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Understanding financial aid


8filltheheart
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Understanding how financial aid works should be a priority before the application process begins. The terms FAFSA, CSS profile, unsubsidized/subsidized loans, expected family contribution, net price calculator, merit aid, grants, and work study should be well understood before the first application is submitted.

 

Some things are universally true across all schools and are easily understood. The maximum loan amts students are allowed to take out independently are controlled by federal law. It doesn't change except under very unusual circumstances, so it is easier to assume that they don't apply to your situation. The max loan amt freshman yr is $5500. That number only increases to $7500 by their sr yr. No, they cannot take out more in loans on their own. The only way they can take out more loans is if someone co-signs. (Hence the claims about the avg student debt at graduation are rather pointless. Those numbers do not reflect how much loan $$ was actually used to finance student education at that school. Parent loans are not considered.)

 

Unsubsidized loans start accruing interest the day the student takes them out. Parent loans start accruing interest the day they are taken out. Those co-signed loans start accruing interest the day they are taken out. Only subsidized loans delay interest until graduation.

 

Almost every school is going to expect your student to contribute approx $7500 their freshman yr. That amt is based on the $5500 loan amt and approx $2000 expected from working part-time.

 

With some schools scholarships look great until you realize that the scholarship and grant $$ really just wipe each other out and the total COA would be the same with or without the scholarship.

 

Understand fixed scholarship amts vs. scholarships termed in "value of tuition." Fixed amts mean that as costs increase yr to yr, your gap grows. With schools costing upwards of $60,000, when their COA increases 2-5% per yr, that means a significant difference by sr yr.

 

Many schools do NOT let scholarship $$ and grant $$ reduce the family's EFC. Knowing what the specific school's NPC indicates as your EFC is important bc in most circumstances that is the MINIMUM you will pay out of your pocket. (You as in parents are expected to pay.)

 

Some schools allow stacking of scholarships. Understanding stacking is important. It means that they do NOT decrease other scholarships and the total value of the scholarships actually can reduce your EFC.

 

Students cannot simply claim independence to qualify for more aid. It doesn't matter if parents are supporting their education or not. The restrictions for claiming independence are very limiting. Very few situations allow for the claim of independence.

 

Understand parent loans: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Parent-Plus-Trap/134844

 

Hopefully others will contribute more. Those are the main things off the top of my head.

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Just want to add that for those who are low income there are some colleges which meet 100% of need and offer no-loan financial aid, but these are highly selective. They may be considered a financial safety but getting in is the hard part, so other true safeties would be needed.  While no loans will be included, they will likely expect the student to use summer earnings and factor in work study.  Usually when work study is included, it is expected that the student will work, but there's no assurance that a job will be available.  Some colleges may offer guaranteed work study jobs, but most do not.

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One thing I've wondered about, is what about outside scholarships? Those could be used to pay the EFC part, right? Like say a scholarship from one of the parent's employers, or from a local service organization.

Not necessarily. It all comes down to how stacking of scholarships and institutional grants work. Many schools will simply reduce their institutional scholarships and grants and replace them with the outside scholarships. The net to the family remains identitcal.

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I really wish there was a way to have this thread permanently pinned on this board.

 

It is so heart-wrenching reading posts both here and on College Confidential (which, by the way, also has some very useful information on its Financial Aid boards) each year where the process is not fully understood and students are left with few (sometimes no) financially feasible options.

 

I think the biggest point of confusion is the concept of "meets 100% of need," and understanding that "need" is determined by the schools individually and that "need" oftentimes includes substantial loans. And many, many schools do not meet 100% of need in the first place!!

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I really wish there was a way to have this thread permanently pinned on this board.

 

It is so heart-wrenching reading posts both here and on College Confidential (which, by the way, also has some very useful information on its Financial Aid boards) each year where the process is not fully understood and students are left with few (sometimes no) financially feasible options.

 

I think the biggest point of confusion is the concept of "meets 100% of need," and understanding that "need" is determined by the schools individually and that "need" oftentimes include substantial loans. And many, many schools do not meet 100% of need in the first place!!

 

  :iagree:   I was just coming in to say that this needs to be stickied. Every year there are posts about scholarships and financial aid and this would be a great tool if it was easy to refer back to.

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On a more positive note, remember that it's still early in the notification process.  If the first schools to accept and provide their financial aid packet don't look promising, it doesn't mean that there won't be others which are affordable.   I've also read that some of the early decision schools offer less financial aid to those accepted during the ED round since they know the student has to attend unless it's unaffordable.  In other words they don't have to worry about yield from those students and don't have to do what others might with offering good merit aid as an incentive to attend.

 

Also, Nan had started a thread last year about colleges which were still accepting applications.  If anyone is concerned about getting affordable options from the ones their students applied to already, it might not hurt to look for colleges which would be affordable and are still accepting applications.

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Also make sure that you understand ALL of the terms of both the scholarships and loans.

 

Some aid goes away if the GPA drops.  Some aid goes away if you go below a certain number of hours.  And yes, the loans may start accruing from the start.

 

I'm teaching a kid now at the community college who lost a very generous aid package at an Ivy League school because his GPA was just below the line.  So he's home attending the state community college.  He messed around and didn't realize all of the ramifications.

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Great thread!

 

I would also like to say, there are many details about EFC for FAFSA-only schools that it would be useful to know, such as:

 

  • They don't look at house or retirement, but even the FAFSA can look at other savings.
  • It depends on your income, not your assets. Unless you have a second home and substantial non-retirement assets, that is. Obviously that includes college savings.
  • You can appeal. You should appeal if you have truly mitigating circumstances, such a a death of a parent after filing the FAFSA; a job-relocation move that leaves you with cash on hand in the middle of FAFSA-filing season.
  • FAFSA does not look at ethnicity. It DOES look at first-generation status (neither parent completed a four-year-degree, or the residential parent if the other parent is out of the picture completely, did not complete a four year degrees. This is not the place to exaggerate your educational qualifications if you do not have a bachelor's. There is money and preference for first generation college students, as well as special programs with free tutoring, extra counseling in many state schools.

Higher-cost colleges require the FAFSA and the CSS profile. That is to tease out the different levels of ability to pay among their middle class students, I suppose. But everyone should file a FAFSA if for no other reason than it allows the school to more easily find you to alert you of other benefits you may be eligible for.

