Six other college costs and opportunities to
consider when the fi nancial aid letter arrives
COURIER LIFE, OCT. 25-31, 2019 35
The last year of high school is a whirl of activity,
and it’s no different when it comes to the fi -
nal leg of college selection. Once the acceptance
notifi cations arrive, it will soon be time to sit down
with a different stack of mail: fi nancial aid letters.
As you undoubtedly know, the cost of college is
no small investment. In the 2017-18 academic year,
the average tuition and fees for four-year public colleges
is $25,620, while for private colleges, the costs
are $33,520, and public two-year colleges cost $3,570,
according to the College Board.
At the same time, the College Board reports that
more than 70 percent of students receive grants to
help pay for college. Hopefully, those fi nancial letters
contain some good news.
For most families, analyzing the letters is a process
of uncovering the college that can offer the best
education at the best value for your student. One
way to get there is to parse the details of the letter itself
so you understand the net cost of your student’s
education. Still, it’s critical to look at other factors
and opportunities around higher education costs.
Taking a deeper look at these can help you and your
student reach the best possible decision.
Deciphering free aid vs. other options: Take a
close look at each line in the aid column. Key words,
such as scholarships, grants and fellowships, signal
no-strings money for school. Work-study and student
loan packages are options that will need students to
fi nd a job or pay the money back.
Cost-of-living expenses: Think about those extra
costs that come up over the weeks and months of
any college year, such as meals, phone, transportation
and laundry. Don’t forget entertainment. After
all, they’re not going to spend all their time studying
in their dorm room. Does the campus and community
offer plenty of low-cost and no-cost attractions
and entertainment so they can have fun with their
friends without breaking the bank?
Local economy: One thing worth considering
is the local economy of the fi rst-choice school, especially
if your student may want to pick up a parttime
job along the way. Even better, look for local employers
that are compatible with your child’s career
goals. An entry-level job at one of these workplaces
can help make ends meet, while making your student
more marketable when it’s time to graduate.
Student achievement: Do a little digging on the
success rate for students and graduates, so you have
an idea on whether the school has a high job placement
rate after graduation. Know the school’s graduation
rate, along with the average fi rst-year salary
Ongoing costs: The fi nancial aid letter describes
the student’s fi rst year. As much as you can, do some
forecasting for the next three to four years. It’s especially
important to understand whether awards are
renewable, or if they’re available only to fi rst-year
Negotiation: If the college isn’t coming through
with enough aid to make college affordable for your
student and family, don’t give up. You might be able
to negotiate more aid. Submit a letter and ask for a
follow-up appointment. Be specifi c about what you
are requesting, and be sure to explain if you have
specifi c circumstances such as medical costs or a job
loss that may have affected your ability to meet the
expected family contribution.
If you fi nd the amount of fi nancial aid provided
isn’t enough (including the amount offered in federal
loans), families may want to research and explore
private student loans as an option to cover the
additional expenses. Look for competitive interest
rates and fl exible repayment options that match
your budget. College Ave Student Loans also offers
a calculator that showcases how much families
can save with various loan options at www.collegeavestudentloans.
com. — BPT