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got funding?

Take a moment to review some of the financial aid information we have posted. If you're in need of college funding, you'll want to make sure you know all of your options, and be sure to only work with legitimate organizations.

The following information was provided by Jim Beach of Tuition Solutions. Mr. Beach is a private college funding counselor that specializes in helping families with students in high school maximize financial aid and figure out the best way to pay for college. He works for the parents, not the college. He is a member of the Coral Springs Chamber's Education Subcommittee and is co-chairman of the committee's Bridge To Leadership Award program.

To schedule a consultation with Jim Beach, please contact at:

Financial Aid Myths

When it comes to financial aid, there are a lot of misconceptions. Here are four common financial aid myths:

Financial Aid Myth #1 – You Shouldn't Apply for Financial Aid Until You've Been Accepted
Waiting to apply for financial aid until after you have been accepted is a big mistake. Application deadlines often precede actual admission deadlines. If you want to increase your chances of receiving the aid you need, it is imperative that you meet any and all financial aid application deadlines.

Financial Aid Myth #2 – Financial Aid is Available Only to the Most Needy Students
While most financial aid is need-based, you don't have to be totally needy to get it. However, you do need to know how the financial aid system works. There is more than $125 billion in financial aid awarded to students annually. Never assume you won't qualify for any aid.

Financial Aid Myth #3 – Financial Aid Packages are the Same No Matter Where You Go
Just like tuition costs, financial aid packages vary from school to school. In some cases, it may cost you less to attend a private college than it would to attend a local or state college.

Financial Aid Myth #4 – Community College Costs a Lot Less
Depending on your situation it may cost a little less, but it doesn't offer the savings it seems to. You may save on housing by living with parents, but you've got to have a car (with insurance and gas) for instance. Plus, 70% of students who start there expecting to go on to earn a four-year degree fail to do so.

Is College Worth The Cost?

Parents facing $20,000 a year to send a child to a good college wonder, at least once, if it's worth it.

It is. If you need reassurance, check the College Board's web site ( and read the study indicating that each additional level of education draws a higher lifetime income. The median high school graduate age 25 and older earns $26,300, the median college grad the same age earns $42,200, 59% more.

Elsewhere, it has been reported that a college education is worth $1.2 million more in earnings over the graduate's lifetime.

So the return on investment is good. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider various colleges, particularly private colleges. Your goal is to try to find the best mix of academics and financial aid for your student. Many parents find that the financial aid available from private colleges makes it as affordable as state colleges.

Also, look at the colleges' graduation rates. If it takes the student longer to graduate, each semester swells the cost. In Florida , the University of Florida ranks highest, graduating about 50% within four years, and 78% in six. But Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton graduates only 13% within four years and 37% within six.

Unfortunately about 50% of students drop out before finishing and the number one reason they do so is lack of money. Often that occurs during the sophomore year. Their parents thought they could handle the costs, and they got through a year, but when college is draining $1000 a month from the family's coffers (or adding to debt), there is often no choice.

What's more expensive than college? Dropping out or not even going.

Not Enough Aid To Go Around

Though there are thousands of students who receive financial aid each year, the truth is that the amount of money many students get is simply not enough.

The cost of college skyrocketed in the past two decades. Most parents insist that they are expected to pay too much before aid is available. Their Expected Family Contribution (EFC), figured using a government formula based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is too high, they claim.

College students, nationwide, are struggling and penny pinching just to get by.
The fact is 50% of students drop out. The three reasons are 1. Lack of money 2. Changing majors 3. Changing schools. Either the parents cannot support it any longer, or the student begins working full time.

Need-based financial aid is awarded to students based on parents' income and assets and the student's income and assets. They don't ask about debt.

Private scholarships pay only 1% of the cost of college nationally.

The median indebtedness for a college graduate last year exceeded $19,000. That means half owe more.

The very rich don't need financial aid. The very poor already qualify for aid. So who does that leave? The burdened middle class.

If you're in that category, the prudent course of action is to plan ahead, put yourself in position to maximize your eligibility for financial aid, pick the right college and the right major.

Parents Find Saving Difficult

Q: I make a nice salary, but I am afraid I haven't saved very much for my daughter's college education. Am I a bad parent?

A: Well, a lot of factors determine whether you're a good parent, but not saving for college can be an advantage in some circumstances. It depends on your total financial picture – specifically how much you make and the assets you hold.

