May 1 is just 34 days away. That’s the deadline for paying a nonrefundable enrollment deposit to hold a spot at the 4-year college your student decides to attend this fall. When it comes to affordability, there’s much to do.
(1) Award Letter: Be sure your student has his financial aid offer from each school he’s considering. If a school’s award letter hasn’t arrived yet, make sure you’ve completed verification (if the school required it), then contact the financial aid office to request one ASAP.
(2) Outside Aid: If you know about scholarships your student’s getting from parties outside the school, report them to the aid office right away. Not doing so will freeze financial aid once the school learns of these awards, because it’s required to determine that the aid it awarded isn’t affected by outside scholarships. Should reductions be required, schools usually cut loans, then work-study and, last, grants or scholarships.
(3) Appeal: File a financial aid appeal ASAP if it might lower your student’s Expected Family Contribution and qualify her for more need-based aid. The aid office can tell you how.
(4) Affordability Analysis: Evaluate the affordability of each school under consideration.
First, use the “Tuition, Fees, and Estimated Student Expenses” on the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator website to calculate annual growth in the average cost of attending a school over the last four year. Multiply the school’s 2017-18 costs by this average for each of the next four years to project your student’s 4-year cost.
Now project the financial aid to be received over four years. Some institutional grants and scholarships are for one year only, so be sure to differentiate between them and 4-year awards. And watch out for schools that practice bait and switch. Assume federal and state grant amounts will remain constant each year. Keep your borrowing assumptions within annual federal loan limits.
Subtract your 4-year financial aid projection from your 4-year cost projection. Now the big question — can you and your student cover the remaining gap? If so, keep that school on the list for consideration. If not, it may have to be dropped.
(5) Fit: Fit is absolutely critical. If a college or major doesn’t work for your student, chances are he’ll transfer, which’ll increase the cost of his degree. So consider fit carefully.
Need help analyzing the affordability of the colleges your student is considering? Contact College Affordability Solutions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 366-5354.