# EFC, net price, I'm confused?

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Okay, so because of the other thread, I decided to use a couple of those calculators making all of us about 7-8 years older, and even giving us a little bit of home equity, though we currently rent (thus far, I'd kind of assumed we'd likely pay for our local state university completely out of pocket, which would apparently be about \$10k in tuition and fees per year (I thought it was about \$7k/year... oops), as a ballpark number).

So, first, the EFC calculator, after throwing in some numbers, most of which were very rough guesses, since I don't have a clue about most of the numbers, said something like \$7000-something/year. Then, for the heck of it, I used the College Board to see how much MIT would cost (wishful thinking, lol, had to pick something), and it said:

cost of attendance, \$67k/year

estimated net price, \$8500/year

student work/self-help, \$3400/year

remaining cost, \$5100/year

But then it also said, calculated family contribution, \$6500/year, and student contribution, \$2000. So, this is where I'm lost. Either the student contributes \$3400/year, or \$2000/year... it's either one or the other, right? And either way, the basic idea is that the estimate is \$8500/year, no matter who pays how, right? Also, in the calculators I put in that the student's income was \$0/year, so would our EFC/net cost change much if the student were to actually make the \$2k-\$3400 the CB thinks the student should make? Or if the student were to make even more, say, \$10k/year?

Sorry, I'm new to this and it's beyond confusing. Just someone please tell me that the we're supposed to pay \$7k-\$8k numbers are about right - we can cashflow that, and then I don't have to worry about all this "college is expensive, you should save up for college, etc" stuff. I'm okay too if MIT is more expensive than that... just, you know, that with \$8k/year college should be doable.

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Student work/self help assumes that the student will likely pick up some sort of work study or job on campus.

EFC stands for "estimated family contribution"  IOW, it's what the college and government assume the parents will pay.  It is separate from student work study.

Okay... I think I've also seen places that include student work study as part of the financial aid. So, basically, the CB thinks that for MIT, our EFC is \$6500 (even though I'm pretty sure I put in the same numbers as on the other EFC calculator which said about \$1k more), but that we'd probably end up paying only \$5100, which is less than our EFC?

ETA: as a side note, is MIT known for being generous with aid? Should I have put in some other random college? College is still way too far off to have any realistic guesses at where my kids might attend other than just our local U.

Edited by luuknam
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Apparently they are generous....

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Right, we're below that \$90k/year figure... so, any ideas for what college I should put into the calculator? I don't want to just randomly try a dozen colleges at this point, since it's still so far away.

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Well, if it were me, I would figure out which colleges are actually options, and then plug all those in.  If that means a dozen, that's what I would do, it's not like that would take a week to do or something.

We're talking about a 10yo and a 7yo. I have literally NO idea what colleges are options, other than a) whatever state U we'll happen to be living close to, and b) sending them to live with relatives in NL where the cost of tuition/fees is not sky high (the kids are dual citizens by birth).

Edited by luuknam
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Okay, so because of the other thread, I decided to use a couple of those calculators making all of us about 7-8 years older, and even giving us a little bit of home equity, though we currently rent (thus far, I'd kind of assumed we'd likely pay for our local state university completely out of pocket, which would apparently be about \$10k in tuition and fees per year (I thought it was about \$7k/year... oops), as a ballpark number).

So, first, the EFC calculator, after throwing in some numbers, most of which were very rough guesses, since I don't have a clue about most of the numbers, said something like \$7000-something/year. Then, for the heck of it, I used the College Board to see how much MIT would cost (wishful thinking, lol, had to pick something), and it said:

cost of attendance, \$67k/year

estimated net price, \$8500/year

student work/self-help, \$3400/year

remaining cost, \$5100/year

But then it also said, calculated family contribution, \$6500/year, and student contribution, \$2000. So, this is where I'm lost. Either the student contributes \$3400/year, or \$2000/year... it's either one or the other, right? And either way, the basic idea is that the estimate is \$8500/year, no matter who pays how, right? Also, in the calculators I put in that the student's income was \$0/year, so would our EFC/net cost change much if the student were to actually make the \$2k-\$3400 the CB thinks the student should make? Or if the student were to make even more, say, \$10k/year?

