The True Cost Of A College Education In 2018

true cost of a college education in 2018

Do you know the true cost of a college education in 2018? Many families don’t and are shocked when they do learn what they will have to pay for their son’s or daughter’s education. Many factors come into play that determines a total cost at a given school. What does a college include or does not include in their total college cost? How much merit aid will be awarded or not awarded? Another big one is the fact many colleges will shrink their offers in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years as I tell GoodCall.

The College Sticker Price vs. the Reduced Net Price

College Aid Consulting Services Featured In The New York Times

College Aid Consulting Services Featured In The New York Times

Excited to share that College Aid Consulting Services featured in The New York Times today discussing appealing financial aid offers. Much of the information I shared with her was not covered in the article. First, why should a family appeal or negotiate for a better award? One reason is if the award is not a fair one. The problem here is that many families don’t know if the initial award(s) is fair (see “Disparity In College Financial Aid Offers” March 20). If you would like more information and appropriate advice on on your awards, please contact our office now.

What You Need To Know About 529 Plans 2017

529 Plans 2017

Here is what you need to know about 529 plans 2017 update.  A 529 savings account allows you to build an education fund within an individual investment account. Money you contribute is invested in one or more specific investment portfolios.

I recommend families create the account in the parents name since the three formulas colleges utilize to determine how much financial aid a student may receive will assess students assets much higher than the parent’s assets.

As 529 plans, both college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans offer significant federal tax advantages. Funds in each type of plan grow tax deferred, and withdrawals from either plan used for the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses are completely income tax free at the federal level. As a general rule, I don’t recommend parents utilize multiple plans. However there are occasions that call for multiple 529 plans:

  1. If your children are more than a couple of years apart in age, you will most likely have different investment objectives for their college savings. You may decide that one particular 529 plan has better equity-weighted investments (suitable for a young child) while a different 529 plan is more attractive for its conservative options (suitable for an older child).
  2. If you have a sense of which particular schools, or types of school, your children are likely to attend, the choice of institution may influence your selection of a 529 plan. This is especially true if your state offers a prepaid tuition plan, or if you are considering the private-college Independent 529 Plan. A few of the 529 savings plans also offer extra benefits for students attending certain schools.
  3. If you’re simply not sure about your choice of 529 plan, you can hedge your bets by spreading your contributions among two or more 529 plans. You might also achieve some more diversification in your investments by doing so, at least in regard to the fund managers handling your college savings.
  4. If you will need to fund a child’s education with money out of your pocket, it’s almost impossible to find a scenario a 529 plan does not makes sense.

When shopping for a 529 plan, you should always consider your own state’s 529 plan, even if you ultimately decide to go with an out-of-state 529 plan. Special tax or other benefits may be available for using your in-state plan.

In some states, you may be able to take full advantage of a state tax deduction by enrolling just one of your children in the state’s 529 plan, giving you more freedom to search outside your state for a 529 plan for your other child. In other states, however, the full state tax benefit is obtained only when both of your children are enrolled in the in-state 529 plan.

If you would like professional advice and assistance completing the financial aid forms correctly and working the system all while saving you time and stress please contact our office for a complimentary consultation.

Disparity In College Financial Aid Offers

Good news! Financial aid awards are starting to arrive in student’s in boxes. The bad news, unfortunately there is a lot of disparity in college financial aid offers due to the fact that the format of awards are dictated by each school so many factors and questions come into play when reviewing and comparing offers.

First the family needs to know if the initial offer(s) is a fair one. That’s tough because generally parents doing this for the first time don’t have anything to compare to.

Second, what methodology is the college is using? There are three possible formulas. There is the Federal Methodology (FAFSA), the Institutional Methodology (CSS Profile), and the Consensus Methodology (CSS Profile). If the CSS Profile is required, the college will calculate a EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) which many times will not appear on the award. So it would be difficult for a family to know how much of the true need was met. If the college requires only the FAFSA, the family will see their EFC (Expected Family Contribution) on their Student Aid Report (SAR). In this scenario, they will have a good idea if the award is fair and will be less difficult to compare with other offers.

Third, the family needs to know what is the college including or not including in their total college cost or comprehensive fee. Every college is different in what they include or don’t include which can make an offer look good on the surface when it is not.

In conclusion some good news. Our staff with 26 years of experience are here to advise you accordingly. If you would like us to confirm and clarify if your child’s award is appropriate, please contact our office.

High School Juniors Start College Campus Tours Now

In our many years of helping students, we can advise every high school Junior start college campus tours now. Here are the questions we feel every prepared family should ask.

Campus tour guides are current students, work study or admissions personnel.  This means that they are invaluable resources for opinions about the best classes, campus social life, dining hall food and the worst dorms. However, they may not know much about financial aid, specialized learning services or how the administration makes decisions.  Read below for how to get the best answers for Finanical Aid.

Do your research online first

Campus tours an important component of any visit to a prospective college or university. It’s a unique opportunity explore a school’s buildings and grounds and ask questions with someone that spends time there on a regular basis.

Don’t waste this opportunity, part of maximizing your college tour is avoiding inappropriate or ineffective questions.   These questions would involve facts and figures about the school, applicants taking college tours can find out how current students experience these statistics.

Spend time compairing statistics like the percent of students who live on campus, average class size, graduation rate and so on.  These facts and figures available on the school’s website or from third-party resources.

The latter category, ineffective questions, can be subdivided into two areas: questions that are beyond the knowledge of your tour guide, and questions that can be answered by visiting the college’s website.

