The Willis Report: Understanding college offers - New York News

The Willis Report: Understanding college offers

Posted: Updated:
It's that time of year when prospective college students all over the country are getting acceptance letters and financial aid packages. If you or a member of your family is part of this group, steel yourself. Confusion is the most common reaction to these packages. What's more, you may be disappointed. That's okay, it's also that time of year  when you can ask college administrators to step up the grant money.

But first, understand the package itself. The big headline is whether  your son or daughter (or yourself) has been accepted. Congratulations if the answer is yes. Step No. 2 is  to understand just how much this is going to cost. It's not simple, given the way most of the award letters are written. A third of the award letters don't include the full cost of sending Junior to school. Yes, it will include tuition and some fees, but other major costs, like books, transportation and living expenses are omitted, says Mark Kantrowitz, in his hew took, "Filing the FAFSA: The Edvisors Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid."

Watch out, too, for whether the money the college is willing to give you is a grant, which does not have to be paid back, or a loan, which clearly does have to be paid back. You'd think it would be easy to discern this from the letter, but unfortunately it is not. Loans are often not labeled as loans. So you'll need to check with the school to make sure you understand which money is free and which has to be paid back.

When comparing offers, you'll need to understand what the net costs to you will be. Beware: The letters include a net cost figure, but these often include loans. So, do the math on your own. Calculate a true cost of attendance and subtract grants, scholarships and gift aid - money you will not have to pay back. Then compare these figures across institutions.

The good news is that it pays to ask for more - more free aid. Thirty to 50 percent of the families who ask for additional money from private colleges and universities get it. Many Ivy League schools will match need based offers from other schools. Or if your financial situation is changed through job loss, for example, you may be able to get more money. The key, here, is that it doesn't hurt to ask. Insiders, however, say you're best off not describing the conversation as a "negotiation."

Bottom line, get the details before accepting the offer. Be sure you understand just how much money you and your family will be on the hook for, and what free money or grant aid you will get.
  • BusinessMore>>

  • Family feud sparks revolt at grocery store chain

    Family feud sparks revolt at grocery store chain

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:09 AM EDT2014-07-25 15:09:41 GMT
    It's been called a David vs. Goliath story, a "Tale of Two Arthurs" and even the "ultimate Greek tragedy," but the characters in this drama are not Biblical or literary figures.
    It's been called a David vs. Goliath story, a "Tale of Two Arthurs" and even the "ultimate Greek tragedy," but the characters in this drama are not Biblical or literary figures. They're grocery store owners.
  • Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

    Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

    Friday, July 25 2014 2:23 PM EDT2014-07-25 18:23:01 GMT
    Fast food workers say they're prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers are expected to...
    Fast food workers say they're prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future...
  • Global tensions don't dent enthusiasm for stocks

    Global tensions don't dent enthusiasm for stocks

    Friday, July 25 2014 2:22 PM EDT2014-07-25 18:22:18 GMT
    By STEVE ROTHWELL AP Markets Writer A war breaks out between Israel and Hamas. An airliner is shot out of the sky in Ukraine. A Portuguese bank's finances look shaky.
    By STEVE ROTHWELL AP Markets Writer A war breaks out between Israel and Hamas. An airliner is shot out of the sky in Ukraine. A Portuguese bank's finances look shaky.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices