Financing Your Child's Education


Most people believe that colleges are much more expensive than they really are. Although some colleges are expensive, many colleges are within reach. Money to pay for college is available too, as you’ll read about below. If you plan ahead and your child works hard in school, getting financial aid even for expensive colleges is possible. Saving for college early helps a whole lot, too.

The Parent Workshop held on September 28, 2016 featured presentations on college financial aid by Housatonic Community College and ConnTac, Inc. Educational Opportunity Center.  You can view the presentations by clicking on the links below.  

What You Need to Know about Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Loans presented by Housatonic Community College

Applying for Financial Aid - FAFSA presented by ConnTac.

 

To find out more, click on the links below (or scroll down):

 

Some things you should know about financial aid

College costs are made up of

Some ways you can pay for your child’s education

Financial Aid Resources

Student's Financial Aid Checklist                                                                                                                                                         

Which state college savings plan is right for you

Mission Possible: Save, plan and pay for college

 

 

 

 

Some things you should know about financial aid:

  • Financial aid is primarily need based. In other words, financial aid is targeted toward families who can’t afford to pay for college on their own.
  • Government and private money is set aside for children whose parents don’t have college degrees.
  • Some financial aid and scholarships are available to children of deceased or disabled veterans or police officers.
  • Making financial plans as early as possible will give your child more options when it is time to choose a college.

< back to top

 

 

College costs are made up of:

  • Basic tuition and fees – the amount of money that a college charges a student each year to enroll and receive instruction, plus other amounts a college requires a student to pay (such as athletic fees, social activity fees, and health care costs).
  • Room and board. This means the cost of housing and food, whether you go away to college or live at home.
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Transportation

How much a college costs depends partly on whether it’s a public college or a private college. Most students in this country attend state or public colleges, which receive a portion of their budgets from state or local governments and can charge lower tuition to students who live in the state. Private colleges tend to be more expensive than public colleges and usually charge the same amount for in-state and out-of-state students.

< back to top

 

 

Here are some ways you can pay for your child’s education:

  • Savings. You should start setting aside money for college now, if at all possible. The more your family saves, the easier it will be to pay for college later. One way to save is to set up a tax-free Education Savings Account.
  • Federal Income-tax Credits. During your first two years in college, the new HOPE Scholarship tax credit can help cover college tuition by reducing the amount of federal income tax for low- and moderate-income families. If you go to college beyond the first two years, the new Lifetime Learning tax credit is available to help low- and moderate-income families pay for tuition and fees.
  • Student Financial Aid. The U.S. Department of Education offers students three major types of aid to help pay for college:
    • Grants. This money does not have to be paid back. For instance, Pell Grants are available for families with limited means.
    • Work-study Program. This program lets students work during the summer or part-time during the school year to help pay for college. Colleges help find jobs for students, and the federal government helps pay the salary. Work-study jobs give students valuable work experience and are often related to the student’s classes or future careers – in addition to helping pay the costs of college.
    • Federal Loans are available to both students and parents. Stafford Loans for students are either subsidized, for needy students, where some of the accumulated interest is paid by the government, or unsubsidized, where the student pays all of the accumulated interest. PLUS Loans are loans to parents for any costs that are not paid for by other aid. Perkins Loans are administered by colleges. That is, the U.S. Department of Education gives the aid to colleges and they decide which of their students need it most.
  • Serving Our Country. Providing service to our country during or after college is another way to pay for all or part of a college education. Opportunities include:
    • AmeriCorps. This is a community-service program that helps students earn grants or reply loans.
    • Military Academies. The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Merchant Marines and the U.S. Navy offer no-cost education in exchange for a commitment to serve for a period of time.
    • Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). This is a program that offers scholarships in varying sizes to students interested in serving in the military after college.
  • Other Financial Aid. Help with college finances are also available from a number of other sources:
    • Many states and colleges offer financial assistance directly to individual students who need help paying for college.
    • A number of civic groups, foundations, businesses and community organizations also provide scholarships to students who meet special requirements or achievement levels – such as doing well in high school or displaying artistic or athletic ability.
  • Click here to read an article about a 2007 law that went into effect to assist people in public service careers pay off their student loan debt.

SOURCE: Much of this information comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Publications Think College? Me? Now? And Getting Ready for College Early: A Handbook for Parents of Students in the Middle and Junior High School Years.

< back to top

 

 

Financial Aid Resources

200 Free Scholarships for Minorities - This is a list of scholarships compiled by Black Excel. Some items may be outdated, but there should be plenty of sites that are still available.

AAAC Scholarship Guide for 2013-14 - A comprehensive guide full of resources and information on scholarships to help finance your child's college education.

Athletic Aid. - Sports scholarships, financial aid and college search resources for students and student athletes.

Bonner Scholars Program - The Bonner Scholar Program seeks to transform the lives of students at 74 colleges and universities as well as their campuses, local communities, and nation by providing access to education and opportunities to serve. To achieve this mission, the Bonner Foundation provides four-year community service scholarships to approximately 1,500 students (who are referred to as Bonner Scholars) annually. The scholarship serves those individuals who have high financial need and a commitment to service.

BrokeScholar is a free scholarship search engine connecting students and parents with financial aid and college scholarships. The BrokeScholar database matches student profiles with more than 900,000 scholarships worth over $3 billion to find the most relevant and obtainable opportunities. Find applicable scholarships, automatically create application letters, view a personalized deadline calendar or locate scholarships using our keyword search.

College Affordability and Transparency Center - This U.S. Department of Education online resource provides information on how much it costs students to attend different colleges, how fast those costs are going up and why the costs are increasing.  By accessing this website, you are exposed to several other information packed websites pertaining to colleges and financial facts, also managed by the U.S. Department of Education.

The College Answer - Planning for College Destination with information about preparing, selecting, applying, paying, deciding and financing college. Specific information for students, parents and counselors. Informacion in espanol.

College Board's Scholarship Search! - We created this online tool to help you locate scholarships, internships, grants, and loans that match your education level, talents, and background. Complete the brief questionnaire and Scholarship Search will find potential opportunities from our database of more than 2,300 sources of college funding, totaling nearly $3 BILLION in available aid!

College Cost Comparison Tool - This is a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau user-friendly college cost comparison tool that allows individuals to input tuition, fees, housing, books, scholarships, grants, loans, work study, etc. and out comes the cost of attendance per year, debt at graduation, approximate monthly payment after graduation, and if available, includes the school’s graduation rate, loan default rate, and median borrowing.

CollegeFund.net - CollegeFunds.net helps you hunt down the most ideal student loan, scholarships and other financial aid resources available to you

College is Possible - College Is Possible is the American Council on Education's signature K-16 youth development program that motivates middle and high school students from underserved communities to seek a college education. As the umbrella organization for higher education and a presidential association, the American Council on Education (ACE) is uniquely positioned to build a bridge between colleges and universities and their local K-12 community with commitment at the executive level .

College Is Possible (CIP) provides a high profile forum for professionals from colleges and universities to exchange promising practices that motivate underrepresented youth to pursue postsecondary education. While the CIP institutions are deliberately diverse (including public, private, urban and rural campuses, historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges), they all have presidents and chancellors who recognize that building a pipeline of students from underserved populations is an important 21st century demographic imperative. This institutional support and executive leadership has helped CIP move into its second phase.

College Net’s Mach 25: Breaking the Tuition Barrier - The Mach25 database contains over 600,000 awards totaling over $1.6 billion. Ever wonder when you're using a scholarship site what happens to your personal data and email address? Or how "free" sites make their money? With Mach25, you can enter profile information about yourself to focus in on relevant scholarships from a huge database without sacrificing your email address or personal information to marketers and junk mailers.

College Scholarship Guide - The College Scholarship Guide provides actionable tips on applying to scholarships, but it also helps students realize how accessible and truly valuable getting a scholarship can be. Higher education costs are at an all-time high, and landing into the right scholarship could be the difference between graduating debt-free or paying off loans for years and years.

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid  or you can get this form from your child's Guidance Counselor

FastWeb - can help you:

  • Find money for college
  • Get financial aid tips
  • Find your dream school
  • Get recruited for college

Federal Student Aid: - Preparing, Choosing, Applying, Funding, Attending and Repaying.

  • Find out what you need to do to prepare for college.
  • Get advice on how to choose the right college for you.
  • Learn how to navigate the college application process.
  • Learn how to make education affordable.
  • Get the facts on financial aid, how to maintain it and what to do when schools’ over.
  • Find out what you need to know about repaying your student loans.

FindTuition.com - Targeted scholarship searches

Five Ways Ed Pays - The Five Ways Ed Pays campaign presents detailed data and research on the private and public benefits of higher education by sending a compelling message to parents and students — particularly first-generation, minority, and low income students — that college has the potential to transform their lives.

How to Find the Best Colleges for the Best Price - This guide containes strategies that can help you search for the colleges that provide the highest return on your investment and questions to ask on your college tours.

Sallie Mae's Free Resources - Sallie Mae provides free downloadable resources to parents and students including: Mission Possible! The Tool Kit That Helps You Plan and Pay for College; Educación a tu Alcance; Latino College Dollars; Black College Dollars; Saving for College; Ahorras Para La Universidad; Ten Tips for College Admissions and Financial Aid (available in 11 languages!).

Scholarship Resource Network - Your one stop resource for financial aid. Scholarship Resource Network Express contains a database of over 8,000 programs with a distribution level of over 150,000 awards for undergraduate and postgraduate students worth a total of more than $35 million! This database also includes student loan forgiveness programs for those who have graduated from college and need alternatives for repayment.

The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid - FinAid was established in the fall of 1994 as a public service. This award-winning site has grown into the most comprehensive annotated collection of information about student financial aid on the web. Access to FinAid is free for all users and there is no charge to link to the site. FinAid has a stellar reputation in the educational community as the best Web site of its kind. It's comprehensive, it's informative, it's objective--and it's the first stop on the Web for students looking for ways to finance their education.

StudentFinanceDomain.com - Teaches about money management as well as paying for college. Students and parents can learn about credit cards, investing,  student banking, spending and protecting. They can also learn about financial aid, student loans, non-loan options and there is information for international students as well.

