Evaluate and Compare Finanical Aid Award

Financial aid award letters provide information about grants, scholarships, loans and student employment. But there is no standard format so it is hard to compare.


Award Letter Comparison Tool

Quick Reference Guide to Evaluating Financial Aid Award Letters

Advanced Award Letter Comparison Tool – comparison to include issues other than money


Report Shows Increases in Tuition and Federal Aid

Report Shows Increases in Tuition and Federal Aid

  • public four-year colleges and universities raised in-state tuition and fees an average of 8% during the 2010-2011 school year. However, students are receiving record increases in federal grant aid to compensate.
  • public four-year colleges and universities have increased at an average annual rate of 6% beyond inflation over the past 10 years, compared to 3% at public two-year colleges and 3% at private nonprofit four-year institutions.
  • largest increase in Pell Grant history led to $28.2 billion in grant aid for 7.7 million students during the 2009-2010 school year, which is an increase of almost $10 billion from the previous year.

The Problem with Financial Aid – “need blind” or “need sensitive”

The Problem with Financial Aid by Daniel Luzer | Washington Monthly

But a college can’t keep offering more and more generous financial aid if the institution lacks the cash to keep up with its own higher pricing. And that’s the problem many of them have; their investments simply aren’t paying out the way they used to.

So many colleges are compromising. They used to be need blind and promise to meet need. But now Colorado College is “need sensitive,” which means the school considers if the student can pay when making its admissions decision. At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University the school tells students who can’t afford the university not to come, or to come later.

Paying for College (When you haven’t saved enough) – Steve Cohen – Admissions – Forbes

Paying for College (When you haven’t saved enough) – Steve Cohen – Admissions – Forbes

Financial Aid is Available

It absolutely helps to befriend a live person in the financial aid office early in the process.

The Relationship Between Admissions and Financial Aid

Admission decision is completely separate from the family’s ability to pay for it — the process is known as need-blind admissions.  Look for that phrase on the college’s admissions web page.  Every school is candid about its process.  If a school is not need-blind – wealthier schools typically are – asking for financial aid can have a small negative impact on a kid’s chances of admission.

“Expected Family Contribution”

Let’s say you earn $150,000 and have $150,000 in non-real estate assets.  Your expected family contribution will be $19,500 per year/child for private college; and $25,400 per year/per child for public universities.

Colleges “Meet the Need”

Read on a college’s website – that the school tries to meet all demonstrated need.  Or you’ll see a statistic about the percentage of need met.

The Financial Aid “Package”

The financial aid package is typically comprised of three things: scholarships (or grants;) loans; and work study.  Work-study is typically less than 10% of the overall tuition charge, and involves Sam taking a campus job – in the dining room, the library, etc.

Merit scholarships – to attract academically-talented kids to their campus

Scholarships are outright grants and do not have to be repaid. It is essentially a discount off the college’s list price.

The loans come in a variety of forms and sources, with many emanating from the Federal government.  Stafford, Perkins, subsidized, unsubsidized.

The Process

There are four basic steps:

  1. Tell each college you want to apply for financial aid.  Typically the admissions application has a box to check off.
  2. Submit whatever college-specific forms the school demands.
  3. Complete the on government’s online FAFSA form.
  4. Complete the College Board’s CSS Profile forms.  (Most private colleges require this special application to be eligible for financial aid from that school.)  One submission to the College Board covers multiple colleges; but a separate fee has to be paid for each.

Your kid has to complete her own FAFSA; you will have to get multiple passwords and PIN numbers; and you’ll be navigating through several look-alike, non-communicating government websites.   And make sure you have every tax document you submitted last year when you complete the forms.

Meeting the Expected Family Contribution: Parent Loans

Parent Plus loans are government-backed, moderate-interest rate loans that are made to the parents while Sam is in college.  They don’t have to be repaid while she is in college.

Private Counselors

Federal Grants, Tax Breaks Help Reduce Tuition Pain – US News and World Report

Federal Grants, Tax Breaks Help Reduce Tuition Pain – US News and World Report

  • average published in-state tuition for full-time students at public universities rose by $470 to an average of $7,610 for the fall of 2010, the typical student ended up paying only $1,540 out of pocket
  • average private college raised its tuition by $840 to $27,290, but the average private college student actually paid $11,320 in tuition after scholarships and tax benefits were subtracted
  • full-time students at community colleges, where the average sticker price rose just $120 to $2,710 this academic year, typically got enough aid to cover all their tuition and another $670 for books

Main reason for the decline in net price:

  • since 2008, the maximum size of the federal Pell Grant has risen by $819 to $5,550
  • number of students who qualify for the federal grant has skyrocketed: 7.7 million Pells were awarded last year, up from 6.2 million in 2008, and 3.8 million in 1999
  • as a part of the stimulus, the government created the $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was claimed by about 12 million families last year

About a third of the full-time students, or about 3.8 million people, didn’t receive scholarships or tax benefits, and so paid sticker prices

College Week Live – Virtual College Fair – 300+ colleges including UC’s!

