College Planning

All too often families find the college of their dreams, look at the “sticker price,” and walk away thinking it is not affordable. What they don't realize is that the “sticker price” is not the important number. What really matters is the “net cost” to the family. After determining the total cost of attendance, and factoring in possible financial aid, such as grants, scholarships, tuition discounts, work-study and reasonable loans, that dream college may be far more affordable than previously thought.

Financial aid can be broken down into "merit-based" aid, which is for students with outstanding achievement in academics, sports or the arts; and "need-based" aid, which is for students whose families need assistance meeting the costs where the student is admitted. This aid can be further broken down into "gift" aid, such as scholarships and grants, which do not have to be repaid; or "self-help" aid, such as work-study and loans, which are earn-as-you-go or have to be repaid. These funds are available from both public and private institutions, but are usually more abundant from private colleges, and are used to compete for  students whom they want to attract.

Qualification for this aid begins with filing financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. These determine the Expected Family Contribution or EFC. This figure is unique for each family, and represents the amount the family is expected to contribute to the cost of education. It is easy to transfer numbers from your tax return and account statements. but one mistake on these forms can cost a family thousands of dollars in forfeited financial aid. Advance planning may allow families to rearrange their finances and business income to prepare future tax returns and statements that are more favorable for the financial aid process in order to maximize the opportunity to get every dollar of aid to which they are entitled. We work with families to reposition assets, restructure debt and income to lower EFC and best position their financial picture to qualify for the maximum amount of aid, especially gift aid, or to improve after-tax cash flow.

Please contact us for a free estimate of your EFC and a discussion of what to look for in college planning for your family.