According to CollegeBoard, the cost of college is almost three times what is was in the 1980′s. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan noted in a speech in Las Vegas, at a conference of financial aid workers, that as college has become more expensive, a college degree has become a more valuable investment. Individuals with bachelor’s degrees, on average, earn about $1 million more over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma.
Paying for college is a major concern for most students and their parents. Fortunately, there is a significant amount of financial aid available to help lower families’ out of pocket costs. When creating your list, it’s a good idea to include schools that are both financial targets as well as reaches and to recognize that the amount of debt a student incurs to finance his/her education varies significantly from school to school. There are many helpful tools available to help you estimate the costs of attending a particular college. For example, the U.S. Department of Education offers a Net Price Calculator, as do many school websites.
Although applying for financial aid is overwhelming, it’s necessary to understand the process in order to receive the maximum aid possible. Research the types of financial aid that are available and know which forms you will need to submit. Individual school websites are a good source of information about available financial aid. Note deadlines so that you don’t miss opportunities to qualify for aid. Talk to your guidance counselor about sources of aid and filing requirements.
To allow for a smooth process, familiarize yourself with what you will need to complete your applications. Now is a good time to start gathering all the information and supporting documentation necessary to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which may be filed on line at www.fafsa.ed.gov starting on January 1st of your senior year. The earlier you apply, the more money there may be available. Collect tax returns, W2′s, pay stubs, bank statements, investment records, mortgage information etc. Doing this now will offer you a head start in January and hopefully a better chance at maximizing your financial aid package.