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Part I: Who Qualifies for Financial Aid
- Why This Book? We're Here to Help
Icons Used in This Book
Peering into the Crystal Ball
Part II: How to Find the Aid You Need
Chapter 1: College Money: Who Gets It
Sometimes (Groan), It's Loan-ly Out There
Scouting Out Gift Money
Pricey Schools May Not Be Out of Reach
Qualifying for Finaid (Financial Aid)
- Perceived versus demonstrated need
Expect aid packages to be a mixed bag
- A Plan for the Long Haul! Way to Go!
Playing the Aid Game: Asset Control
- Play or pay?
Time line for moving student assets
Timely financial fix-ups
Caveats when shifting assets
- The Aid Chase: It's Not Over Until It's Over
Chapter 2: What if You're Adult, Part-Time, International, or Other?
Adult Students: Paying the Back-to-College Tab
Part-Time Students: Bummer! You're Tossed a Bone
Uncovering the Money for Distance Learning
Can Your Boss Send You to College?
International Students: Destination USA
- Starting on the homefront
Targeting stateside student aid
Graduates pull in more aid than undergraduates
Working your way through college
Loans for international students
Information resources for international students
- U.S. Students Going Abroad Can Get Traveling Money
Work Hard at Looking Hard for Money
Chapter 3: Decoding the Financial Aid System
Demonstrated Need: The Key to Aid
Under the Financial Aid Umbrella
- Self-help money
Loans: Money you pay back
Work: Earn as you learn
- Meet the Forms that Drive Financial Aid
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
College Scholarship Services (CSS) Financial Aid Profile
College Financial Aid Application
Financial Aid Transcript (FAT)
- Timing Finaid: Go with the Flow
When to Apply for Aid
Chapter 4: Dr. Davis's Comprehensive Finaid Calendar
Chapter 5: College Costs: Upward and Onward
Aid Is Fastest Growing College Expense
Getting a General Handle on Costs
Good News! Cost Cutting Coming On
Once You're Hooked, You're History
Part III: Finaid Planning for the Long Haul
Chapter 6: Tapping the School's Own Aid
Find Vaults of Money All Over Campus
Calling All Allies: Find Me Funds
Try for Departmental Scholarships
Discover Colleges with Deep Pockets
Early Decisions May Shrink Aid
Chapter 7: What Uncle Sam and Aunt Feddie Are Willing to Fork Over
Federal Grant Programs
- Federal Pell Grant Program
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program
- Federal Loan Programs
- Federal Direct Student Loan Program and Federal Stafford Loan Program
Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
- Federal Work-Study Programs
More Federal Educational Support
Chapter 8: The Shape of State Aid
When Feds Say No, States May Say Yes
Applying for State Aid
A Directory of State Requirements and Finaid Agencies
Chapter 9: Negotiating: Get Ready to Bargain
A Backgrounder on Bargaining
- Why threats and ultimatums won't work
Hold back one fact for the appeal
- The Dynamics of Issue-Based Appeals
- Negotiating tips for college-based issues
Negotiating points for family-based issues
- Writing a Winning Aid Appeal
Fine-Tuning Your Bargaining Skills
Chapter 10: Merit Scholarships for the Talented
Good Prospects Even if You're Not a Budding Einstein
Nine Rules of the Scholarship Hunt
- Shed the lead, think ahead
Become an awards detective
Stockpile marketing ammo
Personal Financial Aid Inventory
Save every scrap of accomplishment
Follow, follow the finaid road
Get thee to finaid on time
Tailor your application to win the prize
Set your hounds on finaid
Mother is right: Say thanks
- Fighting over Scholars
Alternatives to Scholarships
Chapter 11: Keep Up the Good Work
Job Experience Is Essential for New Grads
Won't I Lose Finaid by Working?
