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I am a single parent of two teen-age boys, one a junior in HS. Our financial situation is stable, more or less, but on a teacher's salary and no child support from ex, we are making ends meet, but barely. My question is this: We currently rent our house. My 2 sons go to an excellent private school, and we receive very generous financial assistance from the school, based on my income and I assume, lack of assets. We are looking at colleges for my older son, and of course we are investigating all avenues for need-based, as opposed to loans, financial aid for college. A possible opportunity has arisen to purchase a small house that is in foreclosure. Our mortgage, should I even qualify for one, would be significantly less than our current rent. Does owning a house, even a small one, as opposed to renting, make any significant difference in how a FAFSA is interpreted, and what aid may or may not be awarded? I do not want to jeopardize any non-loan aid that might be available to my son by becoming a home-owner, but at the same time, the chance to enter the housing market in a reasonably affordable way is tempting too. Will this make a big difference? Thank you for any and all advice regarding financial aid for college - it is a huge process and more than a little overwhelming.
Hello, I need information about the college fees once the child lives out of home, it gets expensive with 10K more per year. FASFA I hear helps lots of people but with us its every year congratulations you can add it to all your other loans in life. I wonder we are missing on Cal Grant or something may help for real, please help with some good websites even if its only for books. Regards, Stressed parent
Our family is not needy, nor are we from any minority group. However, we'll have 2 kids concurrently enrolled in college for at least 3 years, and we can't afford to send them both (or possibly either) to big-name schools. I wonder if there are any scholarships for academic merit anymore, or for music (rather than sports!). Is there a way to find merit-scholarships online? Any help would be appreciated. (I know that one option is to enroll at first in community colleges or in-state or local schools, and I'd happily receive wisdom on those sorts of lower-cost choices as well.) - Too much income but not enough money
In the spring of the year your first child will start college, you will need to fill out the FAFSA online. That is a consolidated financial aid website and a pretty much mandatory first step to getting any aid. Via that you will hear about Pell grants, Cal grants, whatever financial aid your college offers you, and loans (subsidized and unsubsidized).
Having two kids in college at once should help some; they do take that into account.
A few random things: in case of divorce/separate households, you only need to put down one family's income, not both. We used mine, which was far lower. If you're self-employed, get a good accountant so you can get your income as low as possible the year before your kids start.
I personally think that, with few exceptions, there's no reason not to do CSUs. If your children are going into a field where an Ivy League type degree is required, fine. But most people don't need that. I don't know if there's much benefit to doing community college and then transferring to a CSU or other--my husband wished he'd just gone to a CSU first. Also, he was in a program at Laney College that was supposed to help him transition to UC Berkeley, but then he was turned down by UCB because his GPA wasn't high enough, something the program had never flagged as an issue. Very upsetting at the last minute. He went to SFSU and was very happy there (as was I, for both BA and MA degrees).
Your kids should expect to work during college to help defray expenses.
Overall, what's difficult about the whole situation these days is that you need a college degree to get just about any job that's not retail, but a college degree is absolutely no guarantee of anything. The job market for young adults is staggeringly bad. My feeling is that college still opens doors and still gives kids a chance to round out their education while finishing growing up. I would not break the bank the achieve these goals, however. one kid is out of college, two to go
Having two kids in college will definitely be taken into consideration when/if you apply for financial aid (FAFSA). Merit scholarships that are granted by outside organizations other than the school itself will go toward tuition, etc., but will also reduce whatever financial aid you may be granted by the school. It's a Catch-22.
When you and your kids look at schools consider what sort of endowment they have, and how many of their students are given financial aid, this information is usually published on their website and can give you a pretty good idea of how well the school will be help you offset the costs.
Lastly, we would not have been able to finance our daughter's education without federal parent loans. I tried to encourage our daughter to attend two years at community college to save money but I'm very happy she chose otherwise. Her working relationships, academic challenges and successes, and close friendships have really paid off for her. But when it comes down to it if your kids are happy following that route it is a great savings in the end and can greatly improve their chances of going to any of the UC schools to finish their last two years. It's the route I had to take and I don't regret it at all. Best of luck
As my two kids approach college (one will start in 7 years), I'm wondering if it's a good idea to start making less money so they will have a chance of receiving financial aid. I have my own business and make a fairly high net income, but pay over 40% in total taxes. I have many friends who chose to be SAH parents, or chose to work very part time doing creative jobs like photographer and writer, and they have ended up getting free tuition to private school, subsidized camps etc. all these years. They also have mellow lives without corporate stress! I feel like a dupe for selling my soul to a high-stress job just so we can pay full price for everything. We've saved $1000 a month in 529s since they were born, but it will still come up short, and we had to work so many hours and forgo so much to save like that. The problem is, I asked my accountant ''how much can we make so our kids will for sure receive financial aid in college?'' and he could not answer, saying it's a complicated formula. Does anyone with experience know the magic number for household income to receive financial aid for college? How long of a period do they look at in making financial aid decisions - 3 years prior to starting college? longer? Thanks for any insights! Would love to mini-retire
Look, if your children go to very expensive schools, maybe you won't have enough. Maybe you will. Maybe they will get merit scholarships. Maybe they won't even get into the very expensive schools (yes, I know that they're all getting expensive, but there's still a range). It's really hard to know what you'll be doing in seven years.