 

Finally, I have heard many a story about so-and-so who had two houses and got a full need met. Didn't pay a dime. "Because they were Hispanic." "Because he put it in his wife's name." If I had a dime for all the stories I heard about FAFSA fraud I could meet our family's EFC no problem.

 

So, I know people think government is stupid. But honestly, the entire system is set up to prevent fraud. They are deeply, deeply aware that there are people with a lot of resources who would like nothing more than to game the system and though they do not catch all fraud, there is no way you can report, for example, your real six-figure income and come off looking poor. And yes consultants report their incomes! Believe me the feds have thought of this.

 

But people lie. So my suggestion is, if someone tells you a highly unlikely story about how they gamed the FAFSA, they are either (a) full of it or (b) defrauding the federal government of thousands of dollars. If they are lying to you, they might have a much lower income than they have led you to believe and are saving face to cover up the fact that they are getting benefits for poor people because they are poor. If they are lying to the feds, they should be reported.

 

About FAFSA fraud:

 

http://www.finaid.org/educators/fraud.phtml

 

Report fraud:

 

http://www.ehow.com/how_6522882_report-financial-aid-fraud.html

 

Do not post on the Internet that you know someone who is defrauding the federal government of tens of thousands of dollars. If you really know that, report. Please. There is a limited amount of money going around for this and they are taking from someone else who could use that money--we are talking about the futures of young people here.

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One thing I've wondered about, is what about outside scholarships?  Those could be used to pay the EFC part, right?  Like say a scholarship from one of the parent's employers, or from a local service organization.  

 

Not necessarily.  For example, see this article about the Gates Foundation trying to give a full scholarship to a student, and Boston College STILL requiring the student to take out a 2500 loan.

 

https://secure.marketwatch.com/story/why-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-full-scholarship-2013-10-03

 

Outside scholarships can be pocketed by the school -- they replace the school's financial aid offer with your outside scholarship.  MOST schools will reduce loan amounts before grant amounts, but not all.

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Binip, your EFC descriptions only match FAFSA only schools. They are not true for the CSS profile. Assets do matter for the CSS. This is an important distinction bc families who are hoping for "100% need met" are more likely to apply to "CSS required" institutions.

 

Also, the EFC given by a generic calculator using your FAFSA info does not mean that is all you will be expected to pay, even at non-CSS schools. Basically, the FAFSA determines whether or not students are Pell eligible and whether or not the student loans are subsidized or unsubsidized. The rest really depends on the individual school. You need to run the NPC at each school in order to really have a good idea for what it will look like at each school. Some things do not work well on the NPC (family size, dependent adult children, small business ownership, rental properties, and other complex situations.). In that case, a phone call to the FA office can help give you an idea of how those things impact numbers.

 

This article helps explain the difference.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/troyonink/2014/02/14/how-assets-hurt-college-aid-eligibility-on-fafsa-and-css-profile/

 

This also might help:

https://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated

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I've posted this link before, but I recommend Michelle Kretzschmar's video series on college data:

 

http://diycollegerankings.com/college-data-workshop-session-1/

 

I also recommend entering any college you are applying to into the college board Big Future website.  Click on Paying in the left column, then Financial Aid by the Numbers across the top.

 

The pie chart at the top tells you how much financial aid at a school tends to be grants vs loans/jobs.  In the bar chart, you can see the percent of students who had full need met.  In the right column you can see average debt at graduation. 

 

For example, at a less generous school like Cornish College of the Arts: (And art schools generally are among the stingiest)

 

Package is typically 55% grants 45% jobs/loans.

54% of financial need met on average.

3% of students have full need met.

Average debt at graduation is 37K.

 

Harvard, if you can get in, is generous: (most highly selective schools do not give merit aid and save all their aid for those with low EFCs)

 

Package is typically 93% grants and 3% jobs/loans.

100% of financial need met

99% of students have full need met.

Average debt at graduation is 15K. (anything less than the federal maximum for subsidized loans is excellent here)

 

Remember that % of need met is by the school financial aid office's definition of financial need, which may include data taken from FAFSA, CSS, and the school financial aid application.

 

If you do not know which colleges to enter in Big Future yet, Forbes magazine tries to estimate your financial aid chances at different kinds of schools.  All you need is your AGI on your tax return.  It's not as accurate as a fafsa, just a rough guess:

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/troyonink/2014/11/28/2015-guide-to-fafsa-css-profile-college-financial-aid-and-expected-family-contribution-efc/

 

Finally, here is an article on how to spot a bad net price calculator:

 

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/why-you-must-use-net-price-calculators/

 

 

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I have included this thread in the pinned thread at the top of the high school board: "Transcripts, Credits, GPA/Grading, Accreditation, College Pre/Applications, Scholarships/Financial Aid, Career Exploration -- links to past threads here!". This thread is now linked in POST #5 of that pinned thread, about halfway down, first thread under the heading of: Financial Aid: General.

___________________________________________________________

What is FAFSA?
Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the national form from the federal government used by colleges/universities to determine the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to the price of attending a community college or university/college. (Note: NOT applicable to high school students doing dual enrollment; FAFSA only needed by high school graduates.)

There is no fee to file a FAFSA. If you are pursuing any financial aid (scholarships, grants, work study, loans) you will need to file a FAFSA in the spring before entering college. Some types of federal financial aid require filing a new FAFSA each year. In addition, many colleges require a FAFSA (sometimes just an initial one, sometimes a new one each year) in order to distribute scholarship monies, even if the family is not eligible for any federal financial aid. FAFSA website.
____________________

What is an EFC?
The Expected Family Contribution is the part of the financial aid equation determined by the FAFSA. A family's income, assets and benefits, as well as family size and number of family members who will attend college that year are all included. Schools use the EFC to determine a student's federal aid eligibility and financial aid award. The EFC is not the amount of money a family WILL have to pay to attend, or is it the amount of federal student aid a student is eligible for.
____________________

What is the Financial Aid Equation?