How Your Paycheck Shapes Your Share of Tuition
Chapter 12: Use This Hotlist and Get Wired for Finaid
Finaid Telephone Numbers
- Financial aid applications
Loan processing centers
Loan forgiveness program
Tuition payment plans
College saving programs
State prepaid tuition plans
- Free Software
Keeping Ahead of the Information Age
Chapter 13: Just the FAQs: Dr. Davis Answers Your Questions
Independent Student FAQs
Transfer Student FAQs
Part IV: Filling Out Forms and Other Fine Print
Chapter 14: Choosing a College Financial Aid Planner
Choosing Experts, Not Hustlers
A Guide to Finding Experts
- Get recommendations
Seek emphasis on four-year planning
Expect a place of business
Anticipate issues to be discussed
Avoid influence peddling
Pay only for services rendered
- Expert Planners Put Money in Your Bank
Chapter 15: Please Save for My College Education
For Parents: Saving Intelligently for the Distant Future
- Tuition Prepayment Programs
Student Savings and Investment Accounts
- For Everyone: Saving for College in the Next Two Years
- Money-market mutual funds
Home equity loans
Federal Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (FPLUS)
Chapter 16: Becoming an Educated Borrower
Choosing the Best Loan
Primary Wellsprings of Loan Money
- Home-equity line of credit or loan
401(k) and other retirement accounts
- Loans from and for Specific Groups
- Seven good commercial loan providers
Chapter 17: Can You Smile and Salute?
College Student on Active Duty
- College Student Who Is a Veteran
- Student Who Is a Veteran's Dependent
Private Organizations and Agencies
- Student Who Will Be a Veteran
- Be Glad You Wear Army Boots
Chapter 18: Planning for Graduate and Professional Study
Climbing a Mountain of Debt
Graduate Loans for Fields with High Earnings Potential
Graduate/Professional Private Loans Directory
Other Resources for Graduate School
Fellowships and Assistantships: Finaid for Advanced Study
- Employer-Aided Study in Selected Fields
- Business Administration
Part V: It's Payback Time -- Or Is It?
Chapter 19: Blooper-Proof These Lines
- Lines 8 and 9: What's Your Number?
Line 17: Are you married?
Line 19: A diploma is not a degree
Line 29: Staying on course
Line 37: Dependents
Line 48: Apart is separate
Line 52: Anybody else in school?
Line 65: Use the short form
Line 77: No student assets
- Nominees for Best Blooper Award
- The case of too many zeros
They jumped to the wrong conclusion
When forms collide
Wiser but poorer by $3,500
Two cannot pay as cheaply as one
Dollars short and days late
Twins who made the same mistake twice
- Lined Up and Ready to Go
Chapter 20: The Lines That Cross Up Your Finaid Chances
Calculating Your Need
Instructions for Completing the FAFSA
- Start Form-Filling!
Student Aid Report (SAR)
Chapter 21: Figuring Out Your Best Deal
Comparing Your Awards
The College Business Office and Your Account
Affordability as a Value
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Chapter 22: Can Your Loans Be Forgiven?
Wipe Out Debt: Volunteering and Working
The Perkins Loan
VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America)
- Uncommon Ways to End Debt
Law Students' Loan Forgiveness
Healthcare Students' Loan Forgiveness
- Medical school students
Occupational and physical therapy students
Other healthcare programs
Chapter 23: Drowning in a Sea of Debt
Two Debtors Up a Creek
- Find out who's making waves
Test repayment plans before you jump in
- Consolidation: A Life Preserver
- Loans you can consolidate
Caveats for consolidation loans
- Come Up for Air, Defer, or Forbear
In the Eye of the Storm: Surviving Default
- When you're delinquent on payments
Promises come true
Failure to pay costs money
- How To Talk To Your Lender
- When you can get a compromise
Chapter 24: Ten Ways to Grow Your Own Opportunities
- Raise your class rank
Cultivate good grades
Test your test-taking skills
Plant career seeds in high school
Rake in contest cash
Dig in your backyard
Till the vineyards of volunteerism
Sprout a job in the school finaid office
Land a job in the alumni office
Spread the word you need a sponsor
Chapter 25: Ten Strategies for Cutting College Costs
- Study in bulk
Double up high school and college
Swap AP courses for college classes
Get a bargain at two-year colleges
Choose a lower-cost school
Work at co-op education
Old Faithful: Get a job
Test out or get credit for life experience
Consider low-cost distance learning
Quell spending urges
Chapter 26: Ten Facts That Finaid Counselors Don't Tell You
- Zero aid now, zero aid later
Fine print: Oops, money is missing
State colleges keep gift aid at home
You can't win without losing
ROTC meets IRS: The pleasure's not yours
Psst! Top secret: Make deadlines or else
Student loans beat folks' bad credit
More info requested? Watch what you say
Finaid folks push the override button
Three weeks to live aidless
Chapter 27: Ten Common Goofs That Can Cost You Money
- Waiting until you're enrolled to ask for aid
Refusing to spend cash on the Profile
Applying too late for mid-year aid
Misunderstanding your SAR
Not bringing your SAR up to par
Skipping verification paperwork
Mixing up transcripts
Not saying yes to all colleges
Taking automatic renewal for granted
Not reapplying after a turn-down
Chapter 28: Ten Tips on Hiring a Computer to Help Find Aid
- A top-quality operation run by pros
Scholarships without application fees
Basic search fees under $50
Coordination with college calendars
Pledge of confidentiality
Savvy research methods
Portable and targeted finaid
Realistic database growth
Chapter 29: Ten Ways to Avoid Finaid Fakes and Frauds
- Recognize low-life lingo
Rate returns in computer search
Pay an application fee? For what?
