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Understanding Financial Aid, or How I Earned a 6,677% Return on Investment

The National Bureau of Economic Research declared that the current economic downturn (recession) began in December 2007.  In the intervening 2 years, I’ve spoken with about 3,000 families about their child going to college.  Naturally, part of that discussion involves how families will pay for college.  As seen here, the average cost of a college education is above $30,000 per year.  The rate of increase is around 7% per year.  If you have a freshman in high school, your college expense will exceed $35,000 per year, on average.  These facts have led to some serious discussions between parents and their children on how they’ll pay for college.  In some cases, parents of good students are considering the local junior college route to get the core courses out of the way and save a lot of money during the first 2 years.  In other cases, the parents have encouraged their children to search for scholarships on the internet.  These kids are spending a lot of time doing this.  In some cases, parents are giving their children a budget to work with and any expense exceeding that budget will be the responsibility of the child.  In short, 99% of the families that I speak with do not have enough money stashed away to pay all college expenses.  So they’re at great risk of having their children graduate with a large financial burden called student loans. 

Financial Aid has two main categories:  grants/scholarships, i.e. money that doesn’t have to be repaid and loans.  To see the impact of student loans, read this NY Times article.  Because every college and university has different funding sources, financial aid policies, and pools of money available to offset the cost of college, it’s impossible to navigate this process efficiently by yourself.  You can’t gather all of the information from all potential schools with less than thousands of hours of grinding research on the internet.  Most families don’t have that kind of time.  Most don’t know enough about how financial aid is granted to increase any grant or scholarship awards.  NCSA has data from thousands of colleges and experts that will help families navigate the financial aid process.  One important aspect of this is completing forms correctly and on time.  Many families lose need-based aid because of inconsistencies on their FAFSA.  Others lose because they’re uncertain on timelines.  NCSA’s financial aid experts aid families in navigating financial aid.  The most important thing a family can do to increase financial aid if their student is also a talented athlete, is to make sure that there are a number of college coaches recruiting their child. 

In my case, my child received recruiting letters from 145 college coaches.  About 20 had real genuine interest.  My child narrowed those schools down to 3 great academic choices.  She’ll graduate from her selected college in May, 2010.  She would have never had this opportunity if it wasn’t for the hard work she did and the help we received from NCSA.  My return on that investment is she’ll graduate with no student loans.  My out-of-pocket expense for all 4 years was less than one semester at her private high school she attended.  My return on NCSA’s investment was 6,677%.  But the real return is priceless: Four years of playing a sport that she loves, a college degree from one of the top academic universities in the country, developing friendships that last a lifetime, and job interest in a career field that she chose.  What parent doesn’t want that for their child?  If you need help to get that for your child, go here.

About the author
Aaron Sorenson

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