Sure, you can quit your job, make less money, and maybe take advantage of some scholarships or sliding scale rates. I have been a self-employed writer for 14 years, and with the economy down, I have no choice but to apply for every discount I can get. And it really stinks. It stinks explaining each year to Healthy Families just how much I make and how I spend it, but by doing so, I save $200/month on my son's health insurance, which is huge for us. We make right on the borderline for just about every lower-middle class program, so it's a constant battle. Last year I was on track to make about $1,000-$2,000 more than last year, and that jeopardized about $5,000 worth of funding. I am not enjoying this. I'd rather make more money and not have to deal with the humiliation and invasion of my privacy. Maybe your friends would, too.
I think the bigger question is whether you're happy in your work. Don't compare yourself to others' situations--you don't know what's happening for them. Do you like working in your business? Are you happy with your lifestyle? Make your changes based on that, not just on some assumption about how it would be if you were broke and qualified for aid. Being broke and qualifying for aid really stinks. miss the days when I made good money
The FAFSA asks for your adjusted gross income. If you can get it under about $78k-$80k, you are well-positioned to qualify for financial aid -- assuming that you don't have huge assets. We are self-employed, so we have a large gross income, but much of it is cancelled out by business expenses.
I am not sure how much the money you have saved in 529 accounts will weigh against this. With 529s, when the kid turns 18, the account can be put in their name rather than the parents'.
Others may have more comprehensive info on this. anonymous
An odd thing is that many state schools (like Cal) may be more expensive to a Californian than going to Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, etc. That's because a ''full'' scholarship to a state school, whose in-state cost is about 26000 (vs 54000 for Brown), often means the ''tuition'' (or in CA, fees) are covered but many other things may not be. Since the fees at Cal are about 13000, a full scholarship may only cover half the actual costs of attending.
Next issue - when to ''stop'' working, or when to start living in poverty on 60k a year. Just a year before applying to college. For instance, the FAFSA application you fill out for the 2013-14 school year will be based on your 2012 earnings. Note, unless you have unusually large asset worth, this will not generally affect the aid you get. The questions are mostly about INCOME in the previous year meaning tax return stuff (including interest earned, ect.), and not about how many homes you own or the fact you have five mint Maserattis. I believe it does however ask you how much you currently have in cash and stocks. Disclaimer: some schools do have you fill out ''supplemental'' information which may ask about assets, houses, business net worth, etc, but the standard FAFSA does not. Go to the FAFSA website and maybe you can look at the questions but you may need to apply for a PIN first. It's probably easier to find a book about this that recreates the FAFSA forms or look online at non-FAFSA sites maybe.
Lastly, what to do with all those college savings? Well, they ask you about that, if I remember right, and then it seems to me they penalize you for having been a good citizen by gladly helping themselves to your college savings. However, if these savings are not in a ''college'' savings account, but just some other regular account, well, I don't know. You could find a college counselor who might have more detail. sean
The answer to whether you'll have the resources to pay for college yourself or via financial aid, at your current or a lower income level, really just depends entirely on where your children 1) expect to, and 2) can go to college. Different schools just have very, very different financial aid offerings, even though they all use the same forms to calculate ''need'' (it's worth noting that the standard FAFSA, which leaves out a lot of info on parents' financial status, is not the primary tool used by most schools...it's mostly used to calculate eligibility for forms of federal aid, which always supplement school aid but never come close to meeting actual need).
If your kids are academic superstars, there's a very good chance that, at whatever level of income you choose to be at, they'll find a way to attend college without mortgaging their future too badly. This is because a handful of the most selective schools in the country (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, maybe Columbia) are extremely generous with aid both for low-income and for middle-class families and really will meet whatever your need is if you get admitted. And/or there still are very high-quality schools out there, I think, that offer merit-based scholarships...University of Chicago is one that, at least last I heard, still gives some students merit-based free rides.
Also, if your kids would be comfortable going to state universities, you probably should feel freer to switch voluntarily to a lower income bracket. Even with tuition increases the fees are just so much more manageable...with the savings you've accumulated so far, and some financial planning, you can make this work.
The un-sweet spot to be in is if your kids are likely, because of the kind of high school they attend and the social world they're in, to be looking at slightly less selective national private schools like NYU, USC, Boston University, Tufts, and even Cornell/Penn/Brown. Sadly, while I imagine these schools do work to make themselves affordable to at least some truly low-income students, they are accessible to middle-class students only through enormous debt. Unless you are willing to let yourself become truly low-income, these schools will be out of reach for your kids if you downshift. If they seem like the kinds of places your kids may want to go (and if you are sending them to a private or ''good'' public high school, that is quite possible), you may be setting yourself on a difficult road if you downshift.