COA* - EFC = Financial Need**
(Cost of Attendance) minus (Expected Family Contribution (from FAFSA)) equals (Financial Need)

* Cost of Attendance (COA): this amount is individual to each college, and represents cost of tuition and general fees, and on-campus room and board; it does NOT include books, online access code fees, specific class fees/supplies, and optional fees (such as car parking pass).

** Family Need: the EFC is a rough guide for colleges to use to come up with a financial aid package (combination of scholarships, grants, work study, loans) to meet the Family Need portion of the package. College financial aid packages vary from school to school of how much of that Financial Need they offer to meet -- anywhere from 60% to 100% of Financial Need. 
____________________

What is the CSS Profile?
The College Scholarship Service Profile is a financial aid application similar to the FAFSA, but much more detailed. The application is distributed by the College Board (a non-profit corporation), and is designed to give colleges a closer look into the finances of a student and family. Each CSS Profile costs a fee ($25 for sending to the first college, $16 for each addition report; fee waivers available for low income families). Almost 400 colleges require the CSS Profile.  CSS Profile website.

Edited by Lori D.
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Number one piece of advice I would give is to estimate your EFC before even considering any school.  There are several calculators out there.  I would let my estimate be the one with the highest number.  For a starting point, assume that you must pay at least that amount in either cash or loans.

 

I was told over and over that a private school would be cheaper since they offer better aid.  I was also told that even if you make good money, that no one paid the "sticker price" at any school.  I knew lots of people this worked out for that have similar income to us, but I didn't realize the important difference.  They still had kids at home.  I just have one child.

 

We're not even in the top 10% of earners (actually a little below the 25% mark), but with only one child, our EFC is over 5 months take-home pay.  I get that we aren't the people aid is there for, but from reading online and talking to others, I was led completely down the wrong track and should have approached the whole school search differently.  Not being able to make the EFC, private schools are completely off the table and now we are only looking at public schools (since their tuitions are significantly less than our EFC and an amount we can actually afford.)

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I would also like to say, there are many details about EFC that it would be useful to know, such as:

 

  • They don't look at house or retirement, but even the FAFSA can look at other savings.
  • It depends on your income, not your assets.

 

That's incorrect.  Assets are considered, as is income.

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Yes, and our EFC is more than one third of our annual take home income, and we still have two more to put through with a tax advisor that told us not to expect any reduction in EFC even when we have three students in college at once. The FAFSA system is so far out of whack with reality he said the number of parents who have multiples in school and have EFC's topping 75% of take home income is growing exponentially. The feds have ZERO intention of fixing the inequity. College education is not important to their agenda, and they aren't going to throw another dime at the problem.

 

I still hold on to some grim hope that our EFC will fall some when the second child enters college, but we ran it based on estimated numbers for 2016, and saw no change, and though dh's employer announced record profits, there were no bonuses or pay raises to the masses because "it wasn't record enough" for the major stock holders. So two go to college, both colleges want the full EFC, and the income does not go up.

 

Nice. :banghead:  :banghead:  :banghead:

 

It does shed light and perspective on the subset of parents who put massive pressure on their kids to jump every imaginable hoop, study until they drop, etc. in order to have "product placement" for the big scholarships.

 

Meanwhile, my sister is in France getting her Master's and PH.D for the sum total of 1500 euros, and working a nice job teaching ESL which provides for her modest apartment, utilities, health care which is stellar by the way, public transportation, and personal needs. If she had managed to gain entrance to the university way back when she was getting her bachelor's, she would not be $35,000.00 in debt for that either.

 

Our government does not value education.

 

At any rate, despite the subzero temps in my state, and it's continued economic woes, I am grateful for some pretty fine state schools with reasonable tuition so that regardless of how the merit aid pains out for all three boys, they have some great and affordable options. I am not certain if the current college funding, FAFSA, wage stagnation, outdated  EFC calculating nightmare continues, what will become of the stingier universities and LAC's. The number who can pay full freight or near full freight is dwindling rapidly. The number willing to also sell their souls to private loans is also shrinking.

 

 

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Not necessarily.  For example, see this article about the Gates Foundation trying to give a full scholarship to a student, and Boston College STILL requiring the student to take out a 2500 loan.

 

https://secure.marketwatch.com/story/why-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-full-scholarship-2013-10-03

 

Outside scholarships can be pocketed by the school -- they replace the school's financial aid offer with your outside scholarship.  MOST schools will reduce loan amounts before grant amounts, but not all.

 

 

Wow, that bites!   I remember one of my students was going to be making an income from scholarships.  Being a valedictorian and homeless and a great kid tends to bring in the serious money.  I wonder what happened to her?   

 

I was never able to fill out Financial Aid forms because my parents didn't cooperate.  I wonder what would happen to me today?  

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Binip, your EFC descriptions only match FAFSA only schools. They are not true for the CSS profile. Assets do matter for the CSS. This is an important distinction bc families who are hoping for "100% need met" are more likely to apply to "CSS required" institutions.

 

Also, the EFC given by a generic calculator using your FAFSA info does not mean that is all you will be expected to pay, even at non-CSS schools. Basically, the FAFSA determines whether or not students are Pell eligible and whether or not the student loans are subsidized or unsubsidized. The rest really depends on the individual school. You need to run the NPC at each school in order to really have a good idea for what it will look like at each school. Some things do not work well on the NPC (family size, dependent adult children, small business ownership, rental properties, and other complex situations.). In that case, a phone call to the FA office can help give you an idea of how those things impact numbers.

 

This article helps explain the difference.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/troyonink/2014/02/14/how-assets-hurt-college-aid-eligibility-on-fafsa-and-css-profile/

 

This also might help:

https://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/next-steps/how-calculated

 

I am talking about the FAFSA only, yes. I will make that more clear.

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Yes, and our EFC is more than one third of our annual take home income, and we still have two more to put through with a tax advisor that told us not to expect any reduction in EFC even when we have three students in college at once.

 

Funny, I ran our numbers as if we were sending two kids to college this year and one kid to college this year. That is with an assumed $80k income family of three (we file and pay rent etc. separately, and that is not our real income, but it's what I'd consider the middle-class income). Putting in our 0 savings and property at this point, only debt, I got about $6.5k.

 

The EFC was cut in half when I stuck in the other college student. The total EFC is the same, but it gets divided among the kids. I ran it through with imagined college savings as well and it rose. They divided the amounts. Is that what you mean by "staying the same"?

