Financial Aid


What is Financial Aid?

What is Financial AidFinancial aid is money that students and their parents can receive to help pay for college costs.

Aid is categorized in four ways:

Need-Based: For students and families who demonstrate a high level of need based on information provided on the FAFSA. Need-based aid can be awarded in the form of grants (federal and state), work study, low-interest loans (and often interest-deferred while enrolled) and the Parent Plus Loan.

Non-Need-Based: For students and families who qualify for private scholarships and grants outside of the FAFSA.

Merit-Based: For students who have excelled academically both with their GPA and standardized test scores.

Self-Help: Another way to categorize loans which students and families may choose to take out.

In my opinion, all students, regardless of their family’s financial situation should apply for financial aid. Why? Because it’s the only way to qualify for a federal loan. So even in a situation where a family has a high EFC (expected family contribution) and won’t qualify for any need-based aid, they can qualify for a student loan. Taking out a federally-backed loan like this with a low interest rate is a great way for a student to not only have some skin in the game but it will also help them establish some credit.

Additionally, a vast majority of students receive some form of financial aid. At private schools, where the cost of attendance can easily exceed $60,000, most students receive something as a higher cost makes it easier to demonstrate financial need.

Because this process gets complicated, it’s important to do your homework and stay on top of dates. Proper research into what a college may award, completing an EFC calculator to gain a thorough understanding of your ability to pay and running the numbers to know what potential student loan payments may look like will go a long way to helping you be more confident in the decisions you will be faced with.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Starting Your College Search? Here’s Why You Should Know Your EFC

Starting Your College Search. Here's Why You Should Know Your EFCIf you’re like most families, when it comes to finding colleges that will fit, cost is going to be a significant factor. Looking at price tags of $30,000 to $60,000 or more a year for college is overwhelming if not downright scary.

What’s even scarier is that most people don’t even know how much of that price tag a college will expect them to pay.

Sure, they have an idea of what they can afford to pay, but when it comes down to how much money a family will have to contribute towards college costs, and their true financial aid eligibility, most people are in the dark.

Parents of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, I’m talking to you. Go figure out your EFC.

EFC stands for expected family contribution. It is the amount of money you will be expected to contribute towards one year of college costs. While it won’t paint the entire picture for you, it will serve as a starting point before you venture into how generous a school is with their aid. You won’t know your official EFC until after you’ve completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) but knowing a rough estimate of your EFC now will help you plan your college search more strategically.

For example, let’s say your EFC is $25,000. If you are looking at a college where the cost of attendance is $45,000 you can immediately see that you could  be hoping to receive $20,000 in aid. Conversely, if the college’s cost of attendance is $20,000, you shouldn’t be expecting anything.

In the case of the former, $20,000 is a big difference to make up. The next step is to understand just how generous a school is and if they are going to help you out. By looking at how much of your need a college will meet, you can then do the math and determine how much you should be expecting, if anything. Staying with this example, a school who meets 50% of your need would have $10,000 in aid for you while a college who meets 75% of your need would have $15,000 in aid. How much of your need a college meets varies from college to college so look closely at the numbers so you know what to expect.

Outside of your ability to pay, some colleges also factor in how competitive you are as an applicant when they determine how much aid to award you. The stronger you are as an applicant, the more desirable you are to the college and, therefore, the more likely you are to receive aid.

So, do yourself a favor and obtain your estimated EFC now. Write it down, understand it and use it when you are researching schools and want to know what a school is going to cost you.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Need Blind Versus Need Aware and Why You Should Know the Difference

Muhlenberg College

Muhlenberg College

If you’re like most families, you’re concerned with how much four years of college is going to cost you. My boys are two and six years old, and I worry about it already. And while so much of the college search is focused on working through the differences between colleges to find that “right school”, all too often one major difference is overlooked.

That difference is whether a school is need blind or need aware.

Need blind schools don’t consider an applicant’s financial need when making admissions decisions, but many are not able to meet applicants’ full need with their financial aid packages without adding work study (which rarely helps a family pay for college) and unrealistic loan options. Highly selective colleges like Yale and Harvard belong to a very small group of schools who are completely need blind and who meet full need. Due to massive endowments, they have unlimited financial aid budgets. If a student is admitted to these colleges they will have 100% of their financial need met.

Need aware schools do consider finances in their admissions decisions, but this control can give colleges the ability to meet full need for all accepted applicants. They must manage an annual financial aid budget that has limitations but by paying honoring these limitations, the colleges are trying to make sure that the student can actually attend. While some students would say a need aware policy is unfair and that decisions should not be made due to financial constraints, the reality is that there is only so much money to go around.