< back to top

 

 

Student's Financial Aid Checklist

Don't Think You're Eligible for Aid?
Don't assume that you don't qualify for financial aid. Nearly all US citizens or eligible non-citizens enrolled at least half-time are now eligible for some form of financial aid, including Student Loans and Parent Loans. Even if you don't qualify for a grant, you may still be eligible for other forms of financial assistance.

Many families don't apply for financial aid because they believe that they earn too much money. However, you don't need to be poor to get financial aid. Some loans and scholarships are available regardless of need, and the number of family members in college can significantly affect your eligibility for aid. Many factors are used to determine your eligibility for financial aid, and there is no simple cut-off based on income. Talk to the school's financial aid administrators if you have any questions.

You can't get aid if you don't apply. So you should definitely fill out the FAFSA and apply for financial aid if you feel you may need assistance.

Junior Year of High School

  • Start thinking about what sort of college you'd like to attend. College Selection helps you find the school that's right for you.
  •  Do not rule out any schools because of cost, at least initially. The more expensive schools will offer more financial aid than the less expensive schools, so your costs should be about the same.
  • Ask your guidance counselor about your options for paying for school. Look at http://www.finaid.org/scholarships to understand the qualifications you need in order to obtain funds that you won't have to repay.

Senior Year of High School

September:

  • Begin submitting applications to the school(s) of your choice.
  • Now is also a good time to start thinking about your financial aid needs. Calculate your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution and consider whether you'll need additional aid from a loan or grant.
  • Start applying for scholarships and grants. You can apply for these throughout the year, but it's wise to get an early start on it.

January:

  • File your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. (Estimate the required tax information if your tax forms are still incomplete.) Pay attention to the deadline, since some states require you to submit the FASFA by mid-February or early March. Keep a photocopy for your records. You can get this form from your guidance counselor or by clicking on the link above.
  •  If your school has a separate application for financial aid or requires you to submit the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE, be sure to submit it by the deadline.

February:

  • Four to six weeks after you file the FAFSA (two to four weeks if you filed electronically), you should receive a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR summarizes the information you submitted on the FAFSA and presents the all-important Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which tells you the amount your family is expected to contribute towards your education. If you do not receive the SAR within a reasonable amount of time, call the federal processor at 1-319-337-5665. Review the SAR carefully for errors. If necessary, make any corrections on Part 2 of the SAR and return it promptly to the address listed on the SAR. You will then receive a new SAR.

March/April: 

  • Admissions letters should start arriving, followed by financial aid award letters. The award letter describes the types and amounts of financial aid for which you qualify, the cost of attendance and your expected family contribution. Wait until you have heard from all the schools before making a decision.
  • If your family's financial circumstances have changed significantly since you submitted the FAFSA, send a letter to the financial aid administrator at the school, requesting a professional judgment review of your case. Describe the change in circumstances, and include documentation if possible.
  • If your financial aid application is selected for verification, the school will require you to submit additional documentation, such as signed copies of your tax returns, W-2 and 1099 forms. The federal government selects 30% of the FAFSAs for verification. Some schools, to be fair, require all students to complete verification.
  • Compare the financial aid packages from each school. Do not look just at the total amount of aid, but conduct a bottom-line analysis of the net out-of-pocket cost of attending each school. Different schools, for example, may have different costs for room and board.

By the end of May: 

  • Decide which school you want to attend and accept their offer. Also, accept the financial aid award package by signing it and sending it in with a copy of your SAR. Keep a photocopy for your records. The school may also require a nonrefundable deposit to confirm that you will attend.
  • If you previously attended any institution of higher education, you must request that each institution send a Financial Aid Transcript (FAT) to the school you will attend, even if you did not apply for or receive any financial aid from the institution.
  • Apply for education loans (Student Loans and Parent Loans). If you don't receive enough aid from the school's aid package and government loans, investigate Private Loans.

June/July/August:

  • You will probably receive your first bill for tuition, fees, room and board during the summer. Ask the school about interest-free or low-cost tuition payment plans that let you pay your tuition in monthly installments, instead of a lump sum up front.

Start of School

  • If you applied for education loans, the financial aid office will provide you with information about the disbursement of the loan proceeds.
  • You may be required to visit the financial aid office to complete entrance counseling and to cosign the disbursement check.
  • If you were awarded a work-study job, visit the student employment office to find an on-campus job.

Subsequent Years

  • You will need to reapply for financial aid each year you are in school. Even if you did not qualify this year, you should reapply next year, since financial circumstances can change. The number of family members in college, for example, can have a big impact on your eligibility for financial aid.
  • If you submitted a FAFSA during the previous year, you may be able to complete the shorter Renewal FAFSA form instead. The Renewal FAFSA will be mailed to your home. The Renewal FAFSA preprints most of your answers from the previous year's FAFSA. Verify that the old responses are still accurate and supply corrections or new answers where appropriate. If you don't receive a Renewal FAFSA by February 15, fill out a new FAFSA form.
  • Continue to apply for scholarships as your qualifications change and as new scholarships get added to the on-line databases.

< back to top