It is senior year and paying for college strategies will be the major topic of conversation for families of college bound students. It may seem like only yesterday that you dropped off your child at kindergarten and now you can’t believe that they will soon be finishing high school. It seems unbelievable to think that college is just ahead. The next few years can be some of the most expensive times in raising a child. Making the best financial decision can affect both your financial future and the financial future of your child.
The Department of Education decision to move to Early FAFSA or Prior Prior, may have come as a surprise to you. The federal financial aid form called the FAFSA is now available on October 1 and will use the prior year taxes. As an example, the FAFSA submission starting in October, 2016 for the school year 2017-2018 will use the taxes submitted for 2015.
The one advantage to this change is the income information can be directly imported from the IRS using a tool called the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This should minimize some of the confusion. There is a concern that the gap of time could cause significant problems with appeals since divorce, income changes or even death could change a family’s financial condition quickly making the tax information very different from the current situation.
The college and financial decisions that both you and your child will make will last a lifetime. To pay for college, you need to bring together the financial aid process, college saving plans, educational tax strategies, financing options and student loan repayment. Families need to remember this is a $100,000 to over $200,000 investment decision that you and your child are making and proper planning is recommended. At a minimum, this is a four-year financial plan and it will change each year based on a variety of things. One of the major short falls of the college process is that the colleges only give families financial information one year at a time. The EFC PLUS process shows families how to make a decision based on a four-year cash flow basis which is similar to a business analysis. Having vision of the outcome needs to be part of both the parents and student plan.
Families and students also need to remember that education is a business. It does provide a social and economic benefit, but remember who will be paying for the bill and how much it will cost. Many students and families minimize this part of the process which has resulted in significant student debt.
Within the college process, many families focus only on the admission aspects of the college decision. Our advice is to also focus on the outcome of the education. This should include a discussion on career choice, future salary, working conditions, and future debt.
The paying for college strategies for senior year video will address:
Timing of Financial Aid Process
Submit the FAFSA using the DRT system
EFC or Expected Family Contribution Positioning
Award Letter Comparisons