Say phooey to phony processing fees
Duck dubious guarantees
Don't ring costly 900 numbers
Avoid quirky contests
Don't pay for free information
Spot phony finaid consultants
Heed these Red Flags
Don't think you're too smart to get fooled
- Scholarships by the Score
- ACADEMIC, MERIT, LEADERSHIP
- Glossary of Financial Aid Terms
In This Chapter
As a student or parent paying college bills, do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
A recent national survey reported in Student Poll (a product of Baltimore's Art & Science Group, Inc., institutional marketing consultants to higher education and the nonprofit sector) confirms that a whopping majority of people who pay tuition bills say the financial aid system doesn't meet the requirements of the beleaguered middle class.
"On paper it looks as though we have a big income," says Greta, a Virginia mother whose family is experiencing the sticker shock of college costs. "We're not going hungry, but we have old cars, and my husband's job may set sail at any time. We don't eat meals out, buy more than the bare minimum of clothing, or take vacations. Every dime we can hang onto goes toward tuition."
Does the grim perception of aid for middies have roots in reality? Yes, it does. But in this book, we show you moves and techniques to enhance your eligibility for a larger chunk of financial aid -- a term which we often shorten to finaid. We tell you what you need to know about how the financial aid game is played today and what middle-income families, especially, can expect.
When the tuitions are up and the chips are down, where do you turn?
You can't get around it: Loans and more loans are most of the solution for middle-class families who don't go all out to dig up the gold. The bulk of financial aid arrives in education loans for which the student or family may have to pay interest -- often while the student is in school.
Colleges are more likely than banks to operate borrower-friendly loan programs with low interest rates. Many colleges offer novel plans to help all students more easily bear the burden of steep tuitions. In addition to low-rate loans, alternative financing plans may include such features as lengthy repayment periods, tuition installment plans, and deep discounts for prepaying tuition.
Even so, the growing indebtedness for education terrifies parents and worries educators who fear that students are mortgaging their futures. Students and graduates now owe more than $30 billion borrowed from federal programs alone, not counting loans from schools, financial institutions, and private organizations.
We join the crowd in shrinking from the prospect of heavy debt loads that grind down youth as they begin carving out careers. We're shocked to hear about two-year community college graduates who start their working lives owing $14,000, or bachelor's degree holders forced to take jobs they don't want because they're saddled with a $30,000 debt. These scenarios seem unfair to those of us who graduated debt-free in decades when education was more affordable and aid more generous.
But in dealing with realities, the hard truth is that in the late 1990s, a sizable loan may be the only ticket to higher education in an era where a college degree is mandatory for professional positions.
Virtually any family, however affluent, can borrow the entire cost of college, however expensive. There's no such thing as making too much money for an unsubsidized loan -- you can make a million dollars a year and still get an interest-bearing federal Stafford or PLUS loan (described in Chapter 7).
If you get chills thinking about taking out loans and making monthly repayments over the next 20 years or so, turn to Chapter 10, which identifies some of the cash you're allowed to keep.
Here's a sampling of potential "keeper" perks that middle-class families and others can take advantage of:
And remember, state schools and community colleges themselves constitute aid in the sense that taxes keep their tuitions below market rate for local residents. So explore all your options; college can be in your future regardless of your income.
A four-year education at elite schools is costing out at $130,000 to $150,000. Do you feel a vow-of-poverty attack coming on? Should you forget about an expensive education?
Don't write off expensive schools just because their tuitions leave a space as big as the Grand Canyon between your will and your wallet. Make the effort if that's what you want, because your costs may be roughly the same whether you attend a college topping $25,000 or one dropping as low as $5,000 a year.