Sorry, I'm new to this and it's beyond confusing. Just someone please tell me that the we're supposed to pay \$7k-\$8k numbers are about right - we can cashflow that, and then I don't have to worry about all this "college is expensive, you should save up for college, etc" stuff. I'm okay too if MIT is more expensive than that... just, you know, that with \$8k/year college should be doable.

For this scene, your overall family cost should be \$8500.  Of that, your student can earn up to \$3400 with what is probably the Federal Work Study program if they care to seek out a job on campus using that program and if they work the max hours to get that amount.  They might not choose it (and not all students qualify for it), so in general, they expect the student to come up with \$2000 from somewhere and the family should be able to come up with \$6500.

If you want to check two schools to see what they decide, check U Rochester (generally good with aid up to an EFC, though they use the Profile so assets can make a difference) and RIT.  RIT with the kids at our school is not super good with aid.

Tippy top schools like MIT are often super generous with need based aid, but very tough to get admission to as there's a lot of competition.  UR and RIT ought to give you basics from two that are typical "good" and "not-so-good, but has some" to get your rough estimates.

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For this scene, your overall family cost should be \$8500.  Of that, your student can earn up to \$3400 with what is probably the Federal Work Study program if they care to seek out a job on campus using that program and if they work the max hours to get that amount.  They might not choose it (and not all students qualify for it), so in general, they expect the student to come up with \$2000 from somewhere and the family should be able to come up with \$6500.

If you want to check two schools to see what they decide, check U Rochester (generally good with aid up to an EFC, though they use the Profile so assets can make a difference) and RIT.  RIT with the kids at our school is not super good with aid.

Thanks! That's the kind of thing I was hoping for. Except maybe it'd be nice to have some out-of-state schools like that, since universities in Rochester would quite probably be commuter schools if our kids wanted to go there (I commuted 1.5 hours each way for a couple of years of uni when we lived in Texas, so, I know what that commute is like).

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Thanks! That's the kind of thing I was hoping for. Except maybe it'd be nice to have some out-of-state schools like that, since universities in Rochester would quite probably be commuter schools if our kids wanted to go there (I commuted 1.5 hours each way for a couple of years of uni when we lived in Texas, so, I know what that commute is like).

As long as you are looking at private schools out of state, numbers shouldn't vary too much between "good with aid" and "not-so-good with aid."  There should be a question you can check on the NPC saying you're looking at residing on campus I think.  It's been quite a few years since I've used one TBH and they weren't around at all for my first two lads.

I selected RIT for "not-so-good" aid due to kids at school and what they received compared to EFC.

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Yeah, I just did the calculator for RIT having my kid commute, and net price is almost \$28k/year (remaining cost after self-help, \$19,500/year). So, you're right that that one is expensive (I already knew they were expensive because I looked into all decent schools within commuting distance for myself, since I only *almost* completed my degree in TX before we had to move, and crossed RIT right off the list, but I wasn't sure how they'd be for teens... so, basically, only if they somehow get merit aid. I'm not surprised).

ETA: or, \$35k/year net price, \$26k/year remaining if he were to live on campus.

Edited by luuknam
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U Rochester as a commuter school, otoh, is \$24k/year net price, \$9200/year remaining cost, so, that's vastly better. I'm not entirely entirely not sure why they include \$11k/year in loans, while RIT has much less in loans?

Edited by luuknam
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Wait, what?!? I just used SUNY's net price calculator for Buffalo as a commuter school, and the net price is *more* than tuition+fees. They include over \$4k for room and board, and money for personal expenses, and all of that kind of nonsense? How is that part of the price of a *commuter* school? I get including room&board if you select living on campus, but what on earth? If you're living at home, room and board could be *anything*, depending on whether you live in a cardboard box or in a palace. I want to know how big of a check I'll be supposed to write to the U. Sigh.  :willy_nilly:

What calculator will tell me how big of a check I'll be supposed to write to a given U?

ETA: I'm aware kids have to eat and use water to shower etc. But they already do that, and probably won't do much more of it when they enroll in college, so I don't care about that.

ETA2: okay, looking at the numbers some more, I can take out those things, and end up with a \$2800 check written to UB/year, or, \$6800/year if we don't take the loan. It seems to assume my kid won't qualify for work-study?

Edited by luuknam
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So, um, these loans that are included in some of these numbers, those would be the subsidized loans the student qualifies for, right? Or is that the subsidized + unsubsidized? Or how much of those are things the student qualifies for without us cosigning vs with us cosigning?

