We know that something needs to be done about the cost of college. We know that the current system is in need of serious reform. We also know that it took 30 years to get to this point and anyone starting college in the next few years has to deal with the system as it currently exists. Blaming the system isn’t going to save you any money.
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The fact is families make choices that determine how much they will pay for college. Maybe these choices won’t seem fair, but they are the current reality. The amount of financial aid you’ll qualify for and how much you pay for college depends on your choices.
You probably won’t get financial aid if you make some of the following choices……
Pick an expensive college
Yes, college is expensive but some colleges definitely cost more than others. And we’re not just talking about the difference between public and private schools or in-state and out-of-state tuition. You can pay $65,000 to go to college X or $45,000 to go to college Y. That’s $80,000 difference over four years.
Now many parents know that some of the most expensive schools also provide very generous need-based aid. But there are actually only around 80 schools that claim to meet 100% of need. Even if they do meet your need, it can still leave a big tuition bill. If you have an EFC of $40,000, you’re likely to still owe $25,000 at school at a school that meets 100% of need. Of course, the cheaper schools are likely to not meet full-need. The question is, would the school provide enough to lower the cost below your EFC?
Public universities are more expensive than they used to be
The cost of public colleges has been increasing at a faster pace than for private colleges. This is bad for everyone. Why? Because private colleges in the state know they don’t have to charge less than the public institutions. They just have to provide enough financial aid for people to consider the extra cost of a private school education worth it compared to the public school. Therefore, if you live in a state where the cost of the state public flagship is approaching $30,000, you can expect to receive less financial aid from all the colleges.
Your student isn’t that special
Naturally, all parents believe their kids are special and deserving of the best. And many kids have amazing test scores and GPAs to backup this belief. The problem is that they apply to the same schools as all the other kids with the same amazing test scores and GPAs.
Think about it this way, how many kids at your high school who didn’t take AP or honor classes are applying to the Ivy League or Stanford? These schools don’t have to offer merit aid to anyone because they have no problem attracting students.
You follow the crowd
This is really a variation of number three. If everyone from your high school ends up at just two or three colleges, those two or three colleges aren’t likely to provide you with great financial aid. After, the student isn’t really any different from all of the other students.
To be special so that colleges want to provide incentives for you to attend, you need to somehow distinguish yourself from the other applicants. This can be as simple as geography. Sorry to all of you in the northeast, your schools aren’t looking for more students from New York or Pennsylvania
Believe that Rankings Matter
While things are slowly changing, the most popular college rankings are pretty much just a reflection of supply and demand. Colleges at the top of the rankings are in high demand and have a large supply of students to choose from. This means they can and do charge more and merit aid tends to be modest or non-existent.
You want to go to a name-brand school, expect to pay for it. And there won’t be any discount racks or outlet malls to find discounts.
How to Make Sure Your Kid Will Get Financial Aid
There are choices you can make that can dramatically lower the amount your family pays for college. The most important one is to make sure your teen applies to colleges likely to provide generous financial aid and scholarships (4 Easy Steps to Find 254 Colleges for Potential Merit Scholarships). The fact is that not all colleges are created equal where financial aid is concerned.
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