Good luck! It's a frustratingly complicated, opaque system. Former scholarship kid
Is there any point in applying for aid with a family income of about $180,000? I realize we are fortunate and well off, yet we live a modest life - no cable, 20 year old car, cook at home. Are there really no resources? Will our 2 children even qualify for reduced interest loans? Our savings for each total $40,000, which will cover a little more than one year of UC. We should be able to keep contributing about $10,000 each per year, if we live on beans and toast, and the car doesn't die, but I'm sad and frustrated to realize the situation we're in. Neither child will get scholarships based on sports, talent, academics, or heritage. Am I missing any options? Blue
If you apply for financial aid, then the college is supposed to make you (actually your child) an offer so that you can pay for your child's college expenses. The offer can include loans, grants, etc. David
I was making decent money when I decided to go back to school to get an MA in creative writing at SFSU. Didn't do the FAFSA at first because I didn't know anything about it. But when I did, I was surprised to get some Cal grants. Who knew? They also consider how many kids you have in school, which can help. definitely do it
As a single, working parent, what are the steps my son and I must take to help him get recruited with scholarships by four year colleges, as an excellent football player with at least a 2.0 four year GPA and all requirements except three years of different math courses? He is working on that one. Thanks.
We just submitted our FAFSA and CSS and the initial email we received back is that we can be expected to contribute 37,000 (of 50k+) a year towards our daughters tuition. That's 28% of our income. My question is in the end can we expect more help from the schools or is this accurate? anon
I am a single mom with three girls, 15 and under, and am about to get married for the second time. He has two grown kids. I am a financial neanderthal and need both recommendations and guidance on how to begin planning. If I had 1000 dollars I would go to a CPA but I don't. Neither us owns a house. We have some retirement, but that is about it. I understand there are more drawbacks than benefits for marriage, financially speaking. My biggest concern is financial aid for my kids when they go to college. He makes about 150K. I make 100K. I was told that if we get married, even if we have a pre-nup, and he does not adopt my kid and even if he will NOT pay for my kids college, colleges will consider his tax returns anyway. Thoughts? We can have a wedding ceremony in front of family, friends and our god but I certainly don't have to register it with the government, do I? What am I giving up I don't? Who should I talk to, what books should I read, and what would you do? Am I being silly? Thank you much, smarter the second time
It's that time of year when our senior is about to fill out college applications. But we're having an issue about expectations. Of course, our teen wants to go away to a 4-year state college. Unfortunately, with a younger teen in the household, we can't afford for both of them to go away 4 years. We can afford community college and then the last 2 years away. And we're both in our late 50's and with 20 years left on our mortgage, we are very reluctant to add more debt. And we make too much money to qualify for aid. What makes it difficult for our teen is watching all the other kids apply to schools away. Anon
A good college counselor at your teen's school should be able to let you know if your teen's academic record would make this a possibility, and also should be able to steer you to some of these schools. Also, look at the school's web sites for info on merit-based aid; some will tell you that if you have a GPA of X and SATs of Y you qualify for $Z...
Finally, were I in this situation, I would tell my child that getting into school wouldn't mean he/she could go, but that a generous aid package would be necessary. And if my teen doesn't mind completing an application knowing that money might prevent her from going, I'd support that. (Some teens many feel it's not worth the application effort, though.) Another 2012 mom
Before you just decide that it's got to be community college plus a four-year college, do your research. The cost of CSUs has gone up but it isn't that bad. Also, give your kid(s) some options. Why can't they go to a four-year CSU in SoCal, etc.? If financial aid covers some of the cost, they can work to support themselves for the rest. Or they can choose to take out student loans in their own names. This is their life. If they want to go away, they can work towards it. It will be character building.
I guess your email struck a nerve, as I feel you're dismissing the options without knowing anything about them. I think it's because 25 years ago when I was in high school, I assumed my parents were too middle class for us to get financial aid, but too broke to pay for much. I went to the nearby CSU and lived at home, never applying for financial aid or any other schools. Well, my parents were broke enough, plus I scored in the 98th percentile in the SATs, that I could have certainly gotten financial aid. No one in my life cared enough to think bigger for me. My life wasn't ruined or anything, but how different would it have been if I'd gone away to school? start big and adjust plans only when necessary
it is possible to attend community college in another part of the state? i know santa monica community college is popular. do you have friends/family who they could live with (so at least they aren't living at home)? good luck. judith
If I refinance my home (putting aside the fact that this may not be the smart thing to do) to get money out for college, is there a limit on how much of the interest is deductible? Anon
For Alternative Minimum Tax (''AMT''), none of this interest will be deductible. For AMT, only interest on a loan secured by your home and used directly to purchase your home or to construct permanent improvements to your home, is deductible. No other mortgage interest will be deductible.