 

This is using the College Board calculator.

 

Let's take some hypotheticals:

 

State university, in-state, $14k annually. That's high for a state college. So that would be what, $42k annual salary? I run that through the EFC, and I get at $42k, a $2,585 EFC. Run it through with another kid in college, I get $1,622.

 

It is extremely hard to get a 30% of income EFC for state school unless you are making well above $100k. But even then, running the numbers on $120k, you still get the EFC divided between all the kids and this is the institutional and federal methods. You'd still qualify for a small amount of loans, even on $120k with two kids in college. And it's nowhere near 30% of your salary. I am assuming that as you cannot meet the EFC, you are not anywhere near those numbers.

 

If you are talking about private college, that is an apples to oranges comparison. No, the federal government is not concerned about paying for private school for the middle class. They are already paying huge amounts in grants and funds for state schools. So yes your EFC could easily creep up to 1/3 of a $100k salary.

 

That doesn't mean the feds don't care about equality. It means the family making $100k with three kids cannot afford private school.

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Funny, I ran our numbers as if we were sending two kids to college this year and one kid to college this year. That is with an assumed $80k income family of three (we file and pay rent etc. separately). Putting in our 0 savings and property at this point, only debt, I got about $6.5k 

 

The EFC was cut in half when I stuck in the other college student. The total EFC is the same, but it gets divided among the kids. I ran it through with imagined college savings as well. They divided the amounts.

 

This is using the College Board calculator.

Hmmm...we ran ours with one from a different website. Maybe that made the difference.

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I would go back. I would also call a college and ask about the EFC. I find it hard to believe, because I don't recall your posts being from an actual manor, that your tax person is right about the EFC unless s/he meant something different entirely. They don't think that multiple kids multiplies your income.

 

I share your pain about middle-class salaries and the EFC though.

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Funny, I ran our numbers as if we were sending two kids to college this year and one kid to college this year. That is with an assumed $80k income family of three (we file and pay rent etc. separately, and that is not our real income, but it's what I'd consider the middle-class income). Putting in our 0 savings and property at this point, only debt, I got about $6.5k.

 

The EFC was cut in half when I stuck in the other college student. The total EFC is the same, but it gets divided among the kids. I ran it through with imagined college savings as well and it rose. They divided the amounts. Is that what you mean by "staying the same"?

 

This is using the College Board calculator.

 

Let's take some hypotheticals:

 

State university, in-state, $14k annually. That's high for a state college. So that would be what, $42k annual salary? I run that through the EFC, and I get at $42k, a

$2,585 EFC. Run it through with another kid in college, I get $1,622.

 

It is extremely hard to get a 30% of income EFC for state school unless you are making well above $100k. But even then, running the numbers on $120k, you still get the EFC divided between all the kids and this is the institutional and federal methods. You'd still qualify for a small amount of loans, even on $120k with two kids in college. And it's nowhere near 30% of your salary. I am assuming that as you cannot meet the EFC, you are not anywhere near those numbers.

 

If you are talking about private college, that is an apples to oranges comparison. No, the federal government is not concerned about paying for private school for the middle class. They are already paying huge amounts in grants and funds for state schools. So yes your EFC could easily creep up to 1/3 of a $100k salary.

 

That doesn't mean the feds don't care about equality. It means the family making $100k with three kids cannot afford private school.

This post is misleading. First, unless a student is living at home and commuting, there are very, very few schools where $14,000 is even close to being a real number.

 

Second, the federal govt does not care whether the school is private or public. That is not how EFC is determined.

 

It is not as simple as public vs private. Some states offer very little aid for their instate students.

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Our EFC for next year (we're down to just one in college!!) is 25% of our take home pay.  I always look at it that way rather than gross salary because the take home is the money that I have to spend. I don't have the nearly $7k that we have to pay to Social Security , or the money for Medicare, or state or federal taxes.  We have take home pay. And our EFC expects us to spend one out of every four dollars we bring in.  Dh makes a good salary but that's still a lot of our available funds.    The state school ds will attend next year granted us a waiver of out of state tuition, and that brings the cost of attendance to right at our EFC.  

 

I'm so glad we're down to our last kid in college. It's been a lot of years that we've paid tuition to schools and knowing we just have a few more years is so nice.   For us the hardest part wasn't getting the first kid through school...it was adding the second in college at the same time, then continuing that for years.  

 

 

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Not necessarily.  For example, see this article about the Gates Foundation trying to give a full scholarship to a student, and Boston College STILL requiring the student to take out a 2500 loan.

 

https://secure.marketwatch.com/story/why-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-full-scholarship-2013-10-03

 

Outside scholarships can be pocketed by the school -- they replace the school's financial aid offer with your outside scholarship.  MOST schools will reduce loan amounts before grant amounts, but not all.

 

Janet, I couldn't access your link, but I think this is the article?

 

So if I understand this correctly, this scenario would look something like this:

 

Before scholarship:

EFC                                                      $20,000

School (loans/grants)                           $40,000

Total                                                     $60,000

 

 

With $30,000 scholarship:

EFC                                                     $20,000

Scholarship                                         $30,000

School (loans/grants)                          $10,000

Total                                                    $60,000

 

In reality then, the scholarship is for the school and not the student? I never thought of a scholarship providing zero net assistance.

 

How do you know if this is a school's policy?  I would hate for a student to spend a bunch of time applying for a scholarship only to have it not change the game.

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As far as I know the only way is by contacting the individual schools. Your posted scenario is fairly common. I followed your link and the part about the student contribution was true for every school for ds except where he is attending.

 

All of our FA packages have looked something like:

 

Student loan: $xxxx

Student work study: $xxxx

Student contribution total: $xxxx

 

Institutional merit:$xxxx

Institutional grant: $xxxx

 

Total cost of attendance: $xxxx

Parental contribution:$xxxx

 

The numbers are overwhelming. It is why we focus on merit money and total cost bc we refuse to do what the avg family is doing. Based on packages (not counting our kids' expected contributions) most schools believe we should be able to spend $100,000+ per child for school. Close to a $1,000,000 for college costs for our family when our income is solidly middle class is absolutely ridiculous. We would be destitute if we paid our EFC for each of our kids.