ETA: not that I care very much at the moment about cosigning or not, just wondering.

Edited by luuknam
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So, um, these loans that are included in some of these numbers, those would be the subsidized loans the student qualifies for, right? Or is that the subsidized + unsubsidized? Or how much of those are things the student qualifies for without us cosigning vs with us cosigning?

You don't know how much subsidized vs unsubsidized Stafford loans you'll get, but the total of all Stafford loans is capped at 5k for freshmen.

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You don't know how much subsidized vs unsubsidized Stafford loans you'll get, but the total of all Stafford loans is capped at 5k for freshmen.

So, when U Rochester includes \$11k in loans per year in their calculator, does that mean that the university itself is in the loan business?

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We're talking about a 10yo and a 7yo. I have literally NO idea what colleges are options, other than a) whatever state U we'll happen to be living close to, and b) sending them to live with relatives in NL where the cost of tuition/fees is not sky high (the kids are dual citizens by birth).

It is good to have options!

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It is good to have options!

Yes... I'm basically trying to figure out if those two will be our only options. :lol: Like I said, I think we should be able to cashflow something like \$8k/year or so (don't go on vacation abroad, eat out less, no need to send kids to summer camp etc anymore), but, this whole college cost business is so nebulous. On the bright side, thus far I've only told my oldest* that he'll get to go to college somehow, even if it's 2 years of CC and then 2 years of local U... that's basically all I've promised, that we'll work something out, and that part of that might involve him working part time and/or summers, so, at least I haven't promised him the moon. I did also mention that *some* kids get scholarships for doing well academically, but, I hope he won't turn 17 some day and think we'll just pay for any university out of pocket. If he does, he hasn't been listening.

*I haven't talked to my youngest yet about college, what with him being 7yo.

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U Rochester as a commuter school, otoh, is \$24k/year net price, \$9200/year remaining cost, so, that's vastly better. I'm not entirely entirely not sure why they include \$11k/year in loans, while RIT has much less in loans?

I'm really not sure why U Roc would have that much in loans unless they are assuming you will get a Parent Plus loan for \$6000 as part of your contribution.  If that's the case, then RIT is just not saying where you get the extra from.  It could still be a Parent Plus loan - or - your choice I guess.

ETA2: okay, looking at the numbers some more, I can take out those things, and end up with a \$2800 check written to UB/year, or, \$6800/year if we don't take the loan. It seems to assume my kid won't qualify for work-study?

The MIT data didn't say Federal Work Study, so maybe they offer their own opportunities.  I'm not sure.  FWS eligibility is based upon your Fafsa if I recall correctly.

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/work-study

Whether loans are subsidized or not will also depend upon that - and I thought subsidized was getting eliminated by the new admin?  Or was that just a rumor?

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Yes... I'm basically trying to figure out if those two will be our only options. :lol: Like I said, I think we should be able to cashflow something like \$8k/year or so (don't go on vacation abroad, eat out less, no need to send kids to summer camp etc anymore), but, this whole college cost business is so nebulous. On the bright side, thus far I've only told my oldest* that he'll get to go to college somehow, even if it's 2 years of CC and then 2 years of local U... that's basically all I've promised, that we'll work something out, and that part of that might involve him working part time and/or summers, so, at least I haven't promised him the moon. I did also mention that *some* kids get scholarships for doing well academically, but, I hope he won't turn 17 some day and think we'll just pay for any university out of pocket. If he does, he hasn't been listening.

*I haven't talked to my youngest yet about college, what with him being 7yo.

If you stay in NY and they keep their program offering tuition for those who stay and work in NY afterward, that could be a good deal financially.

There are a lot of "ifs" for someone that far away, but it's good to stay abreast of what's going on so no one is surprised.  Aim for high scores.  Regardless, those tend to bring opportunities for more money than not having them - even if it means just getting accepted to a great need-based aid school.  It's worth it to be sure vocab/reading and math skills are super solid, along with being able to write a good essay (it's not on so many tests anymore, but a good admissions or scholarship essay can help nicely).

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If you stay in NY and they keep their program offering tuition for those who stay and work in NY afterward, that could be a good deal financially.

There are a lot of "ifs" for someone that far away, but it's good to stay abreast of what's going on so no one is surprised.  Aim for high scores.  Regardless, those tend to bring opportunities for more money than not having them - even if it means just getting accepted to a great need-based aid school.  It's worth it to be sure vocab/reading and math skills are super solid, along with being able to write a good essay (it's not on so many tests anymore, but a good admissions or scholarship essay can help nicely).

Yeah, I'm not enthusiastic about NY's indentured servitude program for people who can take 15 credit hours per semester and maintain a certain GPA.

Both my kids test well. My oldest doesn't write well, but he's only in 5th grade, and since he's young for grade and probably 2E, I might or might not have him repeat 8th grade, either way, there's still a lot of time to work on writing, so we don't know what that'll be like by the time he's applying. So far it looks like my youngest will be a strong writer and he tests well. It'd be really sweet if one or both could get National Merit or some other merit stuff. Just way too far away to even begin to count those chickens, since if counting chickens before they're hatched is bad, counting them before the eggs have been laid is completely pie-in-the-sky.

ETA: even if they don't get any merit aid/scholarships, good academic skills would still be useful for admissions and just general ability to succeed in college though, so, it's all good.

Edited by luuknam
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So, when U Rochester includes \$11k in loans per year in their calculator, does that mean that the university itself is in the loan business?

No, they are just laying out a scenario: we will probably give you about this much in aid, parents have to pay x amount, the student can do work study, and maybe get this amount of loans. Most student loans do go directly to the school, and they will disburse them as needed. If your loan exceeds tuition and such, the school might be cutting you a check to pay for books or living expenses, but they aren't granting you the loan.

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We're talking about a 10yo and a 7yo. I have literally NO idea what colleges are options, other than a) whatever state U we'll happen to be living close to, and b) sending them to live with relatives in NL where the cost of tuition/fees is not sky high (the kids are dual citizens by birth).

I would do a couple public universities that are in and out of state.  I would also do a few private universities at varying levels of ranking and selectivity.

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Wait, what?!? I just used SUNY's net price calculator for Buffalo as a commuter school, and the net price is *more* than tuition+fees. They include over \$4k for room and board, and money for personal expenses, and all of that kind of nonsense? How is that part of the price of a *commuter* school? I get including room&board if you select living on campus, but what on earth? If you're living at home, room and board could be *anything*, depending on whether you live in a cardboard box or in a palace. I want to know how big of a check I'll be supposed to write to the U. Sigh.  :willy_nilly:

What calculator will tell me how big of a check I'll be supposed to write to a given U?

ETA: I'm aware kids have to eat and use water to shower etc. But they already do that, and probably won't do much more of it when they enroll in college, so I don't care about that.

ETA2: okay, looking at the numbers some more, I can take out those things, and end up with a \$2800 check written to UB/year, or, \$6800/year if we don't take the loan. It seems to assume my kid won't qualify for work-study?

It sounds like that calculator is making one estimate for on campus students and another estimate for students who live off campus, but are not living at home (for example an off campus apartment).

The reason that the NPCs include things like room and board, travel and personal expenses is to help families think about the total expense of having their kid at college.  I've seen posts from students with full tuition scholarships, who don't have a place to live because they didn't realize that they would also have to pay for room and board.

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It sounds like that calculator is making one estimate for on campus students and another estimate for students who live off campus, but are not living at home (for example an off campus apartment).

The reason that the NPCs include things like room and board, travel and personal expenses is to help families think about the total expense of having their kid at college.  I've seen posts from students with full tuition scholarships, who don't have a place to live because they didn't realize that they would also have to pay for room and board.

No, the calculator specifically asked where the student would be living, and I checked "with parents". Other options included on campus and off campus and I think a fourth option I don't recall. They were literally just trying to include the cost of having a person living in our house, which, um, yeah, they're not free, but, it's a pretty random estimate that's unrelated to the size of the check I'd need to plan on writing. Which, I think for student loan borrowing options, the cost of attendance (which includes living expenses) is relevant, but having net price come out higher than tuition+fees for someone living at home does not make sense. Oh well.

If they'd make these calculators less confusing, maybe more people would save up for college. I'm still confused as to which calculators included what costs. People with 11th-12th graders are going to be interested in the details. People with elementary school kids are just going to throw up their hands in confusion and say "w/e, it's still a looooong time from now, it'll just have to work out somehow". (Okay, I wasn't particularly planning on saving up anyway, but, I'm not sure how much the wiser I am now than I was before I did the calculators... college is expensive, okay, I already knew that. We should be able to afford our local U. Okay, I already knew that. Other Us might or might not offer decent need and or merit based aid, okay, I already knew that as well. Time to stick head back into the sand for about 6-7 years).