Most parents haven't saved near enough to pay for college. There always seems to be something getting in the way – preschool, buying a house, braces, sports, birthdays, vacations and the like. The average couples I counsel have saved less than $10,000 for college.

The good news is, by not saving money earmarked specifically for college, in a 529 Plan or contributing to the Florida pre-paid program for instance; you may have actually increased your chances of using ‘other people's money' – in the form of financial aid. You may qualify for help paying for college.

Simply put, if you have saved enough money for college you have ensured that you will pay for college. You will likely not qualify for need-based financial aid. If you haven't saved, you might be entitled to financial aid.

You should take a realistic look at where your daughter may want to attend school, and do not leave private schools out of the equation. They have infinitely more flexibility in offering a financial aid package. Some parents find their students can attend a private school for less money out-of-pocket than a public school.

Paring College Costs

The only thing more painful than filling the gasoline tank these days is considering what sending your kids to college will cost. Apply for financial aid, even if you think your family earns too much to qualify. Send in the forms. NOTE: Parents of Seniors – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be completed as soon after January 1 of the senior year as possible. It is the basis for financial aid.

Here are some cost cutting tips:
Pick up credits before college – the more credits you bring with you the less money you'll pay. Many high schools offer classes that can earn college credit, there's dual enrollment and the College Level Examination Program (CLEP).

Look for scholarships – at the school's guidance office and online at sites like

Live at home and take classes at a community college during the summer.

Programs such as AmeriCorps, Vista , the ROTC and the Peace Corp will help pay off student loans or provide funds during college in exchange for a service commitment.

Books can cost $1000 a year. Buy used, look online for best prices, share books, purchase electronic books. Resell them when you're done.

Ditch the car and ride a bike, slash the text messaging and stay on track to finish in four years.

What's more expensive than college? Not going.

Saved Enough For College?

The College Board reports in its latest Trends in Student Aid that more teenagers are borrowing money to go to college. The average student receiving a bachelor's degree graduates today with about $19,000 in debt.

That's not surprising given the increased cost of a college education – some $60,000 at a public university and more than $100,000 at a private college. What is surprising is that the fastest increase in borrowing is among families with incomes of more than $100,000 a year!

That's because most parents are lousy savers.

According to Fidelity Investments, parents have saved about one dollar for every four dollars they will need to pay for their student's college education, including tuition, fees, room and board. Fifty-one percent of families have less than $5,000 per child according to the College Savings Foundation.

Part of that is because they are convinced they earn too much to qualify for financial aid (although $97.1 Billion in financial aid was doled out last year), and they don't even apply.

The financial aid formulas take into account income and assets of both the parents and students. But it also takes into account how many students the family has in college, how much the college costs, even the age of the parents, so the situation is different for every family. Plus, there are ways to maximize aid eligibility.

For that reason, every family should apply for financial aid for college, regardless of income.

Ten Common Mistakes Parents Make When Sending Their Child to College

Mistake #1: Most middle and upper-middle class parents assume they won't be eligible for financial aid because they own a home and make too much money.

Reality: Most families with incomes ranging from $40,000 - $120,000 per year who own homes are eligible for some form of financial aid. There is more than $30 billion (with a "b") available each year from the federal government, states, colleges and universities, and private foundations and organizations.

The catch? You just have to know how to get your "fair share". Unfortunately, those who are poor already qualify. Those who are rich don't need the help. The parents with the most at stake are middle-income families who will drastically curtail their lifestyle or raid their retirement savings for a minimum of the next four years. Most parents assume they won't be eligible. That's not necessarily true.

Mistake #2: Focusing your time and energy on a private scholarship search instead of spending your time trying to qualify for "need-based" financial aid.

Reality: Private scholarships make up approximately one percent (1%) of the money for college. Most scholarships are for one year and they start at $250. Even a $1,000 scholarship, while nice, won't make a dent in the total cost.

The other 99% comes from the federal government, the state you live in, the colleges and universities and YOU. Therefore, you are much better off spending your time and energy addressing the 99%, rather than spending your time on the 1%.

Mistake #3: Focusing solely on public (state) universities, ignoring private colleges and universities for your student.

Reality: Many families find the value of a private college education is better than a public university. At first glance that seems unlikely given that tuition and fees shown for private colleges are far more.