The amount that your family is expected to pay remains about the same no matter where you enroll. The more expensive the college, the more aid for which you are eligible. All you need is to apply and qualify academically. At least, that's the way the system is supposed to work -- and, very often, it does. Academically speaking, however, schools have fallen on difficult economic times.
Although most schools still insist that they hew to a need-blind admissions policy, which means that the decision to accept or turn down an applicant is made without regard to that student's financial need, many educators admit privately that students who can pay have the edge over equally qualified students who are less able to pay.
In practical terms, all but the most selective and well-endowed schools tilt toward students who can pay their way without dipping into the institutions' coffers. (For a list of colleges and universities with deep endowment pockets, see Chapter 6.)
Keeping your nose in the books is the key to snagging merit scholarships. The people handing them out are GPA groupies. They love applicants who emerge from high school in the upper regions of their class and demolish SAT and ACT tests as if they were child's play.
Some colleges, for example, knock 40 percent off tuition to students who graduate in the top 5 percent of their high school class and are selected for a grant; others give the best students whatever money they need to attend -- the best students being those graduating in the top 2 percent of their class, with a GPA of 3.9 out of 4.00 and SAT scores higher than 1450.
The bar is high, too, for those who leap over it to win sports, music, drama, or art scholarships: Both talent plus academic achievement often must be stellar.
But what if talented applicants have only so-so grades? They may still make the scholarship cut. Sometimes talent outweighs academic records by a country mile -- just ask any football coach.
Colleges frequently aim their merit scholarships toward students they want but who may not show up without the inducement of serious aid. Aid offers are designed with an eye toward the school's diversity mix of brains, talent, and cultural composition.
If you're lucky enough to be in the most-wanted category -- with some combination of great grades, leadership activities, fine arts ability, desirable major, geography, or minority status -- don't let the school know that your enrollment is a done deal or its limited aid budget may go to those who need persuasion.
Popular essay topics for finaid applications
Pick five topics below most likely to apply to your situation. Write a 500-word essay on each and file for your core essay database. If you don't know how a good academic essay should read, get a copy of 100 Successful College Application Essays by Christopher J. and Gigi E. Georges for samples of some great ones.
While essay topics are never entirely predictable, here are some scholarship favorites:
Suppose your talent is nonexistent. Your grades are in the "not bad" category, and the processional line between you and the valedictorian is 200-people deep. You may get admission but probably no federal grant aid whatsoever from elite schools, regardless of how strapped you are. If your middle-class family's income tops the federal and state aid caps (adjusted to about $40,000), you need to shop for low-interest loans. However, these same colleges may offer you funds from their own resources.
Question: Who qualifies for college financial aid?
Answer: Surprise! You and most of the people you know!
If you and your family do each financial aid task (1) correctly and (2) in a timely manner, you will receive student financial aid of some kind.
Although each aid program defines its own special criteria, certain eligibility requirements are common to virtually all programs:
Rarely are less-than-half-time students eligible for federal funds. The exception is Pell grants, which can be used for less-than-half-time students; you just won't receive as much as if you were enrolled full-time.
Unlike federal programs, state aid programs may not consider vocational-technical school students eligible for some aid programs. Other types of study that may not qualify for aid from various programs include religious studies and voc-tech programs of less than six months' duration.
Need means the amount of money your family can't afford to pay for your education -- it's the difference between the cost of your college education and the dollars your family is expected to ante up for college expenses. Need does not mean poverty status.
The concept of need has a particular meaning in finaid offices, however. You may tell your college financial aid counselor you have need just because you're on thin shoe leather, and bill collectors are hot on your trail. While that's not a good position to be in, aid givers consider that type of informal reporting as perceived need. It doesn't mean a thing to them.
What you have to do is show demonstrated need, as explained in Chapter 3. You do so by filling out a mass of paperwork supported with financial documents. The complex paperwork evaluates families' income and assets to determine how much of the overall college tab individual students and their parents can afford.
Financial aid personnel at various schools put approximately the same ceiling on how much they expect a family to pay, regardless of costs at their college. Once you're accepted for admission, they try to offer an aid package that makes up the difference.
The aid package, described in greater detail in Chapter 3, is comprised of self-help money and gift money. Self-help money includes work-study jobs and loans that must be paid back. Gift money includes grants (based on demonstrated need) and scholarships (based on merit), which aren't paid back. Gift money is also called free money. Once you grasp the concept of demonstrated need, you can act to increase your eligibility for aid by following the advice given throughout this book.