Individuals pay the larger of their Regular tax or AMT amount. Maria
We are strapped for cash and my stepchild will be starting college next year. Can anyone tell me about student aid loans designed for parents to pay their childrens' college costs? And if anyone happens to know, can one use these loans toward child support payments to cover room & board & tuition? Thanks.
My 17 yr old AHS senior is applying to colleges right now. He is applying to public and private schools. I have had full custody (physical and legal) of him since he was 6 yrs old. About 2 yrs ago Dad started paying child support- $500/ month. Dad earns about 85K a year and I earn about 90K. Dad just informed me that he has no plans to pay for college beyond the current $500/ month. I am incredibly frustrated but here is my question. When one applies for financial aid-can I explain that I am the sole provider even though Dad actually earns decent money? Will they believe me? I know that once child is 18 he is not required to pay anything and we don't have a legal agreement about college. I don't want my son to waste time/ money applying to places that we know we cannot afford or that we won't get any financial aid. Additional information-have another child college bound in 2 yrs as well. Thanks in advance for your advice and/or personal experiences in this area. frustrated mom
How does a single mom with two middle school aged sons, with no college fund, minimal retirement savings, even begin to think about paying for any part of college when tuition is so astronomical? I am a teacher and my children have gone to academically rigorous independent schools since K with significant financial aid due to my faculty position. Now that college is around the corner, I am panicked. I do not want them to start off their adult lives saddled with thousands in loans, but want every possible educational opportunity for them. Any advice or words of wisdom welcome. financially challenged mom
Another point -- as a single mom, your income will also help qualify your sons for scholarship support. At the wealthiest institutions they offer need-based scholarships and ''blind'' admissions, meaning that they admit students on the basis of qualification and then look at their financial situation. At the state institutions there are special considerations for low-income families with multiple children.
Third, if your sons are not great students or athletes, the community college route is perfectly fine, especially for the first couple of years. There are wonderful community colleges right around here -- they can live at home and pay a relatively low amount.
Fourth -- give your sons the gift of a work ethic. I had part-time jobs explicitly with the idea of saving for college from my freshman year in high school on. During the summers I worked full-time, and I always worked part- time while in college. There is no reason why you should shoulder this burden all on your own; it will serve your sons well if they help with the cost and it will teach them the value of the education they receive. I think too few parents now take seriously the value of learning to work for pay. It would not be the end of the world if your sons had to take a year off in between high school and college to save up some funds.
It can be done without tremendous debt! Good luck! former scholarship recipient and work-study student
You can learn a lot from the online financial aid websites and from financial aid books in bookstores. Read these carefully. They spell out the issues of private vs. public colleges (in many cases, the amount you are expected to pay is the same whether your child goes to a private school or a public one). Each college may offer a different financial aid package, so don't rule out colleges automatically just because their tuition is high.
When your oldest child becomes a sophomore in high school, have an honest talk with him about how he may need to apply for every scholarship he hears about, help work his way through college, work summers, go to the college that offers the most financial aid, and take out large loans. If things don't work out financially, he may have to go to community college for the first two years and live at home. You can tell him you are hoping this worst case scenario won't happen, but that you won't know for sure until he is accepted and sees how much financial aid may be offered. Maybe things will work out better than you think. At any rate, the more he can do to do well in school and engage in meaningful activities and show his talents, the better things will be all around.
Also, consider: Any relatives that might be willing to help? Anonymous
Am I the only one who is finding the whole financial aid process to be a cruel joke? What am I not understanding? We fill out the FAFSA, based on which, some formula determines the “expected parent contribution”. It is an outlandish number that we could never in a million years actually afford. Yet that number establishes your “need” -- it is a word game. Define our need in a way that does not correspond to reality -- then even if you fill that need 100%, we still cannot afford to go to school! And yet that is what happens -- no school provides more financial aid than your “need” amount from the FAFSA. Not work-study,not even subsidized loans -- nothing.
Just for illustration, let’s posit the unlikely circumstance that you get “full” financial aid at both Stanford and at Cal. Stanford is going to give you a lot more money than Cal is, but as far as you are concerned, both schools will cost exactly the same, because neither one will go below the “floor” of your “need” as established by FAFSA. So, even with full financial aid, you still can’t hope to pay for it. (I think that even if you are lucky enough to get a merit-based scholarship, that will also reduce your need, and your need-based aid is reduced.)
Since the FAFSA amount is not part of your need, you can’t even get a subsidized loan for it. Your only option is an ordinary loan that you must start paying back right away
We are not destitute by anyone’s definition, but things are really hard. (No eligibility for Pell Grants or Cal Grants or anything like that.) We’ve already borrowed so much against a home equity line of credit that I just flat-out couldn’t cover the payments for anything more -- not even interest-only. (There’s no room here for details, so just believe me -- please no lectures on money management or lifestyle. We don’t have a “lifestyle”…)
My son is a good conscientious student who will probably be admitted to most of the schools he applies to -- we’ve never even talked about private school or out-of-state, but he should be able to go to a UC or a CSU and that has always been the idea. Now what do I tell him?