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Funny, I ran our numbers as if we were sending two kids to college this year and one kid to college this year. That is with an assumed $80k income family of three (we file and pay rent etc. separately, and that is not our real income, but it's what I'd consider the middle-class income). Putting in our 0 savings and property at this point, only debt, I got about $6.5k.

 

The EFC was cut in half when I stuck in the other college student. The total EFC is the same, but it gets divided among the kids. I ran it through with imagined college savings as well and it rose. They divided the amounts. Is that what you mean by "staying the same"?

 

This is using the College Board calculator.

 

Let's take some hypotheticals:

 

State university, in-state, $14k annually. That's high for a state college. So that would be what, $42k annual salary? I run that through the EFC, and I get at $42k, a $2,585 EFC. Run it through with another kid in college, I get $1,622.

 

It is extremely hard to get a 30% of income EFC for state school unless you are making well above $100k. But even then, running the numbers on $120k, you still get the EFC divided between all the kids and this is the institutional and federal methods. You'd still qualify for a small amount of loans, even on $120k with two kids in college. And it's nowhere near 30% of your salary. I am assuming that as you cannot meet the EFC, you are not anywhere near those numbers.

 

If you are talking about private college, that is an apples to oranges comparison. No, the federal government is not concerned about paying for private school for the middle class. They are already paying huge amounts in grants and funds for state schools. So yes your EFC could easily creep up to 1/3 of a $100k salary.

 

That doesn't mean the feds don't care about equality. It means the family making $100k with three kids cannot afford private school.

 

You've lost me here. University of Oregon's COA is basically $25,000 a year.  Interestingly enough, when I ran their NPC which they say is based on 2011-2012, the COA was showing at nearly $30,000. Either way, net income is what you have to pay that EFC with and it's not hard to get 30% of income for this state school. Our other major university is slightly less.

 

However, I am a new at this process and may not be looking at correctly.

 

 

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Janet, I couldn't access your link, but I think this is the article?

 

So if I understand this correctly, this scenario would look something like this:

 

Before scholarship:

EFC $20,000

School (loans/grants) $40,000

Total $60,000

 

 

With $30,000 scholarship:

EFC $20,000

Scholarship $30,000

School (loans/grants) $10,000

Total $60,000

 

In reality then, the scholarship is for the school and not the student? I never thought of a scholarship providing zero net assistance.

 

How do you know if this is a school's policy? I would hate for a student to spend a bunch of time applying for a scholarship only to have it not change the game.

Yes, that's the article. So unless your hypothetical student gets a scholarship worth more than the 40K school package, the family's out of pocket cost does not change. However, if the school package was 20k grant, 15k loan, 5k student job, then at most schools 30k scholarship would replace the self-help (loan and job) portion to zero first before reducing the school grant money. So, the student would have more time to study and be debt-free for the scholarship year.

 

If you expect to be getting outside scholarships, you need to ask each individual college how they treat them.

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As far as I know the only way is by contacting the individual schools. Your posted scenario is fairly common. I followed your link and the part about the student contribution was true for every school for ds except where he is attending.

 

All of our FA packages have looked something like:

 

Student loan: $xxxx

Student work study: $xxxx

Student contribution total: $xxxx

 

Institutional merit:$xxxx

Institutional grant: $xxxx

 

Total cost of attendance: $xxxx

Parental contribution:$xxxx

 

The numbers are overwhelming. It is why we focus on merit money and total cost bc we refuse to do what the avg family is doing. Based on packages (not counting our kids' expected contributions) most schools believe we should be able to spend $100,000+ per child for school. Close to a $1,000,000 for college costs for our family when our income is solidly middle class is absolutely ridiculous. We would be destitute if we paid our EFC for each of our kids.

 

Your previous posts and messages have been very helpful in guiding us to figure out where our boundaries are.

 

With one adult child whose living situation is and may always be somewhat precarious, we are very hesitant to take on significant debt. Our retirement funds may need to take into account supporting 3 people instead of two with significant medical expenses.

 

We are talking to ds and trying to put things into perspective such as the fact that COA at many colleges across the country represent the median income for a family of four for one year.  We also talk about looking at the $100,000 over four years difference in attending one school versus another. If the end product of both is a bachelor's degree, what would it take to justify the extra $100,000?

 

Thank you for starting this thread. It has helped clarify some things that I was unclear on. I'll keep watching.

 

 

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I know we are in the minority, but just so this thread isn't totally, totally depressing -

 

Sometimes it works out ok. Our EFC actually turned out to be something we could pay, using the college's monthly payment plan.  Not easy but doable.  College savings + EFC + maximum subsidized federal student loan made it to about 2/3 of the cost of the college.  The college offered a scholarship that covered the other third.  The terms of that scholarship are such that my son has a chance of keeping the scholarship all four years.  We had to fill out both the CSS and FAFSA.  It can work out ok.  For another son, it worked as follows - we took out a small home equity loan and he took out the federal loan and we paid the rest for the first year.  Then, when we knew there was going to be able to finish school and that his degree was going to lead to a job that let him pay off his loans quickly, living at home, we cosigned for him to take out large loans for the rest.  The school also decided that he was a good bet and found him some scholarships.  (This worked out fine and he is close to paying off his loans at this point.)  Our contribution in his case was most of his first year and whatever his rent would have been after school, if he weren't living at home. (His college savings went to pay for something else, when he thought he was sure he was never going to college. Sigh.)  Middle one's story is a more ordinary cobble something together to pay for a state school story.

 

I know this information doesn't help anyone who is struggling to come up with their EFC, but I thought it might be good to have something in here that isn't entirely doom and gloom for those thinking about these things.

 

Nan

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With one adult child whose living situation is and may always be somewhat precarious, we are very hesitant to take on significant debt. Our retirement funds may need to take into account supporting 3 people instead of two with significant medical expenses.

 

If you are admitted to a school with a generous financial aid department, then this is the sort of information to include in a financial aid appeal letter. Schools that can afford to help usually want to help.