Financial aid for students with disabilities
Students with disabilities may face such additional expenses as special equipment related to the disability and its maintenance, expenses of services such as readers, interpreters, note takers or personal care attendants, special transportation requirements, and medical expenses relating to the disability but not covered by insurance.
Scholarships specifically designated for students with disabilities are very limited (see the Resource Guide at the end of this book). If you have a disability, be sure to pursue scholarships available for qualities other than disability.
In addition, the state vocational rehabilitation agency, as well as organizations of and for people with disabilities, may be able to help you realize your college goal.
Moreover, at each college, students with disabilities should ask about financial support not only at the financial aid office, but at the Office of Student Services, 504 coordinator, or Office of Disability Support Services.
For a fuller discussion of available resources for college students with disabilities, obtain an annually revised information paper, Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities. The paper is free. Order from:
HEATH Resource Center
When you get into the college financial aid game, approach it with a four-year plan that allows you to shift assets and avoid eating beans when tuition deadlines strike, as the following story illustrates.
Both of Hilton's parents worked and were proud that they could send their son to an Illinois name-brand university. But last year, when Hilton, a sophomore, returned home to Maryland for the December break, they broke staggering news:
Mom lost her job. We can't afford to send you back to your school for the spring semester. Sorry, we'll try again in the fall.
Hilton's family had not sought college financial aid when he graduated from high school, assuming that their family income -- $78,000 -- was too high to qualify for more than good wishes. And Hilton was neither scholar, jock, nor talented musician, so the idea that a "good" school would offer Hilton a bundle of money to grace its campus was unlikely. What's more, the family found the complex financial aid process to be just too much trouble.
Hilton's parents had saved a few dollars and assumed that with their jobs and careful money management, they could handle Hilton's college. They would deal with the tuition year by year.
All went as anticipated until Mom lost her job and Hilton's college costs threatened to sink the family. Good news: Mom landed another job within a few months, and Hilton returned to his college in the fall. Bad news: Hilton unnecessarily lost a semester of school because he failed to file an emergency appeals letter with his school. He didn't know he could.
The moral to Hilton's story is apparent:
The key to getting aid based on your financial status is clear: The more impoverished you look, the more aid you get.
For example, aid-analysis programs require you to count your savings in regular taxable accounts as wealth, not the savings you have in your home equity, retirement accounts, and cash-value life insurance policies. (Some schools, however, do throw all of a family's wealth into one big pot to measure how much aid the student's entitled to receive.)
Even Washington politicos are concerned that, with the exception of unsubsidized loans, the middle-income student gets the short end of the financial aid stick. The president and the Congress have responded with varying proposals to create a huge new (mostly middle-class) entitlement in the form of tax breaks. At press time, they had not yet come to a meeting of the minds. The end result is likely to be a compromise of some sort, giving middle-class students more than they have but less than they want.
Autumn was just beginning, and Shawn, an outstanding California high school senior with a GPA of 4.9 (out of 4.0 -- extra points for advance placement college courses), was trying hard to get into Stanford on an early-decision basis. As the son of a single mother, inexpensive macaroni and cheese casseroles were a popular supper in Shawn's home.
When early February rolled around, Shawn was overjoyed to receive The Acceptance Letter. But he was surprised to find while the aid package was good, it was far less than he had expected given his mother's financially lean situation. The aid deficiency was due to a legacy of $20,000 his grandfather willed jointly to Shawn for school and to his mother for retirement.
If Shawn had had a four-year college-financing plan in place, his family could have taken steps prior to December 31 of his junior year to arrange the family's finances in ways that would increase the amount of financial aid Shawn would receive -- steps to increase his demonstrated need. Shawn, for example, could have bought a computer or car for college, both legitimate expenses.
What can Shawn do to improve his aid eligibility as he begins his first year of college?
Shawn should spend the legacy dollars on college tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation. While a formal list of unacceptable expenditures doesn't exist, college aid officers will frown on blowing the money on such nonessential items as an expensive car or clothing, gifts, or luxury student housing.
The year before you attend college is the base year that colleges use to measure what you can afford to pay.
