With the cost of college rising each year, we did the math to see if it’s possible for students to pay their own way through school.
Granted, price data aren’t perfect: a recent University of Pennsylvania study found that many colleges’ net price calculators don’t correlate with the true cost of a university degree.
That said, how can you negotiate your kid’s college bill down and pay what you can afford?
First, you can appeal your kid’s financial aid award letter.
“For some families, a change in financial status may have occurred since the submission of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid form and may not reflect your current income,” notes Fred Amrein, founder of PayForED.com, a Newtown Square consulting and software firm that helps parents and students maximize financial aid and minimize college costs. He’s even put together a sample “Financial Aid Appeal letter” as a guide.
Second, here’s a list of tuition bill items to review before you pay:
If you have money in your 529 college savings plan, remember qualified expenses include tuition, fees, room, board, books, computers, and supplies directly related to courses.
Often overlooked? The American Opportunity Credit. This is a tax credit per student that can add up to $2,500 per year, and is only available for the first four years of college. However, sometimes tax years and school years don’t match, so check with an accountant.
When filling out financial aid applications, students and families need two years of tax information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is available to use with the 2019‒20 FAFSA Form. This tool is the fastest, most accurate way to input tax return information.
Don’t have a copy of your past tax returns? Here are some options:
After reviewing the bill, you may fall short on how to pay the rest of the tuition. Most families finance the cost of college education with:
Too much work or don’t have the time? Get help from a college financial expert who is a fiduciary — that’s someone legally bound to do the right thing for his or her client, and not just sell a product.
Robert Falcon with College Funding Solutions in Concordville has built a business around estimating your expected financial contribution and net cost of college before your student applies, so you can eliminate schools that put your student’s future and your retirement in financial jeopardy.
“Unfortunately, there are some college financial advisers out there who see the complexity of college funding as an opportunity to put a commission in their pockets by selling you an insurance product or an annuity,” he warns.