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I know we are in the minority, but just so this thread isn't totally, totally depressing -

 

Sometimes it works out ok. Our EFC actually turned out to be something we could pay, using the college's monthly payment plan.  Not easy but doable.  College savings + EFC + maximum subsidized federal student loan made it to about 2/3 of the cost of the college.  The college offered a scholarship that covered the other third.  The terms of that scholarship are such that my son has a chance of keeping the scholarship all four years.  We had to fill out both the CSS and FAFSA.  It can work out ok.  For another son, it worked as follows - we took out a small home equity loan and he took out the federal loan and we paid the rest for the first year.  Then, when we knew there was going to be able to finish school and that his degree was going to lead to a job that let him pay off his loans quickly, living at home, we cosigned for him to take out large loans for the rest.  The school also decided that he was a good bet and found him some scholarships.  (This worked out fine and he is close to paying off his loans at this point.)  Our contribution in his case was most of his first year and whatever his rent would have been after school, if he weren't living at home. (His college savings went to pay for something else, when he thought he was sure he was never going to college. Sigh.)  Middle one's story is a more ordinary cobble something together to pay for a state school story.

 

I know this information doesn't help anyone who is struggling to come up with their EFC, but I thought it might be good to have something in here that isn't entirely doom and gloom for those thinking about these things.

 

Nan

 

I think part of the problem is that a lot of parents hit their kid's senior year and think that EFC is all they have to come up with and the schools or government will furnish the rest. Sometimes that happens, but that's not the norm from what we've seen. Our most recent experience is dd's fairly pricey school. They found scholarships and private grants that left us only paying our EFC and dd taking the student loan she was allowed.    But lots of schools can't/don't do that, and even within schools it's not always like that.  Dd had plenty of friends at that school who lost their scholarships and whose parents were taking out huge loans to pay the full COA.  

 

By the time we hit child 3, our college savings was depleted and we mentioned to the financial aide guy that we wish we had saved more. He told us that if we'd had, say $10k available in a college account that the school would have just reduced the grant money.  That floored us- saving money in our retirement accounts instead of a college account saved us money!

 

We're grateful that our three oldest were able to maintain their grades and kept their scholarships. I'm confident the youngest will follow suit.  It CAN work out, but it's not as easy as coming up with EFC and counting on the school to fund the rest. 

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You've lost me here. University of Oregon's COA is basically $25,000 a year.  Interestingly enough, when I ran their NPC which they say is based on 2011-2012, the COA was showing at nearly $30,000. Either way, net income is what you have to pay that EFC with and it's not hard to get 30% of income for this state school. Our other major university is slightly less.

 

However, I am a new at this process and may not be looking at correctly.

 

 

 

I think you're looking at it just fine.

 

I am lost trying to follow her post as well.

 

About the part in bold:  It's definitely easy to achieve 30%+ of net. Our one aid package for DS is requiring 34% of our net income. That is with two students in college.  When DD graduates next year, the EFC will go up to to almost 59% of net.  We know this since the school included a nice letter with the financial aid package stating that a portion of the grant was contingent on DD's attendance and would be revoked upon her 'change in enrollment'.  This is for a private LAC with merit aid.

 

ETA:  I ran the numbers for the state flagship (COA= $30,000), too, just out of curiosity.  With two college students, the EFC is 27% of gross & 38% of net.  With one college student, the EFC  increases to 29% gross and 41% net.  This is without merit aid.

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I'll just share some of my experience: 

 

My school costs about $18500 / year to attend - that includes dorms, meal plan, tuition and fees, and books. My financial aid covers "cost of attendance" through a mix of loans, grants, and scholarships. This is one of the cheapest state schools. I have an EFC of 0. 

 

In addition to the FAFSA, which must be filled out every year, I have to fill out a school specific scholarship application. Many of these scholarships are not huge, but they are all provided through the school. This application deadline is March 1 and must, again, be filled out every year. 

 

Ds filled out the same application this year and had a nice range of scholarships to apply for. We have no idea how much some of them are worth or how many are available. you must have completed and submitted the FAFSA to apply for these scholarships. 

 

So, please check with the specific school to see if they have such an application. Even with my good google foo, many of these scholarships are not easily found on the general school website. 

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I'll just share some of my experience: 

 

My school costs about $18500 / year to attend - that includes dorms, meal plan, tuition and fees, and books. My financial aid covers "cost of attendance" through a mix of loans, grants, and scholarships. This is one of the cheapest state schools. I have an EFC of 0. 

 

 

 

I think that Paula's post highlights a key point.  Your EFC is your minimum expected contribution.  It is not your defined contribution.  

 

Paula, did the school's NPC show you a combo of loans and grants? 

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The only tips I have to add (or second if they were mentioned previously) are to figure your EFC out before looking at specific colleges.  

 

If you can afford your EFC, you have plenty more options (though not endless options).  I then agree with going to College Board's Big Future website and putting in specific colleges to see how much of need a school tends to provide (average) and how much of that is in loans vs grants, etc.  Anything 80% or over can generally be a contender.  Under that, it's ok to apply and see what happens, but don't count on miracles.

 

Of the contenders, look to see which colleges would be more excited to have your student.  Colleges want higher stats than they already have, so any student in the top 25% of stats will have more "luck."  Colleges also want diversity.  That can come in race, gender, geographical location (different states and rural vs city, etc), different sports or other ECs, inventions, public research, interesting community service, state or national awards, etc.  Any of those (and probably more I'm forgetting) also give one "luck."

 

If you have a student with average stats for the college down the road (meaning within a couple of hours of home), don't expect much.  If you have a student with high stats and the college is still just down the road, don't expect as much as you'll get from the school 6+ hours away (an exception being out of state public schools that rarely offer much aid to out of state students).  If your student comes from a majorly underrepresented state for any school, luck seems to abound!

 

IME, careful selection of college applications can usually provide affordable options for those who can meet their EFC with a higher correlation among higher stat students, but one doesn't need to be tippy top high.

 

For those who can't meet their EFC, the process is more difficult.  Then your student has to be high enough in stats and extra hooks to get significant merit aid - or consider state schools (and community colleges in some areas where they are good). Check first to see if the school even offers merit aid - not all do. There are a few inexpensive, but still decent, private schools. York College of PA is a local one many recommend.  Hillsdale gets mentioned as an option often.  Grove City (a Christian school) is another local popular one for full pay since it's (more) inexpensive.   If the student has top stats, there are some safeties that can be highly recommended.  The University of Alabama comes to mind.  Nova Southeastern (FL) is one we visited that I'll also recommend (and it gives higher awards for slightly lower stats).