Sign up  for www.CollegeWeekLive.com, the world’s largest college fair and online admissions event website. It’s free and supported by the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid office. Register now for CollegeWeekLive FALL on November 3rd & 4th!!

Win a $10,000 Scholarship just for attending the event. Register now for the College Week Live website, and then login on November 3rd or 4th to win!

At CollegeWeekLive FALL, you can . . .

  • Chat live with admissions reps from 300+ colleges– show your interest!
  • Find $2.5+ million in financial aid & scholarships from participating colleges
  • Hear what campus life is like via student video webcasts from favorite schools
  • Get great admissions advicefrom experts presenting live via video on topics like
    “How to write a college application essay” and “How to find scholarships.”

See attached flyer for a list of participating colleges!

Cougar Academic Award from Washington State University

Washington State University (Pullman, WA), will guarantee admission for any student who is above a 3.5 GPA from any US High School.  The Cougar Academic Award can award you up to $36,000 over the 4 years (as part of the WUE-Western Undergraduate Exchange).  Applications must be submitted by Jan. 31. If you are interested in applying to the Honors College, you should submit your application shortly after Nov. 1.  Top 3 areas of interest:  business, communication and pre-med. National Merit Semi-finalists receive full tuition scholarships, renewable for up to 3 years.

Book: U.S. News & World Report America’s Best Colleges (2010 Edition)

Only 2.9% of students applied to 12 or more schools.

For fall 2010, Department of Education projects the ratio of collegegoers to be 57% girls to 43% boys.

