College Financial Aid Packages

The Unigo Expert Network is a group of top education experts from across the US answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school.

UnigoExpertNetwork2 College Financial Aid Packages
See answers from the Dean of Admissions at University of Illinois, VP of The College Board, and have your questions answered at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork 
I just got my financial aid package and don’t know what to make of it.  What are some terms I should know, things I should look for, or tips and tricks to maximize my aid?” – Mary S., Boston, MA
A: Accepted to college!!! Now, let’s help you afford to go
rjoseph College Financial Aid Packages
Submit your 2010 tax info NOW for the best offers!!! Financial aid packages differ. Make a chart by college of 1) grants and scholarships (free money), 2) loans, 3) family contribution, and 4) your contribution via work. Which colleges give you the most money you don’t have to ever pay back? Private colleges that cost $20K more than public colleges often provide better packages. Explain to your family that loans are tax deductible, low-interest, and safe. Ask colleges if they can match the offers of other colleges. Choose the best college you graduate from with the least amount of debt.
-          Rebecca Joseph – Executive Director and Founder, Get Me To College
                     
A: Start with the COA – Cost of Attendance
rgroelle College Financial Aid Packages
When comparing financial aid awards it’s important to keep in mind that the COA will vary from one college to the next.  The COA is not only the tuition, fees, room & board, but also books & supplies, transportation and personal expenses.  Subtracting the financial aid award from the COA will determine the contribution required of the family.  It’s also important to compare the total gift aid (scholarships and grants) and the self-help portion (loans, college/work-study).  Managing the overall student debt is important and generally $25,000 over four years is a benchmark.  Stafford and Perkins Loans are preferred over private loans.  Families with financial circumstances not reflected in the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) calculation should contact the colleges Financial Aid Offices to offer clarification and seek possible adjustments to the awards.  Colleges want to make it financially feasible for their admitted students to attend.
-          Robin Groelle – Founder, CollegeCounslling.com
A: Put aside rose-colored glasses and remember:  loans must be repaid!
jshrop College Financial Aid Packages
Congratulations – if you’re reviewing financial aid awards you’ve been admitted to college and hopefully one that excites you.  But now it’s time to look through clear lenses at what the awards actually tell you.  Look at each college’s billed costs including all fees, then subtract the total amount of grants, scholarships and federal work-study offered.  The net figure remaining is what you and your parents will have to cover through family contributions and loans.  A word of advice:  be conservative in taking out loans, despite colleges offering PLUS (parent) loans by the cartload.  Make sure that you and your family will be able to pay off debt incurred without mortgaging your collective future.  And if you’ve received more generous offers from other colleges, it can’t hurt to ask a financial aid office politely whether your award can be reviewed and adjusted.
-          Jane Shropshire – Founder, Shropshire Educational Consulting LLC
Don’t miss answers by the Dean of Admissions at University of Illinois, VP of The College Board, and more – at www.unigo.com/expertnetwork.  To send your question to our experts, visit www.unigo.com/expertquestions
 

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