For first-year college students, the base year is:
the last half of your high school junior year (January May)
the first half of your high school senior year (June December)
In the year before the base year, your pre-base year, you should try to line your pockets: restructure assets, take capital gains from selling assets, and rake in bonuses or commissions before your base year begins.
During the first half of your base year (January through May), scale down your affluent image on financial aid applications by buying big ticket items with cash, paying off your credit card balances, and taking other capital losses to slim down income and assets like bonuses, commissions, and inheritances. Unless you're pushed into a financial corner, avoid taking money out of your retirement funds because finaid offices don't calculate that money when deciding how much you can contribute to the tuition pot.
Curious rules of college aid
Though the rules vary widely among schools, financial aid logic isn't always self-evident. Here are a few hypothetical illustrations of what seems odd to the finaid novice, followed by explanations.
Table 1-1 provides a simple chart of when to redraw your financial picture. We assume you're applying for aid for the 2000-2001 school year.
Table 1-1 When to Redraw Your Financial Picture
Pre-Base Year (January-December 1998)
|Base Year (January-December 1999)|
Fatten your bank account by December 31, 1998
|Slim down your bank account|
Sell and shift assets
|Take unavoidable losses on assets|
To increase your aid eligibility, you can make these other short-term strategic moves. All of them should be accomplished prior to December 31 of your junior year in high school. (Or, if a nontraditional student, the year before you intend to apply for aid. See Chapter 2 for more about nontraditional students.)
Because need-analysis standards vary from school to school, make anonymous calls to target schools asking what specific assets are included in their calculations.
A key point to remember: Your ability to pay this year's tuition is based on your income and assets of last year. That's because colleges can't see into the future and verify your family's financial status this year.
Federal need analyzers don't count assets like the value of your car or home when they figure how fat a cat your family is. Nor do they subtract debts from your assets. But they seem to smell money in the bank, and they count every cent as an asset after the asset protection allowance. (Remember, the more assets, the less aid.)
Most of the following tips suggest that you shift cash into assets that aren't counted or pay off debts that don't help you look poor on paper. For instance, suppose you have $50,000 in a savings account but owe $20,000 on a consumer debt. The federal formula recognizes the $50,000 in your bank account loud and clear. Frustratingly, they ignore the $20,000 you owe. By withdrawing the money from savings and using it to pay your debt, and because you have a $30,000 asset protection allowance, your assets drop from $50,000 to zero. Presto! You qualify for more financial aid.
Here are pointers for parents to help reframe your aid eligibility. All of them are legal and legitimate. As an East Coast financial planner says: "There is no reward in heaven for paying extra money for college."
Keep the following caveats in mind when applying for financial aid:
You could lose your investment in your home business, for instance.
Accountants and planners who lack in-depth knowledge of college financing can torpedo your chances to receive aid. Certain income strategies, such as shifting money to a child's account, may work well for long-term tax reduction planning but are ill-advised for the college years unless your income precludes grant aid eligibility.
Too-clever asset shifting leads to ethics questions
Critics accuse some families of finding loopholes that cut ethical corners in a rush to look poorer on paper than they really are. Some parents outright lie about their income and assets, or they dramatically misrepresent them to the point of committing fraud. The argument is that shifty parents cheat the needy, loot taxpayers, and force colleges to squander money on detective work.
A few examples of questionable acts include
Here's why you should ignore the advice of finaid nonprofessionals who come to the party dressed as experts: When school financial aid counselors award aid, they consider every situation individually. Awards depend on the size of the college's aid kitty at the time you apply and your specific circumstances. Would you have guessed that families with six-figure incomes could get aid? They do.
At Amherst, for instance, where yearly tuition and living costs are in the $30,000 neighborhood, 50 families earning between $90,000 and $105,000 last year received about $13,000 each, of which about half was gift money that doesn't need to be repaid. The remainder was given in low-interest loans and work-study jobs. That's not all. Sixteen families that earn more than $135,000 scored an average of $11,000 in aid per year, about half in gift money. Being called "needy" when you belong to a six-figure family isn't all that unusual at Amherst. Nearly 80 percent of applicants in the $90,000-plus group received aid; in the higher bracket (up to $135,000), 32 percent scored awards.
In the curious process of college financial aid, assuming that you don't qualify for assistance for any price range of college is a big mistake. Assuming that you're out of the running is a sure way to cheat yourself. In the financial aid game, our advice is:
Play out your hand until the game is over.
The following books, all published by IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., will help you with your college and financial planning: