One of our most frequently asked questions is “What’s the right mix of spending, borrowing, and available financial aid?” Working from a solid plan is important — regardless of the amount you have saved for college. We’ve often found a large difference between ‘Advertised Price’ and ‘Actual Price’ for a college, and we can help make sure you get the best value for your cost of education.
Net Price Calculators
Starting in 2011, every college has been required to provide a net price calculator tool on their website. What is a net price calculator? It is a customized tool that can help estimate an individual’s actual tuition based upon entering specific family information. The intent is to help provide a realistic estimate of cost to attend that institution.
The truth is that tuition costs vary for each individual, based upon circumstances, is much like purchasing a seat on an airplane.
Federal Financial Aid
Many families don’t believe they will qualify for financial aid or they are intimidated by the forms and never apply. This is a mistake. It is important to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and to do it on time – do not wait until the deadline. The form is available starting January 1 every year. So if you are applying to college for the 2016 school year you must wait until January 1, 2016 to fill out the form.
After the FAFSA is submitted you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which contains your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for that year. This is the amount you are deemed capable of spending that year on college. It is important to note that the FAFSA form is filled out annually for each year a student is attending college. The EFC can vary each year, based upon the family circumstances. Colleges where a student has been accepted will use this Student Aid Report to generate a financial aid package. Historically, families are expected to contribute 5% of income and students 35%.
State Financial Aid
If applying to an in-state school, often your state will require some sort of form when awarding state grants. Connecting to these forms can be as simple as checking off a box while filling out the FAFSA. To ensure the connection is made make sure an in-state school is placed on your list of colleges on the FAFSA form.
An increasing number of private colleges are requiring an additional financial form called the CSS Profile. When evaluating a college and making note of the deadlines it is important to look if this additional form is required. There is a small fee to complete the CSS profile and the form may be found here.
Helpful Financial Aid Links