Sunday, December 30, 2007

The REAL FAFSA website

There are many sites that google will show you if you do a search on FAFSA. However, the only one you should use to complete your FAFSA is

The FAFSA for the 2008-2009 school year should be available January 1, 2008. Happy Form Filing!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Colleges pledged to lowering student debt

Here is a list of colleges who have implemented financial aid programs aimed to avoid or minimize student loans in their financial aid packages.

These colleges are certainly implementing policies which will help families pay tuition bills.

It's easier to Pay Tuition at Harvard, too

Harvard has joined the ranks of those highly endowed colleges and universities who have decided to replace loans with grants in the financial aid packages offered to their students.

They have also announced a simplified plan that says families with incomes between $100,000 to $180,000 will not have to pay more than 10% of their income.

These changes prompted an article with questions and answers in today's Boston Globe:

It is great to see more colleges looking for ways to help families pay tuition.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The growth of community colleges

I've been reading more and more about the growth of community colleges so I thought it was time to share some of the information I'm finding.

What are the benefits of spending your first two years at a community college?
1. COST - it is a fraction of the cost of most colleges plus you can live at home for free!
2. Diversity - the mix of students at community college often includes adults who are currently working or changing careers. These adults can become invaluable contacts for employment and/or a wealth of information offering an educational perspective based on real world experience.
3. Sampling - how many college freshman really convinced of their major when they start college? The price at community college gives them the freedom to try on a few different subjects to see what excites them, what they enjoy and what fits well.

Here's an artilce about the growth in Long Island New York community college system:,0,76056.story?coll=ny_home_rail_headlines

Should your college aged child have a credit card?

My answer is YES, if you believe you have taught your child how to be financially responsible. This is not an easy task - let's face it, most adults don't use credit cards properly, evidenced by the incredible level of credit card debt in our country.

But, let's change that and help our children do it the right way. You can establish some good rules for using a credit card and then choose credit cards that offer some advantage to cardholders.

Here's an article with some helpful suggestions:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Davenport, IA sets a fabulous example!

A special community meeting on Friday shared the Davenport Promise Proposal with area residents. If approved by the city council and voters, the city would cover the tuition expenses for 2 years of community college and two years of a university, in or out of state. They indicated that the plan would be funded by the city's existing local option sales tax.

If you live in Davenport this is a great reason for you to get involved in local politics. This program is a real coup for the community and the development of it's students.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Parents of high school seniors!!!!

Dear Parents,

I know this is the holiday season and everyone is busy. However, your high school senior, who is about to turn the calendar to the year in which they graduate from high shool, might need some supportive encouragement from you right now.

Here are a few tips:
1. Make sure they apply to at least 4 schools. Even if they have their sights set on just one school, help them find a couple of other schools that require the least amount of work to apply (not too many essays). Make sure you make a list of these schools so that when you submit the FAFSA you can include all of them.

This should result in multiple financial aid award letters. Then, when you get the letter from the top choice school, you can see if you are happy with their financial aid award. If not, you can use the award letters from the other schools to help them understand that they need to increase their award in order to attract your child. The majorit of the time this will increase your award.

And let's face it, even if it only increases the award by $2,000 guess what you just did. All things remaining the same you just saved $2,000 times 4 years of college = $8,000. Congratulations.

2. Remember to send the SAT/ACT scores to each of those schools, as well. You want to make sure your appliation is complete.

3. Make a list of the things you need to do to finish the college applications. Make sure that you have a clear summary including when the financial aid is due as well as any other documents the school requires. This is very important for the parents becuase you are the one who is going to have to do the bulk of the FAFSA preparation. You certainly don't want to miss that!

4. Follow up with those who you have asked to write recommendations to double check that they have been completed. ALSO - it would be a really nice step to write each one of them a thank you note.

Adults returning to school should read this

Here's a great article for you ify ou are considering going back to school to change careers.

That FAFSA that every undergraduate needs to submit to be considered for financial aid also works for you.

Let's face it, school is expensive and you will probably have to take loans to pay the bill. But, as the article says, if you can get the government loan that could dramatically reduce the total cost for you. The best loan is the SUBSIDIZED Stafford Loan. To qualify for that loan you need to have demonstrated financial need, based on the government calculations.

The sweet part of the Subsidized Stafford Loan is that you have no payments while you are at least a half time student (defined by number of credits taken) PLUS no interest accrues while you are in school! The repayment and interest charges don't begin until 6 months after you are out of shool.

Please note there are also many scholarships available for adults returning to school. Make sure to check with your employer, too.

Since this decision is an expensive one, you might like to try out your new profession as a volunteer for a week. I week's vacation is much less expensive than debt and no income while attending school and looking for a new job.

Good Luck.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

You can go to Harvard for free. Here's how:

Obviously the first BIG challenge is getting in - but if you have the qualifications, i.e. excellent student, lots of leadership positions in quality organizations, maybe incredible sports accomplishments, or some other unique characteristic - this is amazing to consider.