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No, the calculator specifically asked where the student would be living, and I checked "with parents". Other options included on campus and off campus and I think a fourth option I don't recall. They were literally just trying to include the cost of having a person living in our house, which, um, yeah, they're not free, but, it's a pretty random estimate that's unrelated to the size of the check I'd need to plan on writing. Which, I think for student loan borrowing options, the cost of attendance (which includes living expenses) is relevant, but having net price come out higher than tuition+fees for someone living at home does not make sense. Oh well.

If they'd make these calculators less confusing, maybe more people would save up for college. I'm still confused as to which calculators included what costs. People with 11th-12th graders are going to be interested in the details. People with elementary school kids are just going to throw up their hands in confusion and say "w/e, it's still a looooong time from now, it'll just have to work out somehow". (Okay, I wasn't particularly planning on saving up anyway, but, I'm not sure how much the wiser I am now than I was before I did the calculators... college is expensive, okay, I already knew that. We should be able to afford our local U. Okay, I already knew that. Other Us might or might not offer decent need and or merit based aid, okay, I already knew that as well. Time to stick head back into the sand for about 6-7 years).

Some parents make their kids pay rent and contribute to the food bill, etc, when they live at home.  I suppose this allows them to figure out how much it should be (kid or parent).

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If they'd make these calculators less confusing, maybe more people would save up for college. I'm still confused as to which calculators included what costs. People with 11th-12th graders are going to be interested in the details. People with elementary school kids are just going to throw up their hands in confusion and say "w/e, it's still a looooong time from now, it'll just have to work out somehow". (Okay, I wasn't particularly planning on saving up anyway, but, I'm not sure how much the wiser I am now than I was before I did the calculators... college is expensive, okay, I already knew that. We should be able to afford our local U. Okay, I already knew that. Other Us might or might not offer decent need and or merit based aid, okay, I already knew that as well. Time to stick head back into the sand for about 6-7 years).

I think trying a net price calculator now won't be very useful to figure out what it will cost you in 8 years.

With the funding cuts in states, public Us will become even more expensive.

With the tax changes for university endowments, privates will not be able to give as generous scholarships as they can now.

With people not being able to deduct charitable donations from their taxes, nobody has any clue how much that will affect giving. It's a significant funding source for privates, and even at our public, our departmental scholarships are funded through donations from alumni. Nobody can predict how much those are going to go down, but everybody agrees that they will.

The best takeaway is: save as much as you can; it will cost more than you think; look again when your student is in 10th grade.

Edited by regentrude
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Estimated family contribution and net price are conflated regularly on this board but to be precise, here is the terminology a financial aid advisor would use--

-- EFC is what the financial aid formula says you can afford. The EFC often refers to the FAFSA EFC which you can see at the FAFSA4caster https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/estimate The CSS/Profile does not tell you your EFC at the end, but there is a college board EFC estimator. Consider the result a guess at your Profile EFC because colleges are more likely to be tweaking the formulas when they use the Profile. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-calculator

-- Cost of Attendance is what it costs to attend a particular school, it is your cost of tuition, fees, room and board, travel, books, etc.

-- Net Price is your cost of attendance minus your free money (scholarships, grants, subsidized loans) for a particular school. It is not your EFC because schools distribute their financial aid with different priorities. Net Price Calculators are specific to a particular college. The government requires NPCalculators to be available on the website, but unfortunately doesn't require them to be accurate.

When thinking of a 7-10 year old, you have to predict both your own income and how college costs will change 8-10 years ahead. Net price calculators can't really do that.

You might try poking around on www.collegesavings.org and savingforcollege.com for tuition forecasts and savings projections

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OP - I just want to give you props for thinking about this. Yes, there are many unknowns about what college costs will be in the next 8-10 years. It is impossible to know how everything will play out for your children. I am a HUGE planner re: all things in life (aka a control freak), and it is frustrating to me when I cannot be precise in my planning. Like so many things, however, "something is better than nothing," so being aware and as proactive as you can is wise even if you can't get a perfect answer because of things beyond your control. Doing "something" is better than denial. :)

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I think trying a net price calculator now won't be very useful to figure out what it will cost you in 8 years.

