AFFORDABILITY 101. The Basics of College Financial Aid. Sandra M. Moore, MA, Next Step CC, LLC

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1 AFFORDABILITY 101 The Basics of College Financial Aid Sandra M. Moore, MA, Next Step CC, LLC

2 Welcome! Let s demystify this process! One step at a time less stress for all. No guarantees but before you can win, you ve got to get in the game. Your questions and comments are encouraged!

3 Topics for Tonight Intro First Things First Role of Financial Aid/Family Responsibility Financial Aid Basics Cost of Attendance (COA) Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Determining Financial Aid Eligibility/ Need FAFSA How to Apply/What it Qualifies You For CSS Financial Aid Profile Financial Aid Details Special Circumstances How to read/compare financial aid awards/packages When/how to appeal financial aid decisions

4 First Things First: Debunking Myths Separating fact from fiction True or False: 1.) We make too much money to qualify. 2.) Only students with good grades get financial aid. 3.) You have to be a minority student to get aid. 4.) The form is too hard to fill out. 5.) We ll have to sell our house to pay for college. 6.) It s cheaper to go to a public college rather than to go to a private one. See handout from FederalStudentAid.ed.gov

5 First Things First: The Money Talk FACT: Few students can afford to pay for college without some form of education financing. Money DOES matter. Discuss family circumstances with your student EARLY in process. Define expectations and set limits. Calculate your EFC BEFORE your student starts researching colleges. (See College Board and Tuition Coach online calculators & EFC pages.) Save, save, save.

6 First Things First: Get Help! FACT: Over 50% of students attending four-year colleges are receiving some form of financial assistance. Seek help (guidance counselor, independent consultant, college admission/financial aid officer) if you re feeling overwhelmed and confused about any aspect of the process rather than engaging in premature foreclosure.

7 Role of Financial Aid/Family Responsibility Need-based financial aid system is based on the goal of equal access: that any student should be able to attend college, regardless of financial circumstances. The family bears primary responsibility for payment of college costs. A family s relative financial strength is assessed at time of application. Families are evaluated in an equitable and consistent manner. If a family is unable to contribute the entire cost, need-based financial aid is available to bridge the gap. Note: unwillingness to pay is not the same as inability to pay. Financial aid rule of thumb: plan to pay for 1/3, borrow 1/3 and get 1/3. Essential question: How much are you, as a parent, willing to sacrifice for your child(ren) s education?

8 Financial Aid Basics: Types/Sources Types of financial aid Need-based aid The family must qualify for it based (primarily) on income and assets. It includes: Gift aid Grants ( free money /not repaid) Self-help Loans, employment Merit aid The student must qualify for it based on special abilities, talents, affinities, etc. It includes: Gift aid Academic, talent, athletic scholarships (often come with criteria) Sources of financial aid Need-based aid Federal, institutional, state, private Merit aid Institutional, private

9 Financial Aid Basics: COA and EFC Cost of Attendance (COA) COA typically includes direct costs (e.g., tuition, room and board and fees) & indirect costs (travel, books and supplies). Expected Family Contribution (EFC) EFC is calculated based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) using what s known as the federal methodology and is tweaked by other forms (e.g., CSS Financial Aid Profile, used by some schools) and professional judgment. EFC includes a parent contribution and a student contribution.

10 Financial Aid Basics: Determining Need Cost of Attendance (COA) varies among institutions - Direct costs billed by the college (e.g., tuition, room and board) - Indirect costs/necessary expenses (e.g., books, supplies, etc.) -- (minus) Expected Family Contribution (EFC) remains constant = (equals) Calculated Financial Aid Eligibility (or Need ) Financial aid attempts to make up the difference between what a family can afford to pay and what college costs. Colleges don t necessarily meet full need.

11 Financial Aid Basics: Figuring Out COA Did you know About 2/3 of all college students receive free money (needbased grants and/or merit scholarships) that often significantly lower the sticker price U.S. Department of Education regulation (effective 10/29/11), mandated by Congress, requires all institutions receiving federal funding to post an online Net Price Calculator (NPC) so that families can compare apples to apples. Visit new federal government Affordability and Transparency Center. Check out Boston University s outstanding (clear and comprehensive!) online financial aid pages, including an NPC and EFC estimator.

12 Financial Aid Basics: Forms - FAFSA FAFSA gauges eligibility for federal, state and institutional need-based aid. Watch the 5-Minute FAFSA video. Step One: Apply for a pin (one for parent/one for dependent student) via the Federal Student Aid Pin Website. Step Two: Complete the FAFSA online as early as possible after January 1 of senior year (being sure to adhere to institutional deadlines for receiving it). Do NOT wait until you file your taxes to file the FAFSA; you ll need to use your 2010 tax forms to estimate income for 2011 See FAFSA draft for handout.

13 Financial Aid Basics: FAFSA - Gift Aid The FAFSA establishes eligibility for receiving the gift aid below: Federal Grants e.g., Pell Grants for low-income students (TFI below $50,000; typically < $20,000; max. for 2011 = $5,500) State Grants e.g., New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) File FAFSA first; then apply for TAP online as second step. Grants range from $500-$5,000 (dependent students) and cannot exceed tuition (income limit: $80,000 NYS net taxable income/dependent students). Supplementary Grants (SEOG) Awarded by colleges from federal government money to extremely needy students who also qualify for Pell Grants. Institutional Grants directly from colleges (based on EFC derived from FAFSA; some colleges additionally use data from CSS Financial Aid Profile) More info: Student Aid on the Web (federal government site)

14 Financial Aid Basics: FAFSA - Student Loans Did you know? 2/3 of subsidized Stafford loans are awarded to students with family AGI < $50,000, ¼ with family AGI of $50,000 to $100,000 & < 10% with family AGI > $100,000. The FAFSA establishes eligibility for receiving student loans through the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program below: Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan Must demonstrated financial need. Interest rate: 5.6% ( ); 4.5% ( ); 3.4% ( ); 6.8% ( ) Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan All students are eligible, regardless of need Fixed interest rate: 6.8% Federal Perkins Loan (subsidized)/for very needy); Maximum award/year: $5,500 (Undergrad/dependent) student) Fixed rate: 5%. See handout from studentaid.ed.gov.

15 Financial Aid Basics: FAFSA - Parent Loans Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) A federal direct loan program which allows parents to borrow funds to cover student s unmet need up to full cost of attendance; no cumulative limit. Must be credit worthy; fixed rate: 7.9%. (8.5 % fixed rate for former FFELP loans, which cannot be transferred to direct program). Private Loans Apply for through banks; typically offer higher interest rates. See handout from studentaid.ed.gov.

16 Financial Aid Basics: FAFSA - Work Study Work-study jobs are awarded on the basis of the FAFSA, paying at least minimum wage. Students typically work part-time in a college s library, media center, dorm, cafeteria, etc.

17 Financial Aid Basics: Forms - CSS PROFILE The CSS Financial Aid Profile, required by some colleges, digs deeper than the FAFSA. It is used specifically in the awarding of institutional gift aid. 1.) Medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance 2.) Current value of the parents' home 3.) Trust funds for the student and siblings 4.) Tuition parents may have paid for younger dependents' education before college 5.) Amount a divorced parent will contribute 6.) Explanations of special circumstances that have a bearing on the family's ability to pay for college See CSS Financial Aid Profile handout.

18 Financial Aid Basics: Forms/CSS PROFILE: Additional Forms The Profile is not free to file like FAFSA. Cost: $9 plus $16/school. Non-custodial Parent s Statement A two-page form that some colleges require the non-custodial parent (in a separated or divorced set of parents) to complete. Business/Farm Supplement Gathers info from either a student and/or parent business(es) to gauge short and longterm profits.

19 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA - Factors Influencing EFC Number in household and number in college Taxed and untaxed income (taxes paid) Investments Age of older parent Number of wage earners

20 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA Assets Included in EFC Real estate other than the family residence Investments Family-owned business with more than 100 employees A farm that the family does not live on Current cash, savings, and checking accounts Education IRA or higher education savings plans

21 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA - Assets NOT included in EFC The value of IRAs and other retirement plans Home equity (the difference between home value and home debt) Farm equity for a farm on which the family lives (the difference between the value of the farm and the debt against the farm) Family-owned business with fewer than 100 employees Cash value of life insurance policies

22 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA - Asset Protection Assets usually are excluded from the EFC calculation for those with an adjusted gross income below $50,000. When assets are taken into account, the EFC formula provides an asset protection allowance according to age and marital status. The typical family receives an asset protection allowance of $45,000. This amount is subtracted from the parents' total assets and, of the remainder, only 12 percent is considered available. (Independent students with children receive the asset protection allowance, but the assessment rate is now 7 percent.)

23 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA Sample Assets Calculation Treatment of Parental Assets Total Assets: $100,000 Asset Protection: - 45,000 Total Net Assets: $55,000 x 12% Available Assets: $6,600

24 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA - Student Assets & EFC Dependent students and independent students with no dependents are expected to contribute 20 percent of their total assets, since it is assumed that these students have saved their money for the purpose of paying for their education.

