will be eligible for any federal aid is to complete this form. In addition, many colleges require that this form be completed for a student to be eligible for their scholarships. Some colleges will not make an admissions decision if the proper forms haven't been completed! Even if you don't think you will be eligible for need-based aid, it's in your best interest to complete the FASFA.
The FASFA website provides a wealth of information regarding financing a college education. The first day the FASFA can be submitted is January 1st of the student’s senior year of high school. The form typically becomes available sometime around Thanksgiving. While the FASFA requires information from your W-2 forms and tax return, you should not wait for these forms to complete the FASFA. You can estimate your earnings based on last year’s federal income tax return and make changes to your form when you receive your new W-2’s.
Many private colleges now also require families to complete the CSS Financial Aid Profile. The Profile asks for more detailed information about your family’s financial circumstances. https://profileonline.collegeboard.com/prf/index.jsp Each college has its own deadline for the Profile, which is often much earlier than that of the FASFA.
Private colleges have their own formulas to determine a family’s contribution. Since formulas vary from college to college , it is often difficult to predict precisely what a college will expect you to contribute. Asking a college financial aid officer about the amount of need the institution meets for each student will give you a sense for the college’s philosophy on aid.
As part of the Higher Education Act of 2008, all institutions participating in Title IV financial aid programs will be required to install a “net-price calculator” on their Websites by October 11, 2011.
Most colleges, including some of the top schools in the country, place the bulk of their financial resources into need-based aid. The vast majority offer both need-based aid and merit scholarships. Parents and students must research the policies of each college to discern if a particular college might provide the necessary need-based aid or the desired scholarships.
Colleges Offering Substantial Scholarships
A new website offers a tremendous resource for students searching for merit aid from colleges: www.MeritAid.com
This site allows you to find out the scholarship offerings of a particular college or enter personal information that will match you to scholarships you may be eligible for at colleges and universities.
For scholarships offered by other agencies outside of the colleges themselves, visit Fastweb. This free service is the best resource for legitimate scholarships. NEVER apply for a scholarship or a scholarship service that requires a fee. Legitimate scholarships are free to applicants and Fastweb is the best scholarship search tool out there.
Financial aid Resources
There are a number of resources parents can consult to learn more about financing a college education.
In addition to the web resources already mentioned, the best financial aid resources on the web are: