Vol 1: Issue 1  |  Home   

VOLUME 1 - ISSUE 1

Table of Contents

  1. About The Financial Aid Journal
  2. Understanding the Financial Aid Maze - Part 1
  3. College Financial Aid Fables
  4. College Living - Inside Information
  5. Federal Updates
  6. Odd’sn Ends
  7. Real College Life Horror Stories
  8. Computing and Murphy’s Law

 

The Financial Aid Journal was created to present you with the latest information, facts, data and advice that will help you navigate through the whole process of finding the financial aid you need; from tips on deciding on and gaining admission to the college of your choice, to filling out financial aid forms, to searching for and finding the money you need to attend the school of your choice. We’ll supply you with helpful articles, editorials and commentary; notify you of federal and state financial aid rules and regulations and any other changes regarding the undergraduate educational processes. Our editors are constantly researching and monitoring the post-secondary education system to give you the latest information via college horror stories and experiences of past students and we’ll even have on the not-so-serious side of life through college humor.

Our objective is to level the playing field between you and the undergraduate educational system by helping you to survive and profit by your college experience!

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Understanding the Financial Aid Maze - Part 1

If the following question were asked "When do I normally begin direct contact with the college financial aid processes?", would you feel relatively confident that the correct answer would be one of the following?

  • A. When you receive the school's financial aid forms.

  • B. When you complete your FAFSA or CSS Profile or both.

  • C. Normally during the month of January of your senior year.

Sad to say... None of the above! The correct answer is the Base Year: the tax year before you enter college. The base year generates the financial information that is assessed to determine the financial aid eligibility for your incoming freshman year: in other words, the income you and your family earns in 2005 determines your financial aid for enrollment in August 2006. Confusing isn’t it, and to add insult to injury, the post-secondary education system never informs you of the base year.

If you’re planning to attend college your financial assessment begins January 1 of your junior year and ends December 31 of your senior year... Surprise?... yes, unexpected?... yes, and confusing?... yes, unintentional as it might be. Though you or your parents haven’t filled out and forwarded one single form or application, you and your family are already deeply involved with the college financial aid process, like it or not. Our editor has asked over a hundred parents, forty high school guidance counselors, and hundreds of students regarding the term base year, and essentially he found the term is unrecognized and unknown.

When inquiries were made of various college and university financial aid staff members, at college fairs, seminars, and by telephone, why the base year was neither mentioned nor explained to college bound high school juniors, he was disappointed by the almost universal reply. "They (families, students) don’t require this information until they begin completing their FAFSA and other financial aid forms."

Why this response? We’re not sure, but we have concluded that, whatever the reason, it is in your best interest to know early on, how you and your family’s income affect your admission to the college of your choice. Being under-informed about the financial aid processes of colleges and universities can definitely put a wrinkle your family’s financial planning for college. This lack of knowledge can generate incorrect conclusions or options regarding your choices for financial expenditures for schools under consideration. When you’re planning to attend a post-secondary institution, it’s vital that you and your family become familiar with the base year in order to make intelligent choices and to know what options you have regarding college finances.

So, we’ve ascertained that the need for the "Base Year", an intrinsic part of the college financial aid process, is necessary, and now that you understand the base year’s concept of financial assessment, you’re already beginning to level the playing field between you and the post-secondary education system.

Once again, getting financially ready for college is best begun by saving for college as early as possible... and by taking into account the base year... beginning with the second semester of your junior year in high school, up until Dec 31st of that same year, before you even begin filling out financial aid forms, the Federal Methodology system assesses all sources of taxed and untaxed student and parent income and assets.

Just knowing this extra bit of information should enable you to pursue several legal options to increase your financial aid eligibility, and hopefully reduce out-of-pocket school costs.

Congratulations, you have just started leveling the playing field between you and the undergraduate educational system!

Next issue Leveraging, The Bright Side of the Financial Aid Coin, Part 1

Upcoming subjects to include:
Types and Descriptions of Financial aid Resources...
Why so Many Financial Aid Forms...
How to Accurately Complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile...
The Many Ways of Leveling the Financial Aid Playing Field...

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College Financial Aid Fables

In our research, we’ve encountered a number of false assertions concerning the college financial aid system we feel you should be aware of. We’ve listed a couple fables and truths for you below >>>

Fable - Uncounted millions of dollars are unclaimed yearly within Federal State, Institutional, and outside scholarships.

Truth - Federal State and institutional funds do go unclaimed, but fair percentages are allocated in Stafford and Parent PLUS Loans. As far as funding from outside sources (private scholarships and grants), verifying unclaimed funding is next to impossible.

Fable - Your overall family income is too high, eliminating any chances to secure financial aid assistance.

