Paying for College without a Scholarship…

According to Katie Lobosco in an April 25, 2017 CNN Money Op-Ed, even if the acceptance letter fails to mention any kind of scholarship, the good news is that most students receive some financial assistance that reduces the school’s“ sticker price.” Moreover:

“Even without a scholarship, there are plenty of other forms of aid that can help you tackle the cost. The financial aid system can be confusing…There are scholarships and grants (which you don’t have to pay back) and loans (which you do).Some of what you receive is based on income and some can be based on academic merit.”

According to Ms. Lobosco, here are a few other ways to help pay for college:

  1. Grants. Colleges, states, and the federal government hand out grants, which need not be repaid. However, most are based on financial need and are determined by the income reported on the FAFSA. Schools take into consideration how much they think your family can afford, then try to fill the gap with a grant. Some pledge to fill in more of a gap then others (these are the schools you should consider).
  2. Ask schools for more money. Though school say they don’t negotiate, many of them have procedures for appealing the initial financial aid award. There are strategies to this method; it’s not like negotiating an auto purchase. Moreover, the appeal must include reasons why the school should consider an increase in aid; typically, those reasons reflect on changes in the family’s financial circumstances. Again, it’s based on financial need.
  3. Work-study jobs. Schools participating in the federal work-study program tend to include work-study as part of the aid awarded. However, these jobs also are based on financial need.
  4. Apply for private scholarships. While there are thousands of private scholarships available, there are tens of thousands of applicants. The odds of winning are slim, though winning certainly is possible. Private scholarships represent just over 3% of the billions in available aid. Use an internet-based service such as or a smartphone app such as Scholly. (Find and apply for scholarships specific to your talents, skills, and abilities; don’t waste time on a shotgun approach. Focus on other strategies.)
  5. Take out loans. These should be your last resort, but they’re often inevitable. The reality is that loans will taken to cover a portion of the cost-of-attendance. Picking the right loan(s) at the right price(s) is a required element of a viable college planning campaign.
  6. Claim a $2,500 tax credit. If eligible, the American Opportunity Tax Credit provides for a reduction in taxes after paying for tuition, fees, books, and room and board – up to $2,500 per child. Contact your accountant for more information.

Each of the above options represent a facet of a well-designed college planning campaign, yet almost everyone recommends each of the above as if those are the only options available. If your gross family income is $80,000 or more annually, schools may project that your family has some amount of financial need.

Each of the above may help cover some percentage of that need. More likely, however, you’ll be expected to shoulder a much greater portion of the cost-of-attendance than your current financial situation realistically permits.

It’s all rather depressing…

If you’re interested in an option not typically recommended, an option professional college planners include as a standard element of every college planning campaign, an option strategically addressing student and parent debt while helping to preserve retirement plans, contact us to schedule the first meeting of your family’s college planning campaign.

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