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"Education is the best provision for old age."
- Aristotle

Always start out with the Free Application for Student Aid, known as FAFSA. Once your application is processed, you will know what federal assistance programs ,grants, and loans you qualify for, and how much will have to be through private lending agencies. This process is the same for graduate students, however graduate students may not be eligible for undergraduate programs, including Federal Pell Grants.

Once you’ve completed FAFSA, look for ways to cut your college costs. Apply for early action to maximize your financial aid package and apply for scholarships. Below, you’ll find more information and tips on navigating the financial aid process, including articles on the latest news from the financial aid industry.

The best way to supplement your financial aid package is to apply for scholarships. College scholarships minimize student loan debt. You do not need to be a star athlete or valedictorian to win scholarships. Many scholarships are based on financial need, community service and your intended field of study.

2000 or less per year - every parent should be able to find a savings plan that meets their needs. Have a reference point when looking for savings plans. Estimate how much college will cost using a college financial aid calculator. Always start with a conservative number because some savings plans come with stipulations, where funds can only be used for college expenses.

Federal aid comes in the form of federal grant programs, federal student loans and federal work-study programs. Federal Aid is subject to change based on government funding policies. Eligibility guidelines for FAFSA are available online for a quick application and fast processing, starting January 1 of every year. FAFSA will answer the majority of your questions, determine how much funding you can receive, and what federal funding programs you qualify for. You may find that you're only eligible for Stafford Loans. Although Stafford Loans are not as desirable as grants, they do have lower interest rates than any private loan.

Research will help you understand financial aid information, and dispel popular misconceptions about the process.

130 billion is awarded each year to college-bound students. And while it helps to have an impressive academic record, much of the funding is needs-based. Once you've filled out your FAFSA, conduct a free scholarship search to find awards, and boost your financial aid package with money from scholarships and grants.

The optimal way to navigate the financial aid process is conducting thorough research. Luckily, we’ve done it for you. We update our site with the latest news on financial aid changes that affect how much you will receive from the government. Check out our links for updated financial aid news to determine what higher education institutions are doing to affect students’ financial aid packages. Always keep track of how government policies affect your ability to take out loans, get awarded grants, and pay for college.

While college is the most rewarding years in a student’s life, paying for college is not. No one wants high monthly payments or to be forced to default on payments, ultimately damaging your credit score.

“If you put five aid offers from different colleges together, they’re all different, and it’s very, very difficult to compare. That problem could be solved.”
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In fact, consumers have more tools than ever to decipher college prices and financial aid. College websites are required by law to have net-price calculators, to help people estimate what they would really pay, rather than relying on inflated sticker prices. The government’s own College Navigator provides a range of information on each institution, including costs. And the Obama administration’s financial aid “shopping sheet” aims to let people make apples-to-apples comparisons among colleges, just by using consistent definitions.

But the price calculators, potentially powerful instruments, vary in thoroughness, ease of use and even accuracy, and most colleges do not use the shopping sheet, which is voluntary.

Both changes would allow applicants to compare real prices and aid offers in exactly the same terms, but even that might not be enough, Mr. Franken said, because those terms can still be unclear.
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“You talk to students, and it’s a very common refrain that they didn’t really understand what they were getting into,” he said. “They can’t discern this stuff, and if they can’t, that’s saying something.”

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Where Colleges Get Those Numbers

“I literally cried for three days when we got that first financial aid offer,” said Barbara Constable of Richmond, Va. “I was in such shock, it took me three days to regain my composure and call them and say, ‘How are we supposed to afford this? You must be kidding.’ ”

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When their oldest son applied to college three years ago, Ms.

10,000 more than their own estimate, so the family has borrowed much more money than they had intended. Now, with two children in college, she said, if her family paid what the schools say they can afford, they would be living on about $34,000 a year.


Numbers suggest that the difference between need-blind and need-aware admissions is fuzzy.

OPEN Graphic

And like millions of people before them, they cannot figure out how the colleges arrived at their numbers.

With the income, assets and expenses that a family reports on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, the Department of Education determines how much a family should be able to contribute to college. That, in turn, determines whether a student qualifies for low-income federal programs like Pell grants and subsidized student loans. But most consumers do not realize that colleges are free to come up with their own ways of defining a family’s ability to pay.