25 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA - Parent Income & EFC To determine the amount of income available for educational purposes, both parents and students are given "offsets" against income (including federal, state, local and FICA taxes; employment expenses; and an income protection allowance). For parents and independent students with dependents, the income protection allowance can range from approximately $16,000 to $50,000, based on family size and number of family members enrolled in college. After subtracting the offsets from total income, the remaining income is called available income. For parents and independent students with dependents, the available assets are added to the available income to arrive at the adjusted available income (AAI). A portion of this amount is multiplied by 22 to 47 percent (plus a additional predetermined assessment) to arrive at the total contribution. The higher the income, the higher the percentage used.

26 Financial Aid Details: FAFSA - Student Income & EFC Dependent students and independent students without dependents are expected to contribute 50 percent of their available income and receive a more limited income protection allowance.

27 Financial Aid Details: Planning Tools FAFSA Forecaster Provides families with an early estimate of eligibility for federal financial aid by inputting financial data that transfers directly into FAFSA when ready to apply. EFC Calculators Allows families to input data and receive an estimate of Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Other Calculators (including College Savings Calculator, Student Loan Comparison Calculator and Parent Debt Calculator)

28 Financial Aid Details: Ethical Ways to Maximize Eligibility Honesty is the best policy! Don t adopt any strategy that makes you feel uncomfortable. Strategies for Impacting Need-based Aid Eligibility 1.) Save money in the parent's name, not the child's name. Or use a savings vehicle that is treated like a parent asset, such as a 529 college savings plan, prepaid tuition plan or Coverdell Education Savings Account. 2.) Pay off consumer debt, such as credit card and auto loan balances. 3.) Have multiple children in college at the same time. The more family members in college simultaneously, the more aid may be available to each. (Note: Whether parents education counts in this formula is now subject to professional judgment review. ) 4.) Spend down the student's assets and income first.

29 Financial Aid Details: Ethical Ways to Maximize Eligibility Colleges are required to verify at least 1/3 of all FAFSAs submitted and many verify 100%. They may require you to sign a release allowing them to receive your tax forms directly from the IRS. More strategies: 5.) Accelerate necessary expenses to reduce available cash. 6.) To report special circumstances, make an appointment with financial aid office. 7.) Minimize capital gains. 8.) Maximize contributions to your retirement fund. 9.) Don t withdraw money from retirement funds (distributions count as taxable income, reducing next year's financial aid eligibility); worse case scenario, borrow it from funds.

30 Financial Aid Details: Ethical Ways to Maximize Eligibility And more 10.) Ask grandparents to wait until the grandchild graduates before giving them money to help with their education. 11.) Trust funds are generally ineffective at sheltering money from the need analysis process and can backfire on you. 12.) Prepay your mortgage. 13.) A 529 college savings plan owned by a parent has minimal impact on financial aid; one owned by a grandparent has no impact on financial aid. 14.) Choose the date to submit the FAFSA carefully, as assets and student marital status are specified as of the application date. Further discussion on Finaid.org.

31 Financial Aid Details: Tax Breaks for Higher Education Tax incentives include: 1.) Tax Credits directly reduce taxes paid 2.) Tax Deductions reduce amount of income on which taxes are paid You may qualify for more than one incentive but you may need to calculate taxes more than one way to maximize benefits. See Federal Higher Education Tax Benefits Guide handout.

32 Financial Aid Details: Tax Credits & Deductions Tax Credits 1.) American Opportunity Tax Credit (set to expire at end of 2011 tax year; replaced Hope Tax Credit) 2.) Lifetime Learning Tax Credit Tax Deductions 1.) Tuition and Fees Tax Deduction 2.) Student Loan Interest Deduction More info: IRS Publication 970

33 Special Circumstances Change in employment status Medical expenses not covered by insurance Change in parent marital status Unusual dependent care expenses Student cannot obtain parent information

34 How to Read/Compare Award Letters Compare financial aid packages (apples to apples): Total amount received compared to total cost. Make sure all costs (COA) are listed, with all sources of aid subtracted to equal a bottom line of zero Look carefully at self-help section and determine how much you and your student afford Make sure you understand what % of package is gift aid (free money) Know the appeals process Portability of package (e.g., for junior year abroad, etc.) Impact of outside scholarships Ask If our circumstances remain essentially the same, can we expect the same award for all four years?

35 When/How to Appeal Awards When to appeal: If the package does not adequately meet your need AND the school is your child s first choice If special circumstances have recently impacted your EFC (and are not reflected in your forms) How to appeal: Follow the stated procedure. If unknown, call the financial aid office and request clarification. Some schools allow negotiation ( Send me School B s award letter and we ll match it. ) but others do not. Remember: A best fit and affordable college is out there. Best of luck with your search!

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