 

We are fortunate that we can meet our EFC, but like others who can do so, it takes about 1/3rd to 1/2 of our monthly take home income during the school year.  We feel it is worth it.

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So, if I am understanding correctly, those who cannot meet EFC need to be looking at schools that offer merit aid and where their dc would fall in the top 25% of stats for a school.  If EFC can be met, then those schools that cover most or all of need are good looks.  But, a school that advertises meeting most or all need really isn't that helpful if a family has an EFC that is just not reachable.

 

However, schools that say they meet full need are hard to get into.  So, if your student falls in range to get into those schools then the upside is that they have a good shot at merit aid at other schools if EFC isn't reachable. 

 

One more thing that is new to me and I am not sure I understand.  I was thinking my ds would be eligible for subsidized loans just about anywhere.  I am now realizing (I think) that if he isn't determined to have need at a school then he can't get subsidized loans.  So, if he went to a regional state uni with a net price equal to our EFC, then he wouldn't qualify for subsidized loans?  So, he can't use subsidized loans to meet the EFC, only if need is determined above and beyond the EFC.  Do I have that right?

 

Seems simple enough but for some reason it takes a lot to get that all straight. 

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So, if I am understanding correctly, those who cannot meet EFC need to be looking at schools that offer merit aid and where their dc would fall in the top 25% of stats for a school.  If EFC can be met, then those schools that cover most or all of need are good looks.  But, a school that advertises meeting most or all need really isn't that helpful if a family has an EFC that is just not reachable.

 

 

An exception can be tippy top schools (like Yale).  If a family makes under 200K, usually these schools will turn out to be less expensive their their EFC.

 

But yes, some of these same students could end up with a free ride at lower level schools due to merit aid offered.  It all depends upon what they are looking for in a school.

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So,.

 

One more thing that is new to me and I am not sure I understand. I was thinking my ds would be eligible for subsidized loans just about anywhere. I am now realizing (I think) that if he isn't determined to have need at a school then he can't get subsidized loans. So, if he went to a regional state uni with a net price equal to our EFC, then he wouldn't qualify for subsidized loans? So, he can't use subsidized loans to meet the EFC, only if need is determined above and beyond the EFC. Do I have that right?

 

.

I'd like an answer to this, too. I thought the same as you, but looking at numbers from schools it looks like subsidized loans can be used to meet need, but to meet EFC, you could only get unsubsidized loans.

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So, if I am understanding correctly, those who cannot meet EFC need to be looking at schools that offer merit aid and where their dc would fall in the top 25% of stats for a school.  If EFC can be met, then those schools that cover most or all of need are good looks.  But, a school that advertises meeting most or all need really isn't that helpful if a family has an EFC that is just not reachable.

 

However, schools that say they meet full need are hard to get into.  So, if your student falls in range to get into those schools then the upside is that they have a good shot at merit aid at other schools if EFC isn't reachable. 

 

One more thing that is new to me and I am not sure I understand.  I was thinking my ds would be eligible for subsidized loans just about anywhere.  I am now realizing (I think) that if he isn't determined to have need at a school then he can't get subsidized loans.  So, if he went to a regional state uni with a net price equal to our EFC, then he wouldn't qualify for subsidized loans?  So, he can't use subsidized loans to meet the EFC, only if need is determined above and beyond the EFC.  Do I have that right?

 

Seems simple enough but for some reason it takes a lot to get that all straight. 

 

I'm no expert, so hopefully someone can double check teachermom2834's statement, but if it checks out, I think THIS is what should be stickied.  And posted on the high school and logic stage boards.  What a nice clear way you put it, 2834!

 

Nan

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I'd like an answer to this, too. I thought the same as you, but looking at numbers from schools it looks like subsidized loans can be used to meet need, but to meet EFC, you could only get unsubsidized loans.

 

I'm pretty sure this is true.  Unsubsidized loans are available to all students - generally up to $5500 for freshman and adjusting from there.  These can be used to pay an EFC.  Subsidized loans are available only to those who qualify for them - and still don't exceed that $5500 number.  I'm not certain all of the $5500 is subsidized either as my guys have all been offered a mix.  Subsidized (as far as I know) can not be used toward the EFC.

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So, if I am understanding correctly, those who cannot meet EFC need to be looking at schools that offer merit aid and where their dc would fall in the top 25% of stats for a school.  If EFC can be met, then those schools that cover most or all of need are good looks.  But, a school that advertises meeting most or all need really isn't that helpful if a family has an EFC that is just not reachable.

 

However, schools that say they meet full need are hard to get into.  So, if your student falls in range to get into those schools then the upside is that they have a good shot at merit aid at other schools if EFC isn't reachable. 

 

One more thing that is new to me and I am not sure I understand.  I was thinking my ds would be eligible for subsidized loans just about anywhere.  I am now realizing (I think) that if he isn't determined to have need at a school then he can't get subsidized loans.  So, if he went to a regional state uni with a net price equal to our EFC, then he wouldn't qualify for subsidized loans?  So, he can't use subsidized loans to meet the EFC, only if need is determined above and beyond the EFC.  Do I have that right?

 

Seems simple enough but for some reason it takes a lot to get that all straight. 

 

I believe you do have it right.

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What is the CSS Profile?

The College Scholarship Service Profile is a financial aid application similar to the FAFSA, but much more detailed. The application is distributed by the College Board (a non-profit corporation), and is designed to give colleges a closer look into the finances of a student and family. Each CSS Profile costs a fee ($25 for sending to the first college, $16 for each addition report; fee waivers available for low income families). Almost 400 colleges require the CSS Profile.  CSS Profile website.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong -

A big difference between the FAFSA and CSS is that the CSS, while being more detailed, does not generate a report  indicating family contribution, ability to pay, or what to expect along the lines for grants or loans.  It's used for information gathering only.  The schools plug this information into their individualized formulae to help generate financial aid packages.

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I think that Paula's post highlights a key point.  Your EFC is your minimum expected contribution.  It is not your defined contribution.  