There are three reasons. First, they give more aid. An empty desk at a private institution is totally wasted, generating no revenue for the college. They're willing to take less rather than earn nothing. As a result they can add a “tuition reduction” or a generous grant as part of the package. You will usually get a larger financial aid package from a private institution.

The second reason is because private colleges are structured to graduate their students in 4 years. In fact, some 78% of students at private colleges graduate in four years. Less than half graduate in four years at public universities – only 75% graduate in six! Worse, those students lose two years of earnings because they're still in college while the private school grad is out making money!

The third reason is because their Estimated Cost of Attendance (ECOA) is much higher. Your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) stays the same for every school. So if the cost of college is $15,000 a year and your EFC is $12,000, you qualify for $3,000 in need-based aid. If the ECOA of a private college is $25,000, you qualify for $13,000 in need-based financial aid!

For these reasons, many families find it MORE affordable to send their student to a private college than a public university.

Mistake #4: Picking colleges and universities without paying attention to where your student lies in relation to the rest of the student body.

Reality: To increase your chances of getting the best possible financial aid packages, it is imperative that you pick schools where your child lies in the top10% of the incoming freshman class with respect to their GPA and SAT/ACT scores. Although schools give

financial aid based on your calculation of "need" at their school, they will definitely give preferential packaging (i.e., more free money, less loans) to students who lie in the top 10% of the incoming class. The reason they do this is to attract the better students to their school. Use this to your advantage and apply only to those schools where your child would fit into the top 10% category.

Mistake #5: Assuming all schools are created equal and will give you the same amount of money.

Reality: All schools are not created equal and will not be able to give you the same financial aid package. Most often, every package is different.

Mistake #6: Not understanding the difference between "included assets" and "unincluded assets" for purposes of filling out financial aid forms.

Reality: This is one area where families can impact the amount of money they spend for college and is most often ignored completely – simply because they don't know.

Certain assets are counted much more heavily in the financial aid formulas than others – and some aren't counted at all.

Mistake #7: It doesn't matter where you keep your money; it's all counted in the same way.

Reality: Not true. As we pointed out in Mistake #6, where you keep your money can mean the difference between you being eligible for $10,000 in financial aid or getting nothing! For example, money in the child's name is weighted much more heavily than money in the parent's name. What makes it confusing is that colleges and universities ask separate questions and use a separate formula to determine your need. They DO count home equity, for example, when the federal formula does not.

If you don't know how to legally and ethically position your money properly for purposes of financial aid, you could end up losing thousands in financial aid to which you would otherwise be entitled.

Mistake #8: "My CPA or tax preparer is qualified to fill out my financial aid forms. I'll have him or her do it."

Reality: I would like to believe that too. Unfortunately, CPA's and tax preparers are experts at tax planning and preparation – not financial aid planning. For example, a CPA or tax preparer might suggest that you put some or all of your assets in your child's name to save money on taxes. While this advice is well meaning, it will usually kill most or all of your chances of getting financial aid.

Also, CPA's and tax preparers are not trained in filling out financial aid forms. In many cases, they will unknowingly fill out these forms improperly. One mistakes sends the application back to YOU. Let's be fair. We are not tax preparers, and they are not financial aid experts.

Plus, they'll likely charge you more than a financial aid counselor will.

Mistake #9: Waiting until January or even worse after January of your child's senior year of high school to start working on your college financial aid planning.

Reality: Since financial aid is based on your previous year's income and assets, it is imperative to start your planning as soon as possible before January of your child's senior year. If you want to legally set up your income and assets so you can maximize your eligibility for financial aid, you must start working on this at least one year in advance - preferably in the beginning of your child's JUNIOR year of high school.

The longer you wait and the closer it gets to your child's senior year, the tougher it gets to set up your financial picture without creating a "red flag" for the colleges and universities. It is also important for you to know what your "Expected Family Contribution" (the amount you are expected to pay before you are eligible for financial aid) is so you can start saving for it.

Mistake #10: Handling the financial aid process by yourself.

Reality: When parents are about to send their child to college and spend between $10,000 - $45,000 per year for one child, parents really shouldn't go it alone.

It's a complicated system - a blend of federal and government bureaucracy, mixed in with involvement of private, for-profit and non-profit enterprises, a maze of ever-changing rules, deadlines, regulations and other complications. It just makes sense to get some help. That help can result in many thousands of dollars of savings.


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