A Treasure Chest of Tips to Beat the High Cost of College…

by Scott Weingold

Dear Parent,

I think you’re really going to love this installment! Rather than covering just one strategy or technique to beat the high cost of college, we’re going to share with you…

“A Bushel Of Unusual Tips And Strategies to Beat The High Cost Of College!”

We have a lot to cover in this section, so without further ado – let’s get started:

1.  Choose Colleges That Have Innovative Payment Plans. Don’t only pay attention to the normal college search criteria like courses offered, academic and athletic reputation, geographic location, etc.  Instead, make sure you inquire about special scholarships, installment plans, guaranteed cost plans, and tuition remission for good grades.  Remember, if you don’t ask – they won’t tell!

2.  Always Apply To, At Least, Two Or Three Schools That Are Rated Equally. This way, if your child gets accepted to all of them, you may be able to play one against the other when negotiating to get a better financial aid package.

3.  Try To Understand The Financial Aid Formulas. By understanding the formula, you will start to see how different factors will affect your eligibility for financial aid.  For example, “Should you move the assets out of your child’s name?” By knowing the formula in advance of applying, you can legally set up your personal and financial situation to maximize your eligibility for financial aid.

4.  Send Your Child To A Community College For His/Her First Two Years Of School. If your child works hard and gets good grades, they can usually transfer to a top private university.  This way, they can get a diploma from a prestigious school for half the cost!  Read more about this topic here.

5.  Check Out Your State’s Financial Aid Programs. By contacting your state’s higher education agency, you can find out what financial aid programs they can offer “in-state” students.  Many states have grant and low-interest loan programs specifically to help students who plan to pursue careers in medicine or teaching.  Check with your state agency to see what they have for your child!

6.  Don’t Say “No” To Subsidized Student Loans. If you end up qualifying for either a Perkins loan or a subsidized Stafford loan, think very strongly about taking it!  These loans are interest-free for the four years your child is in school and up to six months after they graduate.  In effect, the government is picking up the tab on these loans for four entire years.  You may even be able to borrow the money, gain interest on it for four years, and then pre-pay the loan after four years without paying any interest whatsoever.  Check with your lender to find out.

7.  Have Your Child Complete Four Years Of College In Three Years. Your child will have to attend summer school, but you will save the 7 – 8% increase in tuition for the fourth year.

8.  File Your Financial Aid Forms Accurately And On Time. Remember, financial aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis.  If you submit your forms with errors or omissions, it will probably “bump” the financial aid forms, and you will have to resubmit them at a later time.  If this happens, you will probably lose aid since they award money on a first come, first served basis.  Also, make sure to get your forms in on time.  Most schools have different deadlines, and if you miss their deadline, you will almost definitely get less funding.  The moral of the story is – File your forms correctly the first time!

9.  Pick Colleges That Have The Best Histories Of Giving Good Financial Aid Packages. Many schools publish statistics on how much “need” they meet and how much FREE money and loans they give out.  Know these numbers before you apply, so you don’t waste time and money applying to schools you’ll never be able to afford. Click here to learn more about finding a school that will give you the best financial aid package.

10.  Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate For A Better Financial Aid Package. A school’s financial aid package is NOT fixed in stone.  Just because they offer you a certain package, doesn’t mean you have to accept it.  If you know how to calculate your “expected family contribution” and you find out what the school’s history of giving out financial aid is, you can usually get a pretty accurate idea of what you should have received.  If the school’s offer is way off – write a letter to negotiate. We have seen many cases where schools gave $2,000… $3,000… even $6,000 more than they originally offered just because the family asked.  The moral is – Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate!

11.  If You Can’t Afford To Pay Your “Expected Family Contribution”, Think About Taking Out A Home Equity Loan Or Line Of Credit. By taking out a home equity loan instead of a commercial loan, your interest payments will be tax-deductible, and you will be reducing the value of your home for financial aid purposes.  Although the federal formulas no longer ask about home equity, many private colleges still include it when determining how much money they will give you.

12.  Have Your Child Enroll In Advanced Placement Classes Or Enroll In College Level Courses While They’re Still In High School. Every college level course they place out of is money you won’t have to pay when they go to college.  Considering college credits can cost as much as $800 each, having your child place out of these courses can save you a lot of money.

13.  Have Your Child Pick A College That Offers Cooperative Education. There are over 900 colleges and universities that offer these kinds of programs.  Your child will alternate taking classes with working in a job that is related to the career they want to pursue.  It may take an extra year for them to finish college, but they will have a much better chance of landing a good job when they graduate.

14.  Be Sure To Apply For Financial Aid Even If You Don’t Think You’ll Be Eligible. Most families that make between $50,000 – $125,000 per year and own a home do qualify for some forms of financial aid.  Sadly, many parents are under the misconception that they won’t qualify so they don’t even try.  This is a huge mistake since you definitely won’t be offered any money if you don’t apply.  Even if you don’t qualify based on financial “need”, many schools won’t even consider you for “non-need” based aid if you don’t try applying for need-based aid.  So, regardless of what you’ve been told – give it a shot and apply!

15. Don’t Spend A Lot Of Your Time Looking For Private Scholarships. Private scholarships from foundations and organizations only make up approximately 2% of all the funding out there.  The other 98% comes from the Federal Government, the state you live in, and the colleges or universities your child applies to.  Spend most of your time applying for the 95%, instead of wasting a lot of time going after the less than 5%!

Scott Weingold
College Planning Network


Related Articles:

How to Make College Cheaper: Part 2 – Strategies

3 Simple Steps for Making College More Affordable

3 Simple Steps for Making College More Affordable – Part 2

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.