  • Programs to Look For (page 34-35):
    • Internships
    • Senior Capstone (ask students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and synthesizes what they’ve learned)
    • First-Year Experience (first-year seminars or other academic programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis)
    • Undergraduate Research Creative Projects
    • Learning Communities
    • Study Abroad
    • Service Learning
    • Writing in the Disciplines
  • Turning Two Years Into Four (Community Colleges) (page 42-43) – http://www.usnews.com/commcollege
    • More than 100 2-year colleges have more than 3,000 students and offer campus housing.
  • Chapter 3: How to Get In (page 44-59)
    • 5 Keys to an Awesome Application
      • Grades do matter. Don’t succumb to senioritis.
      • Don’t do well on certain tests? Consider the ACT instead of SAT.
      • Polish your essay until sings. Make sure your authentic voice comes through.
      • Pick your teacher recommendations carefully.
      • Rejected by the schools you applied to? May is not too late to start over.
    • Stop Selling Yourself Short (page 46-48)
      • Making the grade.
        • academic risk takers
        • challenged themselves
        • rigorous curriculum
        • has it prepared them?
        • What we want for students is the feeling that they’re looking for the next great thing they need to know. We like to see a sense of joy and curiosity.
      • Express yourself.
        • doesn’t  have to be a week in Africa. It can you were a clerk at Safeway for the summer and that changed the way you view race relations or the environment.
        • one in which “a student travels in a few swift paragraphs from one perspective to another and has seen the deeper meaning, learned the lesson, or found the humor.”
        • We are looking for a thoughtful, earnest presentation that shows complicated interests and thinking.
        • Always, always, always be honest.
      • Show a little love.
        • demonstrated interest – showing genuine enthusiasm for each school on your list is a must.
        • No college wants to play second or fifth or 15th fiddle.
        • We want kids who want us.
        • Tailor each application individually, with concrete examples of why you can see yourself there.
      • Find your fans.
        • The best choice isn’t always the teacher whose class you aced.
        • Better to pick the one who can describe what you’re like as a person.
        • Ask if they can write you a strong recommendation and if the teacher hesitates, back off.
      • Depth beats breadth.
        • It’s important to be well lopsided rather than well rounded.
        • Focus on what you’re good at.
        • Doing less but doing it well.
        • Avoid being one dimensional.
        • Anything you’re passionate about has merit, including an after-school job.
      • The interview.
        • Some are informational and some are evaluative.
        • One-on-ones are a way to underscore your desire to attend.
        • Rehearse your questions and talking points with an adult.
        • Communication not just your strengths but also your enthusiasm.
        • Say clearly and politely, “This is what I’ve achieved, and I am proud of it.”
      • Full Disclosure.
        • from whatever tipped you up, accepted the consequences, and done what you could do to make amends.
        • You’ve got to show that you learned something.
        • Don’t whine.
      • Acing the Essay.
        • Brainstorm – Ask family and friends what to write about. Focus on what matters to you and why. How you spend your free time is a good place to start.
        • Show; don’t tell – use examples and anecdotes.
        • Be polite but not too humble.
        • Seek feedback – ask someone to read your essay and ask, “Does this sound like me?”
        • Take your time and don’t do it at the last minute.
      • Killer Extracurrics.
        • Choose wisely.
        • Lessons – what drew you in, and what did you learn?
        • Details, details – president of the poetry society? Say how many members the club has and what you do.
        • Commitment – show how much work you put into the water polo team.
    • Taking Charge of Your Test Scores (page 49)
      • SAT Score-Use Practices guide – http://www.collegeboard.com which breaks down many schools’ specific policies.
      • Make a chart that refers to each college’s rules so you completely understand each school’s requirements.
      • College Board’s SAT-Skills Insight which identifies skills that are needed for the test and poses sample questions.
      • Science section of ACT tests your scientific reasoning skills (40 questions).
      • 1.4 million fro ACT versus 1.5 million for SAT Even though the SAT or ACT is preferred in dif...
      • http://www.usnews.com/sat
    • Rocketing Past the Blunders (page 50-51)
      • Sanitize your e-mail address.
      • keep nicknames private.
      • Follow directions.
      • Recruit enthusiastic recommenders.
      • Extracurrics: Don’t overdo it.
      • Shun jargon.
      • Explain changes.
      • Know thy college. – say something specific about the school.
      • Keep schools straight.
      • Think twice before tugging at heartstrings. – unless you can use a sorrowful story to reveal something about yourself, it is a tale best not told.
      • Keep it clean.
      • Don’t use those “texting” words.
      • Explain easy courses. – Took honors English through 11th grade then slid down to a standard class. “Burned out” is not a good answer. “Decided to focus on my real love – science” is much better.
      • Own up to bad behavior. – Don’t lie. Take on the experience, show contrition or lessons learned.
      • Optional essays aren’t optional.
      • Be electronically savvy.
      • Handwriting counts.
      • Don’t assume your counselor will handle it.
      • Don’t be cocky.

If you do opt to stay on a wait list, write or call with any new info you think will help: a stellar final transcript, a special award or achievement. And let your college know you’re not just toying with it.

  • In early May, NACAC’s survey of space availability lists schools that report spots remaining for qualified applications. It stays online until mid-August.
  • Chapter 4: How to Pay for College (page 60-71)
    • 5 Keys to Finding the Money
      • Look at education as an investment.
      • Spread your net wider. Seek out new sources of cash. Apply to good, cheap colleges.
      • More students are getting federal grants. and federal student loans are now bargains.
      • Parents should shop around, especially for bank loans.
      • Best value schools (page 67) – % receiving grants based on need; average cost after receiving grants based on need; average discount from total cost.
    • Target colleges’ admission statistics – http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
    • Web sites: BabyMint, LittleGrad, Futuretrust, Upromise, SAGE Scholars

Students who request extra help (and can document their need for it) are far more likely to get aid these days.

    • Compare loans:
    • It’s What You Didn’t Think Of (page 66)
      • Storage containers.
      • Gym membership.
      • Parking and car registration fees.
      • The latest iPod incarnation.
      • School pride gear.
      • Formal wear.
      • Flu-fighting vitamins.
      • Paper costs.
      • Food storage – rent a small fridge each semester.
    • Out of State at In-State Rates (page 71)
      • Know no boundaries.
        • 4 geographically based programs: The Midwest program; Academic Common Market (South); Western Undergraduate Exchange (West); New England Board of Higher Education Regional Student Program
      • Escapes – vacations.

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Financial Aids Information – January 16, 2009

The 4 Rules of Paying for College in a Recession (U.S. News – Education)

1. Grades matter more than ever.

2. Early birds will get more scholarship worms.

3. Students should apply to at least a couple of affordable schools.

4. Students should apply to at least a couple of generous schools.

Last Updated: January 16, 2009

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