Sorting out the Maze of College Financial Aid
Last week we talked about actual college costs and the equation that calculates the Family Need. Just as a refresher, here is the equation:
Cost of Attendance (COA) – (Effective Family Contribution (EFC) + Scholarships) = Need
We mentioned that not all COAs are created equal and to do your research to make sure you know what the final bottom line is. So, to clarify, the equation for the potential out of pocket to the family is:
Out of Pocket = EFC + Need
For lower income families, the perceived “need” can be covered by various government grants. PELL Grants come from the Federal Government and make up a fairly large portion of grants provided. Most of the PELL Grant dollars go to families with $50,000 of income or less. Information for the PELL grant program can be obtained on the Federal site. One other program is the Federal Supplement Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Information about the FSEOG dollars can be obtained on the Government site. These dollars are usually limited to families with EFCs of $0. They are used up very quickly so it is important to file the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form on Jan 1 as the dollars can be gone just that quick. The next source of “need” based aid comes from the states. Some states are more generous than others when dealing out aid to the financial needy. Again, it is important to file the FAFSA early as state dollars also run out quickly as well. Other programs that assist families are related to subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans. These loans, offer interest rates that are typically lower then convention student loans and have some other benefits as well. Do remember that we are talking about the “Need” part of the equation. The family is still responsible for the EFC part of the equation. Loans can fund the “Need” and the EFC.
Looking at these two financial aid equations, you can see that it is important to have the lowest possible EFC value. It becomes important to have your college education financial aid house in order to minimize your EFC. That is the first step in working through the process. I work with families to first estimate their current EFC and then, where ever possible, reposition resources to minimize the EFC during the four years of college. That’s right. You have to redo the EFC each year the student is in college. The first step to help me calculate your EFC is to go to my website http://lifeprepcollegeplanning.com and complete the Data Form from the tool bar at the top of the page. Know that I look forward to working with you in the maze of college financial aid.
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