This “need” game isn’t just because of our reversal of circumstances -- even when I was working full-time and our circumstances were much better, the FAFSA calculated an amount far beyond our reach. What do other people do? What do other people know that I don’t? I hope someone can tell me that I am wrong! Anonymous
Please know I'm not lecturing you, but rather just want you to be prepared for an answer you're very likely to receive when you talk to aid offices about all of this: it is their position that the primary responsibility for financing college falls first with the family, and the presumption is that families have been saving for college education. Nevertheless, if you can show them that the EFC is off base, most aid offices do have discretion to adjust the need calculation and change the aid package as they see fit.
Lastly, I would refer you to www.fastweb.com and www.finaid.org for access to tens of thousands of private scholarships and grants that your son can apply for.
I hope this helps! Cheers, Rick Grisel Veritas College Counseling
You could always do what my dad did to me - kick me out at 18. I had barely enough money in the bank to pay 1st semester tuition and dorm fee at Sonoma State but after 2 years I got full financial aid (I felt rich!). But, because of prop 13, state schools are a bit more than $60 a semester nowadays, and your son might not find someones living room floor to crash on.
Some parents are paying their kids rent under the table for those first two years, and not claiming them on their taxes. This makes those two years easier for the kid. The kid just has to remember not to make too much money.
Oh, one more thing. There are small schools in out of the way places that if your son gets in, they will work with you to make your son going to their school happen. Friends of ours sent their daughter to a very small Christian college in Iowa, and on paper, there was no way they would be able to do it, but she is a sophomore there now, and they're not totally broke. They have even had enough for the plane fare home on Xmas and Easter. Good luck to you. Jenny
I would highly recommend Frances Fee, an independent financial aid advisor. I went to her and so did some of my friends (my daughter went to college this year). She's great, she'll look at your individual situation and arm you with information. I'm sorry I don't have her number on hand, but she's in Berkeley/Oakland, up around the Caldecott. She can't overhaul the entire system and it may fall short for you, but she'll help you make the best of it.
My situation was: divorced, no child support, no assets, self-employed with business scarily slow due to external economic factors beyond my control, basically going into the negative each month as of last FAFSA application, so we got decent aid package offers. It's stress either way and I wouldn't have done it my way on purpose.
Let yourself reach some emotional equilibrium, talk to Frances, then calmly relate the necessary facts to your son. I just communicted the uncertainty to my daughter, then let the aid packages speak for themselves. Some schools were just out and she could see why.
Good luck, something will come through for your son. been there, still there
Alternatives: Check your workplace or former workplace, associations, and religious affiliation for scholarships you may not know about. Write to all your relatives, friends and associates, create a trust fund, or a restricted savings account for their contributions, and be clear which are gifts, and which are loans. Ask for non interest, deferred payment after graduation or leaving school terms. You will still need to pay taxes on interests, and amounts which exceed the gift laws, so check with a bank financial advisor. Your bank may do this for free if you keep the funds there. Otherwise the loan game has most everyone going to college indentured, unless you have saved a huge amount for each child. If you do not have it, learn to fundraise, and keep asking the school that wants him for more financial aid, apply early. been there
You sound panicked about college costs and, while understandable, that will not help your son. Here are some facts.
Fact #1: College is expensive. Very expensive. For most families, it is the most expensive product/service, other than a home, they will ever buy. Tuition and expenses for private colleges now run between $40 and $50K per year, so we are very lucky to live in a state with relatively low cost, high-quality public institutions.
Fact #2: College is a fabulous investment. Every study ever done shows that lifetime earnings increase geometrically with more education and that every dollar spent on education pays back several times. That means you need to stop panicking and start breathing. Hundreds of thousands of families go through what you are going through (and far worse--either because they have fewer resources or fewer low-cost options than you do). It is not easy, but it is do-able.
Fact #3: The college financial aid system is designed to distribute a limited number of aid dollars equitably. It does not make financing a college education easy or cheap. Rather, it asks all families to make roughly the same level of sacrifice (your expected student and family contribution) and to ensure that beyond this level, costs are covered. (Students whose families are low enough income to qualify for Pell or Cal Grants still have to pay an expected contribution.) It sounds as if you have been thinking that if you were not wealthy, your son was a good student and he attended a public university, financial aid would somehow cover the cost. Unfortunately, in an era when the state raises tuition every year and other costs like housing keep going up, this is just not the case.
Fact #4: Financial aid offers are not immutable. If you have genuinely exceptional circumstances that are not considered in the federal formula, you need to talk with the financial aid folks at the colleges your son is interested in. This may not result in increased aid, but it can.
