BOSTON (CBS) – The first step in finding financial aid is to meet with the guidance counselor and see what recommendations they have. Then you and your child get online and check out resources. Then fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the federally required form for students seeking financial aid, including grants and loans.
Financial Aid money comes from the Federal Government, the states, colleges and private organizations and comes in different forms; grants and scholarships that don’t need to be repaid, jobs (so the kiddo can earn money), a variety of low cost loans and tax breaks.
Where to find the aid is up to the student and her family. There are good resources for financial aid out there:
- High school counseling office
- Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority MEFA
- Colleges’ financial aid office
- U.S. Department of Education
- Community groups & religious organizations for private scholarships
If you cannot make it next Sunday to the Massachusetts College Goal Sunday I found help if you need it…a website, Completing the FAFSA. The official FAFSA site is at www.FAFSA.gov – it’s not a “.com” website. If you go to a “.com” site, you will probably be asked to pay to submit the FAFSA form.
Over 600 schools also use the CSS PROFILE Financial Aid Form, produced by the College Board. “CSS” stands for College Scholarship Service. This form is used primarily by colleges for determining non-federal financial aid, such as institutional scholarships, grants, and loans. There is a cost for filing the form.
The financial aid form needs to be filled out every year you are requesting aid. The information on the form determines what you as a family can afford to pay, your expected family contribution. The school’s financial aid departments also use the information in putting together the aid packages that comes in the award letter once the kiddo is accepted to their school.
Your income stream is what the schools are looking at as well as your assets. They expect you to pay a big chunk out of current income. If your income is over $100,000, it will be tough to qualify for grants unless you have more than one child attending college.
The formula looks at 3-6% of the parents’ assets to be used each year for college expenses. As for the kids’ assets, they expect the kids to ante up to 25% or more. That can be a problem for some kids who don’t want to part with their money; they think that their money is their money. Not so when it comes to aid!
Retirement assets; yours or the kids’ don’t count as assets when applying for financial aid. So invest in your retirement plan as well as save for college. What the schools will look at is how much you contribute to your retirement plan. When it comes time to pay for college they expect you to slow down those retirement contributions and use the cash flow for college.
Once that financial aid package comes if circumstances have changed (such as a job loss or medical expenses) connect with the school again and ask for a review. To compare different aid packages use the calculators at Finaid.
If your child is a junior this year when you start the college tours you should be stopping in to see the financial aid people as well as the soccer coach.
One more thing: A good resource would be the Peterson’s Guide. When my kids went to college we bought the book, now just go online.
How does Financial Aid work and where does it come from? A couple more sites to help in your research:
www.finaid.org – offers an overview for applying for aid
www.fafsa.ed.gov – application for financial aid
www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov – an estimate for your eligibility for aid
www.fastweb.com – lists of scholarships available