Many colleges blend the federal and College Board methods, tweaking them as they see fit, or simply add their own factors to the mix. The result is that comparable colleges can reach very different conclusions, and they do not make those formulas public.
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A crunch of government data available online provides a reading on what colleges are demanding. Parents making about $60,000, a little above the national median, are often paying more than 20 percent of earnings. A family making between $100,000 and $200,000 may consider itself far from wealthy, but is often paying nearly half of each additional dollar it earns.

Colleges typically want, in addition to a share of parents’ incomes, about 5 percent of the value of their assets, plus 20 to 25 percent of the students’ (Penn settles for just 5 percent of student assets). But there are differences in how colleges define assets.

High medical expenses and kids in prep school? A few top schools, like Princeton, discount for both. The federal government and state colleges do not.
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Joe Bagnoli has seen price shock from both sides — as a parent and now as dean of admission and financial aid at Grinnell College in Iowa. When his oldest child received aid letters from colleges, he said, “My reaction was: I just don’t have this kind of money.” This year, with two children in college, he borrowed $19,000 to come up with the parental contributions. He said some parents have trouble accepting the sacrifice involved in paying for college but stressed the immense long-term benefits.

“I have to think about whether the portion of the cost that’s assigned to me is commensurate with the return on investment,” he said.

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This year, Grinnell changed its methodology, adding College Board variables to the federal formula.

But even within the group, colleges want the freedom to go their own way.

Precise comparisons among colleges are impossible, but the government’s vast database and net-price calculators provide a rough idea. Even within the rarefied group of highly competitive elites — with similar tuition and a vow to meet a student’s full financial need — what families pay varies widely. The database shows, for example, that for freshmen starting college in 2011, families earning $48,000 or less paid, on average, less than $5,000 a year at Harvard, Duke, the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but more than three times that much at Boston College, the University of Southern California and Washington and Lee. For families in the $75,000 to $110,000 income bracket, Harvard families averaged less than $12,000; Northwestern, Oberlin and Tufts wanted more than twice as much.

Both say they were intimidated by the high sticker prices of private colleges, but now wonder if they might have been able to shop around for a better deal.

“Seriously, everybody doesn’t just use the same definition of need?” said Mr. Damman, who comes from a small town north of Minneapolis. “I had no idea.”

STICKER SHOCKED Will Damman and Abeer Syedah, freshmen at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, say they were intimidated by the high prices of private colleges. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

How Blind Is Need-Blind Admissions?

Since the Great Recession, the list of colleges that have eliminated need-blind admissions has grown ever longer. Reed, Wesleyan, Tufts, Colby, Agnes Scott and, in February, Clark University are among those that no longer make all of their admissions decisions without looking at financial information, and a family’s ability to pay.

“Unless we make some changes in how we approach admissions and financial aid, we would face a variety of negative choices, ranging from large tuition increases to cuts in critical programs to decreases in financial aid for enrolling students,” Clark’s president, David P. Angel, told students and staff in announcing the end of a need-blind policy. Enrolling low-income students and ensuring they can afford the education is a balance, he said, that “is now under great stress — not just at Clark, but across the majority of colleges and universities in this country.”

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The move away from need-blind admissions, however, has provoked reactions ranging from resignation to worry to outright anger. At Clark, students and alumni protested outside the admissions office. The student newspaper asked, “Is Clark becoming elitist?”

Wesleyan’s similar announcement in 2012 was greeted by large demonstrations — students barged into a closed-door trustees meeting — and heated confrontations with Michael S.


  1. Guleboloboq

    Cheers to those who do point it out, usually at a terrible personal and financial price.

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    How do you plan to force the financial institutions to lower their rates?

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  5. Terikiler

    Pretty pumped for Tom Hardy to do a movie about Venmo. Of course an english thespian could make financial transactions interesting

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    What do regulatory-ready organizations prioritize that others don"t? explores:

  8. Xogakuveluf

    I would never want to cancel, but if I ever do it would be a financial decision, like losing my job or on disability

  9. Xevamuheboke

    Are you up for the challenge? Answer 5 questions to test your financial literacy and let me know how you do:

  10. Quvepexoxi

    Do you know how your fund is performing?

  11. Voyuxaku

    Do the benefits of college outweigh the financial costs?

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