Truth - Both True & False... Income, though the main criteria is not sacrosanct, families may have incurred large un-reimbursed medical bills (one-time acts-of-God, major storm damage, etc), may have two or more students in college, etc. Should school costs surpass your family's means, the Stafford and PLUS Loans, possible work-study (though limited), and merit-based grants and or scholarships, tuition reduction, etc, may benefit your family. Moreover, the school may have a series of its own grants and scholarships that they sponsor.

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College Living - Inside Information

...If you book round-trip tickets for yourself to fly home only to have your parents cringing at the ticket prices, you might want to check out the following:

Book two one-way tickets instead of a round trip ticket. For one New Jersey family, the basic costs of driving to pick up and return their student to college approximated the costs of flying from Philadelphia’s International Airport.

Why buy two one-way tickets? Round-trip tickets would have cost $282.00, but by booking two, one-way tickets ($62.00 and $102.00) they saved $118.00. Since there are drawbacks to everything... if you miss the return trip time, you’re now in stand by mode, whereas, if you miss the original time with a round-trip ticket, you are bumped to the next available flight. A couple other minor drawbacks: The tickets aren’t refundable and it could cost more to fly on a weekend than a weekday ($102.00 versus $62.00).

...Veteran Parents of Students in College (VPSIC) have heard many times, what Neophyte Parents, First Student in College (NPFSIC) will soon hear. “Mom, Dad, I NEED MONEY!!!” What’s the fastest means of delivering this life-sustaining GREEN to your monetarily starved offspring? Be sure to set up an ATM account...it’s the fastest, easiest, safest and most cost-efficient method to forwarding the life-sustaining funds. Deposit the money in the ATM account that morning and grateful offspring may withdraw the funds that very afternoon.

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Federal Updates

The U.S. Education Department has ruled that a federal privacy law does not bar California's university systems from sharing records of individual students with a state agency. The universities had resisted releasing the information because of the privacy law.

The U.S. Senate recently approved a budget plan for the 2006 fiscal year that calls on Congress to raise the maximum Pell Grant by $450, to $4,500, and to maintain several federal student-aid programs that the Bush administration has put on the chopping block.

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Odds ’n Ends

A professor who teaches human-sexuality courses has found that students in his online classes are more comfortable discussing personal-health issues than are students in face-to-face instruction.

Curious concerning how much College and University costs increased since 1990? Tuition at four-year public colleges increased by 53 % (OUCH!!!), adjusted for inflation. That is correct; four-year public colleges actually doubled their cost in ten years. Private colleges and universities fared significantly better as they increased by over 35 %, (small ouch!!!!), which is probably due to the large endowments, government research grants and varied investment portfolios.

In an attempt to improve its graduation rate -- and cut costs -- Southern Illinois University at Carbondale plans to give $500 cash rewards to students who graduate within four years.

Unfair to minorities? Critics urge the College Board to stop relying on the PSAT to determine eligibility for National Merit Scholarships:

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Real College Life Horror Stories

One Wrong Number and You Become An Instant International Student

Your social security number... always make sure it is properly entered. One parent, while helping his son complete the FAFSA did not. Within two weeks, the same student who had attended a large well-known State University was classified as an alien student without the necessary documents.

Common sense would dictate that someone, somewhere, in some small corner office within the school, the state guarantee agencies, and the guarantor of his two previous Stafford loan applications, would notice the mistake, make the bloody correction and Dorothy could go home to Kansas. Did that happen?...

...Not once was he called in to any admissions, bursary, financial aid or student activity office to correct this devastating one-gigantic digit mistake. It took -- and trust us on this, we’re not twisting anyone's leg -- three separate e-mails and two telephone calls to the Department of Immigration. After sending these letters and telephone calls, along with forwarding all the required documents to the DOI, the parents hoped and assumed their son would mercifully transform from an alien student to a red-blooded American student again.

One would think that sending the school and state the students' birth certificate, previous state and federal tax returns, the past two year’s financial aid documents, plus a copy of his social security card would make them think... gee, maybe there’s a glitch in the system. Nooooo way, brother; after two agonizing months, had it not been for the persistence of the parents in contacting the Department of Immigration and the DOI’s direct involvement, our student might still be classified as an alien. One good thing out of all of this... at least they didn’t try to rename him.

If you have financial aid and or admissions horror stories, please email to ray@efinancialaid.com

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College Humor -

Computing and Murphy’s Law

...When computing, whatever happens, behave as though you meant it to happen.

...When you get to the point where you really understand your computer, it’s probably obsolete.

...The first place to look for information is in the section of the manual where you’d least expect to find it.

...When the going gets tough, upgrade.

...For every action, there is an equal and opposite malfunction.

...To err is human, to blame your computer for your mistakes is even more human, it’s downright natural.

...He who laughs last probably has a back up.

...The number one cause of computer problems is computer solutions.

...A complex system that doesn’t work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.

...A computer program will always do what you tell it to do, but rarely what you want it to do.

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