With the funding cuts in states, public Us will become even more expensive.

With the tax changes for university endowments, privates will not be able to give as generous scholarships as they can now.

With people not being able to deduct charitable donations from their taxes, nobody has any clue how much that will affect giving. It's a significant funding source for privates, and even at our public, our departmental scholarships are funded through donations from alumni. Nobody can predict how much those are going to go down, but everybody agrees that they will.

The best takeaway is: save as much as you can; it will cost more than you think; look again when your student is in 10th grade.

Right, it's just that looking at what college would cost today is my best guess for 8 years from now - sure, college cost will go up, but our income will probably go up too. One big question I haven't even tried to figure out yet is what would happen if I were to get a job around the same time, and how that would affect EFC (for one, I have no idea how much I'd make - that would at least partially depend on whether I'll finish college before then and what major, etc). Also, buying a house, saving for retirement, and me finishing college are higher up the list than saving for college, especially if saving for college is a nebulous "save as much as you can" thing rather than a concrete number, and also, the more you save the higher your EFC becomes, doesn't it?

Basically, if it were to look like we could cashflow \$8k but the expected cost would be \$12k, then there'd be an incentive to save... but with the numbers I'm seeing, it looks like we should be able to cashflow the cheapest options, and the other options are in la la land unless the kids get a scholarship or some decent paying job themselves, so, why bother?

net price comes out higher than tuition and fees because of transportation, books, and laptop.

around me,  people are split between saving starting at birth, cash-flowing, and having the dc fund it

Transportation and books were items listed separately from room&board. At birth our income was close to zero. For most of my oldest's first 5 years we were below the poverty line, but, while it's maybe common for people to either save starting at birth or not at all, I figured it was still worth contemplating, since 7-8 years is still enough time to do *something* if we decide that's wise. Realistically though, it'll have to be a combination of cash-flowing, child contributing, and scholarships if the kid wants to go to a college outside of commuting distance, because buying a house and saving up for retirement would probably be better ideas.

I'm not really sure what I expected from looking at the calculators... I guess I got intimidated by the threads about people being shocked at how clueless people are.

P.S. some of these calculators asked how old the older parent is. Anyone know what's up with that?

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The age of the older parent is important because the fafsa formula parent asset allowances depend on that. The older you are, the more money is protected.

The efc increases with assets, but the rule of thumb is that they want only 6% of your assets in a year, as opposed to approx 25% of your income. Retirement accounts are not considered by the fafsa, and neither is your home, but schools that use the css may consider home value.

Edited by regentrude
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There is a potential problem with getting a job to fund college at the same time the youngster starts.  The greater income will be noted on future FAFSAs (two years later if I'm thinking correctly with the most recent change).  Once that greater income is factored in, it will have assumed you've had that income for a longer period and have been able to save accordingly.  Since it's recent with little to no savings from it, you might find a much larger unanticipated bill junior and senior year if you had significant need based aid the first year or two.

We had this happen, not from a job, but when we had a buyer approach us about buying a property in our retirement portfolio.  It showed our income increased significantly that year and pretty much made us full pay.  However, if we had used that money toward one year of college for two boys - zap - there go the retirement funds!  We were prepared for our kids to sit out a year if need be, but appeals at both of their colleges were successful (required documentation of course) and a less costly agreement worked out.  If it were due to a new job, I'm not sure appealing would have worked TBH.

Something to keep in mind.

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The age of the older parent is important because the fafsa formula parent asset allowances depend on that. The older you are, the more money is protected.

The efc increases with assets, but the rule of thumb is that they want only 6% of your assets in a year, as opposed to approx 25% of your income. Retirement accounts are not considered by the fafsa, and neither is your home, but schools that use the css may consider home value.

Well, hurray for DW being 8 years older than me then. Our potential home value should be low though - if we buy, it'll probably cost \$150k or less, and since we'd own it for 7 years or so tops before oldest goes to college, the equity in it will likely not be that great either. For the sake of argument, in all the calculators I used yesterday that asked about it, I said we had \$20k in home equity (because we should qualify for VA home loan stuff, we shouldn't need to put much down if/when we buy).

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There is a potential problem with getting a job to fund college at the same time the youngster starts.  The greater income will be noted on future FAFSAs (two years later if I'm thinking correctly with the most recent change).  Once that greater income is factored in, it will have assumed you've had that income for a longer period and have been able to save accordingly.  Since it's recent with little to no savings from it, you might find a much larger unanticipated bill junior and senior year if you had significant need based aid the first year or two.

