We are excited to provide a guest post from Frank Palmasani on the topic of financial aid for college students!
It’s that time of the year for families to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This document is used by colleges to which the student has applied and been accepted. The colleges review this information and include it with other data (like student grades, composite test scores, and interests) to determine that family’s net price.
Net price is the comprehensive cost of a college minus what is provided to that family in grants and scholarships. Colleges, as they present net price to families, might also include a student loan and a campus job. With the costs of education as high as they are today, this is what families want to know –
their net price.
In the past, net price was not known until March or April of senior year when colleges released official award letters. This year, for the first time, families have an opportunity to learn their net price at any particular college through the use of a new U.S. Department of Education initiative – net price calculators.
Every college, as of the end of October 2011, had to post a net price calculator on their website. These calculators allow families to learn an estimated net price much earlier than when the official award letters are released.
High school counselors across the country have been developing strategies and programs to help teach parents and students how to maximize the use of these net price calculators. After 25 years of delivering seminars to parent groups on the Challenges of College Costs, I developed a program to do just that – The Financial Fit College Search method.
This method begins when the family systematically assesses what they can afford to pay for college yearly. This assessment is based on an analysis of tax credit eligibility, cash flow, savings, and reasonable parent borrowing.
Once this assessment is complete, the idea is to choose a college in each of 7 college categories. Using each of those school’s net price calculators, the family would determine that college’s net price and compare it to their affordability. Does that college appear to be affordable or does it not? If it does
not, then one or more other net price calculators from schools in that category would be chosen. If it is obvious that none of the schools in a category are affordable, that category of colleges gets eliminated.
If a family finds a category of colleges (from this group of 7) or categories of colleges where the net price of the school matches their affordability, that category or those categories are the ones the family should focus on. The family then avoids the distinct possibility of having no college choices that are
When families learn in March or April of senior year that all of the time, energy and money devoted to exploring and applying to colleges that seemed most appropriate and suitable to the student are all unaffordable, disappointment sets in. Too often this disappointment has superseded pragmatism. Much of the reason why we have a huge student debt problem is that families have chosen these unaffordable options.
The Financial Fit College Search method is designed to help families avoid this disappointment, learn how to find the affordable college options and manage their college costs without excessive debt.
Frank Palmasani is in his 36th year working in education as a High School Counselor or College Admissions Director. During that time he has delivered seminars to more than 200,000 parents, visited with thousands of families one on one, presented at numerous counselor conferences, and appeared on several Chicago area media outlets. His topic at all times has been helping families conquer college costs. He is the founder of an educational website, a software program, and will have a book published and released this fall. His innovative method of Finding Financial Fits has been utilized by high school counselors in schools across the country.