Some schools are a combination of both and while neither approach is perfect, you absolutely need to understand how their application review operates. Earlier this month I was visiting colleges in eastern Pennsylvania and several of them indicated that they are need blind until they get to the last 15-20% of their decisions. At that point, an applicant who has a greater ability to pay would get the nod over a student who was going to need significant financial aid in order to attend.

So how can a family best assess its options? Ask the right questions, of course.

When you visit a college or talk to admission counselors at high school visits or college fairs, ask them if they are need blind or need aware. Let them explain how they review applications so that you can fully understand how your ability to pay may affect your college applications.  You may be disappointed by what you hear, especially if you feel your family’s financial situation may affect your chances at a need aware college, but without knowing how a college will treat you, you run the risk of greater disappointment when the financial aid award doesn’t come close to making the school affordable.

In the college search and application process, information is everything.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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The CSS/PROFILE: The “Other” Financial Aid Application

The CSS Profile The Other Financial Aid ApplicationThe CSS/PROFILE went live on October 1st officially kicking off the start to the financial aid season. Ironically enough, many families don’t even know the CSS/PROFILE exists.

It does and here’s what you need to know about it:

1. While every college requires a student to file a FAFSA to qualify to federal need-based aid, over 200 mostly private colleges require students to complete the CSS/PROFILE as well for consideration of scholarships.

2. Here in Connecticut that list includes: Connecticut College, Fairfield University, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, Trinity College, University of New Haven, Wesleyan University, and Yale University.

3. While the FAFSA is a free application, the CSS/Profile is not. The initial application is $25 and then each subsequent submission costs $16.

4. Unlike the FAFSA, a family’s home equity is taken into account as an available asset.

5. If a family owns a business, 100% of its equity will be assessed.

6. Assets held in the names of siblings will be considered parental assets and assessed as such increasing the parents’ EFC.

7. Only untaxed social security benefits for the student will be excluded whereas benefits for the parent will not be excluded.

8. Pre-tax contributions to flex-plans for healthcare and dependent care are assessed as untaxed income.

9. Schools have their own deadlines for when the CSS/PROFILE should be filed and these dates can range from as early as sometime in November for Early Decision or Early Action applicants to as late as February for students applying Regular Decision. When in doubt, families should always check the school’s website or call the financial aid office to verify deadlines.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the CSS/PROFILE. It’s costly, it’s invasive and it’s just another hurdle standing in the way for many students and their parents.

If you would like some assistance filing the CSS/PROFILE as well as the FAFSA, contact me today. Like an accountant would with your taxes, I can help you gather the documents you need, assist you in the filing of both applications and then also help you with appeals should the need arise.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Do You Know What Net Price Is?

Do You Know What Net Price IsYesterday I was talking with the parent of one of my students and the conversation was concerning college costs. I had asked him where he and the student’s mother would like to be when it came time to paying for college. Essentially I needed to know how much they were capable of paying so that we could look at the student’s college list in a more informed way.

One thing I firmly believe is that you have to know what you can afford up front.

There’s no sense in investing your time and effort, not to mention your heart, in a college search which is absent of the implications of cost.

Having recently mentioned Marist as an option the student should consider, the dad said that their costs for tuition, room and board (roughly $44,000) was getting towards the higher end of their threshold.

So while this family’s ability to pay will create more options for them than a family who’s ability to pay is much less, the conversation reminded me that so many families haven’t been informed about net price.

So what is net price? It’s the cost a family will pay for one year of college after grant and scholarship aid has been awarded. This cost varies from person to person and you can learn more about why this is by reading a post I wrote about net price last year:

How Much Is That College In The Window?

Essentially, the more competitive a student is when their grades and test scores are compared against the average grades and test scores for students who the college typically admits, the more likely it is that the student will receive a significant amount of aid which will then lower their net price.

With this idea in mind, a competitive student who applies to Marist and is awarded their Presidential Scholarship of $12,000 lowers their net price to roughly $32,000 thus making an expensive school more affordable.

One way you can start looking at a rough estimate of your net cost at a school is to use their net price calculator. Colleges are required to include one on their website, though some are easier to find than others. These calculators will ask you to enter some personal information and will then compute an estimated net price.

Not all calculators are created equal so be sure to pay close attention to the details of what the college estimates you will receive when you get your net price results.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free consultation. If you want to hear more about any of the schools on my travels, I’d be happy to talk to you about any of them as well.

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