Right, I thought something like that was likely to happen. Which might still mean it's worth it to basically work for free for those couple of years, since it'll add to my resume/work experience. Thus far, the most highly skilled/highest paying job I've had was just over 3 months as a truck driver, and my most recent job was when Celery was a 1yo. So, basically, my plan was to finish college while the kids are in high school, and then *start* my career. Now, I *could* wait until my youngest has (almost) graduated from college, but since my youngest will graduate high school when I'm about 43, starting my career at 41, or 43, is probably better than waiting until I'm 47, even if I'm essentially working for free for some time, right? Because if I wait to start my career at 47, I'll be Old (not that 41 or 43 or w/e would be young, but every year matters at that point). It'd give me a higher chance to get hired, and more time to get promoted, etc, so, in the end it'd work out better. (fwiw, I'm leaning towards maybe majoring in math and then possibly getting a master's in biostatistics, or something - things that pay decently)

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If you go to college at the same time as your oldest, it may help your dc's financial aid, but that is college dependent.

Right, technically, we could have 3 of us in college at the same time if we plan things right. If Celery were to repeat a grade (possibly not a bad idea, because of his ASD and him being a mid-late August birthday anyway, and Broccoli were to graduate a year early (quite possible with the way things have been going), then they'd be only one year apart in when they start college, and I have 1 year FT left for undergrad, and then possibly grad school. The main thing is that a) if I wait until oldest and/or youngest is in college before I finish college, that delays my career, and b) it's harder to cashflow 3 people in college than 1.5-ish, and saving with a bipolar person in the household is uh, not easy. If I were to save up a substantial quantity of money for college for us, one possible scenario is that DW will lose her job and all those savings will be wiped out with me seeing nothing in return, kwim? Which is one reason I don't want to wait until the kids are in college before I start college - I really kind of want my degree sooner rather than later, because it makes me less vulnerable. It's an investment that can't be wiped out by financial misfortune/bad decisions.

Edited by luuknam
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What I need is "Financial Planning for People Married to Bipolar Aspies" or some such, aka: "Financial Planning For When Things Keep Blowing Up In Your Face".

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Your return on the scenario of using college savings to supplement unemployment benefits is that you get to live, that's not a nothing.

No, it's throwing away money before asking family for help or before qualifying for things like food stamps. That said, I keep forgetting about unemployment benefits. Last time DW lost a job, she'd worked there for 11 months, but because of timing, not 3 full quarters, so she didn't qualify for unemployment. Now she's had the same job for 5 years, so, she should qualify for unemployment. Unemployment should pay for all our needs - we shouldn't have to supplement it with savings until it runs out, because we can cut out a lot of expenses (rent is cheap, we have no car payment, etc).

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Right, technically, we could have 3 of us in college at the same time if we plan things right.

A parent in college does NOT reduce the children's EFCs under the standard formulas. There may be a few schools out there that consider it, but don't count on this as a financial aid strategy.

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If you have family that will help, read up on what cash help does to EFC before you accept any money. Essentially in NY, the aid should go to the parent, and time it after EFC has been determined, before the bill is due.  Or the aid should be given to the student after grad, so he can pay off his loans. Read carefully about 529s and SNAP.  Good thing you are starting your research now.

No, I meant if DW were to lose her job and we were to end up being a zero income family again, college savings for the kids would go to our living expenses before our families would help, or before we'd qualify for food stamps (because they don't allow you to have more than a piddly amount in savings before you qualify)... but anyway, that was before you reminded me that we should actually qualify for unemployment if that were to happen.

I'm pretty sure that the only way our families might contribute to the kids' college would be by maybe letting the kids live with them at low cost, or by us inheriting some money. The latter is more of a possibility on one side, and the former more on the other, based on age and location. But cash assistance for college is not going to be forthcoming otherwise, I don't think.

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A parent in college does NOT reduce the children's EFCs under the standard formulas. There may be a few schools out there that consider it, but don't count on this as a financial aid strategy.

As if college is a hobby for a 43yo unemployed empty-nester without a college degree.  :banghead:  But anyway, good to know - like I said, I wasn't planning on waiting until the kids were in college, but this is an extra incentive to finish before they start college.

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