Harvard has been working hard to make their education affordable to the masses. In 2004 they offered significant tuition aid incentives to families earning less than $40,000 per year. Then in 2006 they expanded the program and "parents in families with incomes of less than $60,000 will no longer be expected to contribute to the cost of their children attending Harvard." from

Just as important is their commitment to lowering the average debt level of graduating undergraduates. "In the past decade, Harvard has reduced the median four-year debt for graduating seniors from more than $16,000 to $6,400 - less than one-third of the national average of $20,000."

This is very good news for those who qualify for an ivy league school.

If your parents are divorced:

Here is a great article from Kiplinger's. As it explains, the parent who files the FAFSA is the custodial parent. Hopefully this is the parent who has the lowest annual income so that you qualify for the highest amount of financial aid. Remember that child support and alimony must be considered when completing the FAFSA.

The custodial parent is defined as the parent with whom the child spent the majority of the 12 months immediately prior to completing the FAFSA, not the prior calendar year. It is not dependent upon who claimed the child as a dependent on their tax return as that is recognized as a voluntary act and not the definitive conclusion for determining the custodial relationship.

Be aware that FAFSAs submitted by mothers will be suspect of fraud if alimony is not included. You would think this would be changing by now, but apparently it is still something that financial aid offices can easily detect.

Does your major determine your tuition bill?

Some colleges are now charging higher tuition for majors that support higher paying careers! Make sure you ask about this practice at the colleges you visit.

What are the Presidential hopefuls saying about college costs?

It's interesting to read the plans of some politicians:

John Edwards wants to "pay one year of public-college tuition, fees, and books for more than 2 million students. In return, students will be required to work part-time in college, take a college-prep curriculum in high school, and stay out of trouble. "

Biden is offering the following plan:
"Biden is proposing the College ACCESS Plan, which would help middle class families pay for their children’s college tuition. The plan would offer $3,000 refundable tax credit and increase the maximum Pell Grant from $4,310 to $5,100."

Do you know anyone who might qualify for this scholarship?

Does your child own a business? Does it have at least one employee? Check out this website for information on a scholarship that pays up to $10,000 per year towards college tuition!

Hurry, the application must be submitted by January 15 - a perfect project during the holidays.

Or refer a friend to the website and you will become their hero!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fill out the FAFSA before your child is accepted!

Did you know that you should fill out the FAFSA even before your child gets accepted at college? It is true that those who submit the FAFSA the earliest get the best shot at financial aid for two major reasons:
1) You become first in line for the aid that’s available that year and
2) The financial aid office is not frazzled yet because of all of the applications that come in during the month of March.

The FAFSA will be available in the first week of January and the sooner you submit the FAFSA, the better your chances of getting financial aid.

Please note – all male students who are 18 years of age or older must be registered for selective service. If you haven’t already registered, the FAFSA will complete the process for you when you answer Yes to that question in the Student Information section.

Here’s what you need to do:
1. Get your 2006 taxes or your best estimate for your 2007 taxes if they are substantially different than 2006.
2. Get a list of all of your current assets – that includes savings accounts, checking accounts, investment accounts, real estate owned, business owned, etc. It does NOT include any IRA or 401K or cash value of life insurance policy assets.
3. Create a list of all schools your child applied to and get their school codes. If you don’t know them, you can look them up on the website.
4. Go to NOTE: This site is entirely free! Don’t use any imposters that charge you to file the FAFSA
5. Apply for a PIN for both parent and student
6. Print out the 2008-2009 FAFSA on the Web Worksheet for yourself – this is your record to keep. Do not mail it to the school or the government. The bottom half of the left side of the first sheet provides a list of all of the information you need.

That’s probably enough for now. Finding all of that information is usually quite difficult and most people need to put it all down and do something fun before trying to put all of the information into a government form.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Some helpful websites

Here are a couple of sites that help you with the financial aid planning process

Here's the FAFSA website that also offers an Expected Family Contribution calculator, too.

Here's a website that gives EXCELLENT answers to financial aid questions

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The sooner you take action the better!

For Parents of high school seniors: The month of December is critical for you because it is this year, 2007, that will be the tax return you will use to complete the FAFSA for your child's freshman year of college. You could make some significant changes this month which will help increase your child's aid possibilities.

For example, make sure you don't have any capital gains on the sale of stock - it will increase your income too much. Or, ask your employer to push off any bonuses to January instead of paying them this month.

If you own your own business make sure you aren't paying your high school too much if he is on the payroll. For every dollar of his earnings over $3,080 for the year your EFC will increase 50 cents - sounds small but you'd be surprised how quickly it adds up.

For Parents of high school juniors: now is a great time to look for colleges that have large endowments and FULLY meet demonstrated need. Those are the colleges that you'll want to visit this spring. They would also be very good choices for your child to apply to because they'll probably give you very good aid.

I know, lots of new terms, feel free to ask questions, I'll do my best to answer them quickly.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pay Tuition

Pay Tuition - those two words can be rather daunting when facing the tuition bills of most colleges and universities today! It's great to know that there are many ways to pay for tuition and I'm going to share as many as I know based on my years as a financial aid director.

I'm just starting on this blog, so if you want me to answer a question for you, feel free to post. I love helping families find free money to pay tuiton.