So, you need a game plan. Of course, tightening the family financial belt is always the first step. But, as you point out, many families in high-cost areas like the Bay Area, have virtually no financial flexibility. This means, at worst, that your child is going to need to work during college and to take out loans. Most college students, even those who are affluent, do both of these things and it is entirely possible to finance a UC/CSU education on a combination of borrowing and work, with no family contribution. You also need to look at the full range of options--student living at home or in the cheapest dorm, asking for help from relatives, parent taking on a second job, delaying college for a year while your son works and saves his earnings, attending a community college for the first two years. None of these is optimal, but again, they are possible and thinking them through will help you begin to get a handle on trade-offs.
Most of all, talk to people who know these issues--your son's high school counselor and the financial aid professionals at the colleges you are considering. You all have one thing in common: you want your son to enroll at a school he's happy with and to thrive once there. Trust me, it WILL happen. UC financial aid advisor
My son was admitted to a private college that he longed to attend, but without the financial aid we needed. He was heartbroken--but after we wrote a heartfelt appeal, the college raised its offer very substantially, and my son is now attending there and happy! another parent
However, there are things you can do: decrease expenses and increase resources. Some of the specific actions may not be palatable or even possible for you, but there are options. The first step is to face the reality of it, talk with your son so he knows this, and make plans to decrease college expenses and increase your resources to pay for it. Tell your son that you need his active help in meeting the challenge of paying for college.
There are only a few options to decrease expenses. One is
to choose the lowest cost college, one that costs less than
your expected family contribution. And you could reduce
room and board costs by having him live at home.
- the least expensive way would be to have him attend a junior college for the first two years, then transfer later to a local state college. That way he could live at home for all 4 years. A lot of people go this way to reduce expenses.
- or find those state or private college that cost less. College guidebooks often list them as ''best bargains.'' Have him apply to some of these schools.
- Explore other ways to get costs covered--do students who work as dorm resident advisors get free or reduced-cost housing? An option for junior or senior year?
There are many possible ways to increase the amount of
money you have to pay for college if you stretch your
imagination, but not all will be possible for you.
- ask relatives if they can help pay for college (grandparents, your aunts/uncles or siblings who don't have children)
- have your son apply for any scholarship he hears about (most high schools have lists, and there are free scholarship search sites online). Some scholarship applications may require writing an esay; get your son to commit to writing these.
- if your son has special talents, such as musical ability, see if colleges offer special scholarships
- apply to colleges that offer merit scholarships.
- apply to good but less popular private colleges. These schools may be more likely to offer merit scholarships or their own grants.
- if you have special circumstances (such as disability, high medical bills), detail these in a letter to each college's financial aid office.
- unsubsidized federal Stafford student loans are available to those who don't meet the criteria of need and these loans get paid back after the student leaves school. They cover only a percentage of the total college cost, but they would help. The interest could be paid as you go (low amounts the first few years) or added to the loan amount that gets repaid after graduation. So be sure to submit the FAFSA.
- have your son get a part-time job now, while still in high school, and save that money for college.
- have your son try to get high paying summer jobs. Think through what types of jobs pay well (coomputer work? waiter?) and which match his ability.
- have your son plan to work while in college, preferably at a job that pays well. In considering which college to go to, consider which towns might have outside jobs easily available and reachable for a person without a car.
- are you or your spouse able to get a higher paying job than what you have now?
- can you or your spouse work overtime or take on a second job?
- rebudget your daily expenses: reduce your food budget, eliminate all eating out including coffee, consider selling your second car (if you have one) or buying a cheaper car than the one you have, curtail vacations (consider camping), save in every way possible
Consider some radical ideas:
- could your son take a year off before going to college to work at a high paying job to save money for college (there are some jobs that are physically demanding and pay well-- in Alaska?)
- or maybe he could take a year off after junior college to earn money to pay for the following year at a 4-year school.
Good luck. Maybe some of the positives (relatives, scholarships, lower-cost schools) will come through for you! Anonymous
First, don’t hide from your kids: disclose your finances with your college-bound student. What can you afford if you don’t get any aid. Privates? UC's? CSU's? Community colleges? Or would the student have to work for a year or two? Talk now to avoid major disappointment spring of senior year.
Second, don’t get sticker – or ''financial aid calculator'' shock. A school may quote $50,000 as the total cost of attendance, and a website may tell you that you'll be liable for $40k of that. But schools - especially privates - have a lot of leeway with those numbers. In particular, privates attempting to attract specific students can offer generous merit aid unrelated to your finances.
Third, apply around. You can compare offers, and often be surprised at who is willing to give you aid. And don’t limit yourself to state schools – remember point two above.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to call colleges. Talk to the financial aid office about anything you couldn’t describe in the FAFSA or PROFILE – and see what they’re willing to do for you. Families of every income level and circumstance can and do afford college. Eion Lys College Counselor
My son has been admitted to some UC's for fall of 2007 which is good news. I broached the topic of how we're going to pay for college with my ex-husband today. As I expected, he thinks its fair that I pay for most of the college expenses since he makes less money and has fewer assets. I think it would be fair for us each to pay half because we've both known that we'd have college expenses starting in 2007 and because we've had equal opportunity to work hard and save money over the 13 years since our divorce. I don't want to just roll over and pay more because I can but I especially don't want to hurt my kid because of this dispute. How have others handled paying for college with an ex? should I shield my son from this issue even if the only way not to include him may be to pay whatever my ex won't? I appreciate any suggestions or even commiseration! anonymous
Help! Can someone tell me how much my children can borrow for their first and third years at a UC, respectively, just by themselves? I know the amounts vary, and they don't cover all the tuition that the UC system charges (Berkeley or Santa Cruz, not the state schools). Then the rest must be funded by parent loans, right? My understanding is that the basic amount is called an entitlement loan, and that's all they can borrow. After that it's all about the private loans. Any clarifications appreciated. anon
Most students will then look next at Federal UNsubsidized loans to make up for any remaining shortfall, and the limits on unsubsidized loans are higher than the subsidized limits listed above. Both of these federal loans are, I believe, available directly to students, and usually the amounts available are not tied to the needs analysis. Some combination of these first two student loans is sometimes enough to cover costs. Beyond that, if necessary or desirable, there are two main types of parental loans, PLUS and Perkins. None of the 4 options listed so far are private loans, they are all tied to the federal government in some way.
Many students that are taking out loans will end up with some combination of the above (most commonly some subsidized and some unsubsidized Stafford monies). Without seeing your financial aid award letter I can't say more unfortunately--typically award letters will list what they are offering for each type of grant and loan. The best thing to do is simply sit down for a half hour with one of the financial aid officers there, and they should be very good about walking you through everything simply and clearly. Good luck! Rick Grisel Veritas College Admissions Counseling
Hi, My son just got accepted to college back east, and in addition to the Stafford loan, he wants to take out a personal loan. Can someone tell me how this works; when do we do this; is the money deposited in a special account; best place to find good rates, etc. Also, if he gets outside scholarship money, does this go directly to the college? This is very new to us, so any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks jamie
Re your question on scholarships, it will depend on the source. eg some, such as National Merit will only send direct to the school (and the school in our case requires that it be split between the two semesters--so you only get credit for half the scholarship on the first bill). Others, less formal, have sent us the money directly.
I am a single Mom of a soccer player on the varsity team at BHS, My son is quite good at soccer. How do I start looking for contacts with coaches at college level and researching sports scholarships? I'd appreciate knowing how to get started looking into this? Thanks! ......Anon
The NCAA Student Eligibility and Recruiting main website address: http://www1.ncaa.org/membership/membership_svcs/eligibility-recruiting/index.html
The NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete: http://www.ncaa.org/eligibility/cbsa/
Also, the BHS college counselor, Rory, will have an initial registration form to fill out, pay a fee, and send to the NCAA Clearinghouse. If your son is a junior, there's a college handbook which has been mailed to every BHS junior just this week, and read carefully the section on Sports. The Handbook advises that it's important to create a CV of his career as an athlete and soccer player which should include his birthdate, physical stats, any special athletics awards, GPA (to show he can keep up his grades and be an excellent athlete), tournaments his team has won, current and past coaches as reference, if he's left-footed or right-footed or both, positions he's played. The resume should include a photo of him, if possible, and once he's decided what colleges interest him, he should send out a cover letter with his resume and let the Athletics Dept. in each of the colleges know of his interest. Check out the colleges athletics' websites, see who the coaches are, etc. There's one important caution: if you get seriously injured during the junior and senior year, it can hurt your chances of being recruited, so you should look at colleges that will meet his lifestyle and academic needs as much as his sporting needs (as an example, my friend's son went to a college with a nationally top-5 ranked Div. I soccer program, but had a miserable experience because he was out in the midwest in the middle of nowhere in a Jesuit school, but finally he was able to transfer back to California and now plays soccer, not in a Div. I school, but Div. II, is a starter with more more playing time, and is much happier).
There are college reference books written for specific sports, and you can look at Cody's on Telegraph, or Barnes & Noble for a copy, or check the library. Once you find colleges that have good programs, call them and ask your questions: do you need defense, do you need mid-fielders, how many players on the roster. I know of two really good programs in California -- UC Davis is a Div. II school, moved up from Div. III, has a great soccer program, and may move to Div. I within a couple of years; then there's UCSD which is in the same league with Davis.
Good luck to you and your son. --jahlee
At any rate, I have also learned that attaining a scholarship is not impossible--but you need to do a lot of (probably most of) the footwork yourself--highschool coaches don't always have the time to promote their athletes as much as they'd like to (and in some cases as much as they might say they are). In addition to a CV, a videotape of your child playing (especially senior year) is crucial. Also--I don't know if this is true of all sports, but college basketball coaches request the tape of an entire game (in addition to highlights) as anyone can usually cut and paste together a great highlight tape. There is also a private college counselor over in Marin who specializes in helping seek out athletic scholarships, although I don't know much about her. Please let me know if you'd like me to dig up her name and number.
