Sunday, April 13, 2014

College Decisions Are In-But What About Financial Aid??

For many families, the hardest parts are over: students know where they've been admitted to college, and those without Early Decision commitments are now making up their minds. For many, that will be a challenge. But a more daunting challenge for many others will be financial. How will these bills be paid? What do financial aid packages look like? And ... why is each of them so different? The New York Times has an important article, accompanied now by many hundreds of reader comments, filled with even more information.  
The situation for many is confusing, expensive, and illogical. I'm afraid there are no easy answers and no sunny takeaways to share with you. Perhaps the most important is that financial aid packages include outright grants as well as loans. And you want to do the math here over four years, not just one. Taking out $10,000 in loans for each year leaves you with $40,000 in loans when you finish college. 

Information is power, and the more you have, the better decisions you and your family can make. If you're not sure what to make of it all, you have plenty of company. 

Here is a guide just put out by US News and World Reports about how to decipher an aid package. And here is an excerpt from the Times pieces. I encourage you to read both, and the Times' reader comments.  
"An array of policy analysts from think tanks to the White House say things should change. “It’s a ridiculously complicated system, if you can even call it a system, and a lot of people don’t get it,” said Sandy Baum, a research professor at George Washington University’s graduate education school, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a leading expert on college pricing. “If you put five aid offers from different colleges together, they’re all different, and it’s very, very difficult to compare. That problem could be solved.”
"In fact, consumers have more tools than ever to decipher college prices and financial aid. College websites are required by law to have net-price calculators, to help people estimate what they would really pay, rather than relying on inflated sticker prices. The government’s own College Navigator provides a range of information on each institution, including costs. And the Obama administration’s financial aid “shopping sheet” aims to let people make apples-to-apples comparisons among colleges, just by using consistent definitions.
"But the price calculators, potentially powerful instruments, vary in thoroughness, ease of use and even accuracy, and most colleges do not use the shopping sheet, which is voluntary. Not only could the tools be better, but many students and parents are unaware of them." READ MORE 

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