 

Paula, did the school's NPC show you a combo of loans and grants? 

 

I need to rerun it for ds, as mine is skewed because I was out of high school for so long. 

 

I ran the federal net price calculator for ds and it came out with grants and scholarships, but doesn't break down amounts. I'll be curious to see how it lines up with his final aid package. 

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Correct me if I'm wrong -

A big difference between the FAFSA and CSS is that the CSS, while being more detailed, does not generate a report  indicating family contribution, ability to pay, or what to expect along the lines for grants or loans.  It's used for information gathering only.  The schools plug this information into their individualized formulae to help generate financial aid packages.

 

This was our experience when our daughter attended college; no number was shared with us directly.  Though, when I was conversing with a woman in the financial aid department at the college my daughter attended, she did share the number with me.

 

Regards,

Kareni

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A point that I would like to mention will not apply to all but is critical for some.  Suppose you have inherited a share in your family's mountain cabin or lake cottage. Because this property is not your primary residence, it is an asset.  And it is probably an asset that you are not going to sell.

 

Modest fishing shacks purchased by grandpa can be quite valuable today because of their location--despite however primitive the facilities themselves are.  I have known several people who have been surprised that owning a partial share in a seasonal shack suddenly gives them an asset that appears large on paper.

 

Also, while the value of your home is not entered into the FAFSA, it may be considered by a college that requests additional financial information. 

 

Let me add that those who qualify (married filing jointly, earning < $181K annually, etc.) should consider using your Roth IRA as a savings vehicle for college when your kids are young.  You can withdraw your contributions without penalty (withdrawing earnings/interest is another matter).  Since the IRA is a retirement account, FAFSA is not looking at it, although the CSS profile will.  And if your kid earns sufficient merit or financial aid, you can just let that money grow in your Roth. There is no one size fits all situation for all families, but the Roth may work for some--as it did for us.

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A point that I would like to mention will not apply to all but is critical for some.  Suppose you have inherited a share in your family's mountain cabin or lake cottage. Because this property is not your primary residence, it is an asset.  And it is probably an asset that you are not going to sell.

 

Modest fishing shacks purchased by grandpa can be quite valuable today because of their location--despite however primitive the facilities themselves are.  I have known several people who have been surprised that owning a partial share in a seasonal shack suddenly gives them an asset that appears large on paper.

 

Also, while the value of your home is not entered into the FAFSA, it may be considered by a college that requests additional financial information. 

 

Let me add that those who qualify (married filing jointly, earning < $181K annually, etc.) should consider using your Roth IRA as a savings vehicle for college when your kids are young.  You can withdraw your contributions without penalty (withdrawing earnings/interest is another matter).  Since the IRA is a retirement account, FAFSA is not looking at it, although the CSS profile will.  And if your kid earns sufficient merit or financial aid, you can just let that money grow in your Roth. There is no one size fits all situation for all families, but the Roth may work for some--as it did for us.

Excellent post! Yes, this a big problem for some families. I'm surprised I didn't remember this before, but my cousin got nothing for financial aid despite her family's very low income due to the fact that they inherited a "cabin" (piece of junk not worth a dime) that sat on 40 acres in northern Michigan. The co-inheritor would not buy them out or allow the property to be sold so they could finance her education with their half of the proceeds, so the double whammy was that the property was valuable and totally messed up their FAFSA picture, and they couldn't get rid of it and at least use the money for college in lieu of financial aid.

 

Sometimes a "gift" or inheritance is not a gift if you have no control over it.

 

To correct the problem for the following year, they sold their portion to the co-inheritor for $100.00 which was just profoundly unfair to them, but he had the family over the barrel, and they desperately needed their assets and income to reflect their true financial picture so she could get the pell grant and Michigan Competitive Scholarship.

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To correct the problem for the following year, they sold their portion to the co-inheritor for $100.00 which was just profoundly unfair to them, but he had the family over the barrel, and they desperately needed their assets and income to reflect their true financial picture so she could get the pell grant and Michigan Competitive Scholarship.

 

:(

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To correct the problem for the following year, they sold their portion to the co-inheritor for $100.00 which was just profoundly unfair to them, but he had the family over the barrel, and they desperately needed their assets and income to reflect their true financial picture so she could get the pell grant and Michigan Competitive Scholarship.

 

What charming relatives/friends - no?

 

One does have to believe in (hope for?) karma I think.

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What charming relatives/friends - no?

 

One does have to believe in (hope for?) karma I think.

Karma, reap what you sow, definitely came into play years later. Said uncle who co-inherited was in general, a money grubber extraordinaire and enjoyed taking advantage of relatives including his own grown children.

 

He died alone. He got cancer and having been burned so many times with regard to dealing with him, his relatives just left him to himself, calling once in a while to chat, occasionally sending flowers, or a fruit basket his direction. The funeral, which I attended and provided music for, was sadly, not one of fond memories and mourning for the loss. It was sort of "Go with God" and spit on the grave kind of thing. Not a tear in the place, not even from his children.

 

Sad.

 

Money just isn't worth the loss of relationship. He never figured that out, or at least not before it was too late to repair.

 

I do feel badly about the amount of loans my cousin and her parents took out her first year of college. That said, she survived it quite well, went to grad school, got a great job, and paid off her debt. She wasn't irreparably harmed.

 

GRRRR.....dh's sister is a real Scrooge, and her ethics leave a lot to be desired. Oh, she's made money. But on the other hand, her daughter only checks in with her a couple of times per year, and she hasn't spoken to her son in nearly five years. She doesn't even know where he lives! I hope her money keeps her company when she's old because she isn't going to have anything else. Sigh....

 

At any rate, just everyone be aware that you need to think about these kinds of things as FAFSA looms ahead. Sometimes it might be a good idea to possibly unload an extra property or house in the junior year and get it stashed in a Roth or 401K before the next tax year so you take the financial hit before your student applies for financial aid. Of course, it's all a balancing act because if you take a huge financial loss in order to unload the property, then you have to consider if that will be balanced out by the gain in financial aid or not. Sometimes there might be a good financial reason to just take out the loans and pay them off because the property is appreciating so quickly and will make a lot more dollars for you for retirement if you leave longer. This is where a really good financial advisor with a great reputation comes in handy!

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