And finally, it took me two years to figure out how the relationship between a college athletic coach and a college admissions department works. And it really varies tremendously depending on the school. In some cases they have a lot of pull (even in Division II schools) and in other cases (particularly Division III schools)my experience was that they had very little. If a Cal coach (Division I) wants an athlete badly enough, they prestamp the college application so that it goes into ''it's own pile''.They do this for potential scholarship recruits as well as for any walk-ons they might want at Cal. I'm sure this varies from college to college though, depending on their sports emphasis. And Division I schools like Cal obviously handle things pretty differently.
My best advice? Find parents whose kids are already in college on an athletic scholarship and pick their brains. Also--talk to parents whose kids have ''walked on'' to a college team. And be realistic about what division your kid has a chance of playing in--if you're targeting the right schools you'll obviously have a much better chance of success. College play really is at a whole different level.
It's very confusing--even more than it seems at first. And if you're like me you'll just begin to understand the whole thing when your first child goes off to college!
We got a letter from National Student Financial Aid saying that "according to their research", my daughter is eligible to apply for grants, scholarships, negotiated tuition discounts and interest free loans through their college assistance program. Is this just an ad or something real that should be taken advantage of? Can anyone advise? Toby
My daughter is a senior in high school and has been accepted to several colleges - UC's as well as small privates. She would really love to go to a small private but financial aid packages have not been enough to make it possible. Does anyone have any experience with trying to get awards increased? Any advice at all? Is there any point in trying? She thinks her dream school is Smith but has also been accepted at Occidental, neither of which has offered enough to get there ($38,000!!! - start saving now!). Maybe we shouldn't have let her apply to these places, but we got carried away thinking everyone would think she is as terrific as we do (parental blinders)... Thanks for any ideas. peggy
We did not qualify for financial aid for the small private school back east that my daughter liked best. And we did not have enough money to pay the tuition out and out. But we did qualify easily for loans, so you might look into that. Especially in Massachusetts, the MASSPLAN loans help finance a college education. In our case, we borrowed 20K (or so) for each year of the four years in college, and put it on a 15-year (the max) term. I still have some 7 years to finish re-paying, but I find it to be manageable, even with a son in college now and a teen-ager in private high school.
Besides the loans, my student searched for a job on campus. When she visited before accepting she asked about jobs. She had lifeguard training and was offered a job at the sports center, which she kept all 4 years. So that helped with spending money for books, etc. And if the college does not have a job available, maybe your student can use his or her own talents to financial gain. I know an enterprising student who creates web pages and has his own business and even hires other students...he's putting himself through CalPoly.
In addition, my daughter got took out smaller loans in her own name. I think these were federal loans, which she will pay back eventually (I think they are deferred at this point, since she's working on a Ph.D.)
Also, since she was the first of three children in the family to go to college, we made an agreement that if she went to this school for undergraduate work instead of a less expensive school, she'd need to help re-pay the 4 loans. We initially had her paying starting 2 years after graduation, at the rate each month of the freshman-year loan. Then each year she'd add in the amounts for the next loan. But as our family finances got better, and after doing some analysis, I realized that that way she'd end up paying more than half for her own college education, which did not seem right. So now she'll re-pay about 1/4 of the loan monies. We've decreased the monthly amounts she's paying rather than increasing them.
She went off to college knowing that she'd have a large debt to manage. Some people warned that it might make it harder for her to own a car, a house, have a family, etc. But that has not been the case.
Not qualifying for financial aid is not the end of the world. I think that you can manage a private education if that is what you value and if that is what seems to best suit the needs and interests of your student.
My oldest is a junior and will be applying for college next year. We think we earn too much for a need base financial aid, but cannot afford private college tuition. Is there reliable information on the financial aid process or income cut-offs? What assets do colleges consider in determining a family's ability to pay tuition? Is there anyone out there who helps families with applying for scholarships for college, or enlightening wage earner parents on the scholarship/financial aid process? Thanks. yogreening
The book Paying for College Without Going Broke by Kalmon A. Chany (Random House) provides a detailed description of the financial aid forms that are required and the methods of calculating financial aid using both federal (FAFSA)and institutional (PROFILE) methods. For example, the book details what percentage of the parents' and of the students' assets are assessed. The book clarifies which assets colleges consider (this differs for public and private institutions, most notably regarding home equity). The book provides many special case situations (for example, how trusts are evaluated, what if someone else pays the student's bills)and forms to estimate your financial aid need. You can also calculate your estimated family contribution on-line. The www.finaid.org and www.collegeboard.com sites provide financial calculators to estimate your Expected Family Contribution.. Frances
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