Ask questions about how current students experience these statistics.

  1. Student-to-professor ratio, for example, ask if it truly feels that way. Are small classes found only in highly specialized senior-level seminars? Do freshmen ever enroll in small classes? Or you might see that 20 percent of the student body participates in the Greek system, so you could ask your tour guide how that affects his or her social experience on campus.
  2. Ask about classes. Your tour guide may know very little about decisions that are handled at the administrative level. Asking about his or her experience in freshman-level classes is fine, but asking which classes are assigned adjuncts versus tenured professors may not result in an informed answer.
  3.  Accessibility of advisers and staff.  Find out how seriously professors take their office hours. It’s worth asking how they utilize these opportunities with staff, so you can put their answer the student perspective that is worth knowing, even if it is a limited sample size.
  4. Crime and safety are two additional topics to consider, especially for females. The statistics available on a school’s website can be useful measures, but your tour guide can also share his or her impression of campus safety. A campus that is statistically safe but where students have safety concerns can be a stressful environment. The campus website may discuss safety initiatives, like late night patrols and increased campus lighting, but the actual student experience may be more relevant.

A college tour can provide invaluable insight into daily life on a campus. Use your tour time wisely, and target your questions for maximum usefulness. Oh, and by the way, have fun on your tour(s).

Getting Answers For Financial Aid

For instance, financial aid may be an uncomfortable subject, as it involves both personal and parental resources. In addition, a student tour guide may not know how the school awards grants versus loans. Even if your tour guide has extensive personal experience with the system, his or her experience likely will not match yours. Instead, ask financial aid question when you meet with an admissions counselor.

The same goes for any specialized learning needs that you may have. Even if your tour guide shares a similar challenge, and is familiar with the available campus resources, he or she may not wish to discuss this topic with strangers.

If you would like professional assistance in correctly filling out your FAFSA, CSS Profile and other forms while saving you the time and frustration contact our office for your free consultation today.

Paying College Tuition With Credit Cards

I recently was contacted by Emily Tate of about paying college tuition with credit cards.  If you are in anyway thinking about using credit cards to pay college tuition, you need to read this article first.  Contact our office anytime about the best financial aid options to lower your out of pocket expense for college.

Credit Cards a Costly Option
Colleges increasingly accept credit cards as a form of tuition payment, but many experts wonder why.

College Financial Aid Awards Are Starting To Arrive

Financial Aid Awards Are Starting To Arrive

College financial aid awards are starting to arrive earlier this year due to the FAFSA  timeline change. Don’t worry about this because it’s a good thing!  Immediately you should be asking yourself are these award(s) fair for my college student? The answer is unless you are awarded 100% of the total college cost you wouldn’t know.  If you filled out the FAFSA and CSS Profile you might have interpreted the question incorrectly.

The reality is that many families will simply take what is originally offered therefore will spend more for college than they need to, sometimes into the thousands of dollars more.

If you are reading this you must have questions and be looking for the best answers.  Just like a good tax accountant it pays to have a professional who knows how to accurately interpret the questions and provide the best answer based on your situation to receive more financial aid. College Aid Consulting Services brings 26 years of experience, our clients are assured, in the end, that they will receive the best aid package possible. Since we have worked with the majority of 4 year state schools and private colleges in the U.S., we know what to expect from a given college. If you would like one of our staff to review your awards letters and information that was submitted, please contact our office. Paying for College 2017

CollegeWeekLive’s Paying for College

Join me January 19th for Paying for College fair. I’ll be giving a live webcast on how to secure financial aid at 5 pm ET!  I’ll be telling you all about “How to Properly Pursue College Financial Aid” including ways to maximize opportunities with the FAFSA and CSS Profile.

Register now at

Radio Interview Best FAFSA / CSS Profile 2017 Tips

It is always a pleasure to chat with the folks at WCCO Radio. During my talk with John Williams I discussed various topics of the financial aid process that included the best ways to borrow for a college education, the financial aid forms including FAFSA and the CSS Profile, the best loans (subsidize & unsubsidized), and why the financial aid system may not be fair for many families.


Top 12 College Scholarship Myths

These are the top 12 scholarship myths of 2017. Read these to help dispel misinformation about the college financial aid process.

  1. My child won’t get a scholarship(s) because there is too much competition. Not true
  2. My child needs a 4.0 to retain a scholarship(s). Again, not true
  3. The scholarship search starts during the senior year in high school. Big mistake! Start in your junior year
  4. Scholarships will pay for every portion of college. For the majority of students, not true
  5. The Scholarship process is a one-time thing. If I don’t get one the first time I will never get it. Not necessarily
  6. Scholarship applications take too long to complete. False, many don’t
  7. Merit-based scholarships are only awarded to students with high GPAs. Not true.
  8. Receiving a scholarship(s) will mean less financial aid from a college. Maybe but not always
  9. Only students with high academics don’t need to apply for scholarships
  10. A large amount of scholarship money goes unclaimed. False, only a small amount do
  11. Scholarships are just for students that could not otherwise afford to go to college. Not true
  12. Many scholarship amounts are to small and not worth the time. Maybe. However, what if you retain 4-7 scholarships. They add up!

I continue to advise my students and parents that searching for scholarships is like the lottery, if you don’t play you will not win.

If you would like more information or further clarification on any of the above, please contact our office. We do provide our clients with a list of proven sources of scholarships that has benefited many students.