Financial Aid Resources

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The Cost of College and Financial Aid: An Introduction

An important consideration for many families includes financial fit.


Parents and students need to have discussions about what to expect from each other in terms of funding college.  In addition, the U.S. government has an expectation that parents and students will both contribute to the cost of college.


Sticker price and the cost of college

Cost of Attendance (COA) includes:

  • Tuition
  • Room and Board
  • Fees
  • Transportation
  • Books
  • Additional Expenses

The COA is often referred to as the "sticker price."  Each college has a different sticker price, and few people pay the actual sticker price, regardless of whether or not they apply for financial aid.  


NEVER ELIMINATE A COLLEGE FROM YOUR LIST BECAUSE OF THE "STICKER PRICE"! 

What will college really cost?

You can find an estimate of what a college will cost by finding the net price calculator on the college website.  First, however, you will want to estimate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC: what the government expects you to pay). 


You can get a rough estimate of what the Federal government expects you as a parent and/or student to pay by completing this federal online calculator


 COA-EFC= Demonstrated Need 


Most schools do not meet 100% of Demonstrated Need.  To determine what percentage of need your schools of interest meet, go to www.bigfuture.org then search for each school and look at Paying/Financial Aid by the Numbers. 


There are, in fact, a large number of schools that meet 100% of need, however, these schools tend to be highly selective.   

How to reduce the cost of college

There are specific things that students and parents can do to reduce the cost of college:


Students who earn their best possible grades and prepare for standardized tests will have more options and may be more likely to receive merit/institutional aid at colleges where they are accepted (see the Glossary below for definitions of these terms).


Parents can consider the excellent advice on maximizing financial aid eligibility from FinAid

Applying for financial aid

There are (potentially) three forms required for financial aid:


  • FAFSA (for Federal funds)
  • State application, e.g..: 
    • TAP (for New York State college/university financial aid; completed after FAFSA)  
    • PHEAA (Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency)
  • CSS Profile (required by many private colleges and universities)

Key terms in the financial aid process

The financial aid process has a number of unique terms.  I suggest you review this Glossary of Key Financial Aid Terms as it is a very useful reference.  

Quick Links

College Board Net Price Calculator

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Excellent information on "sticker price" vs. "net price." Find search tool for different colleges' Net Price Calculators at bottom of page.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

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Opens October 1 for students starting college the following year, must be completed by June 1 the same year student starts. Families report income two years prior to the year student enters college.

CSS Profile

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 The CSS Profile opens October 1 of the year before you will attend college. Most selective colleges require this financial aid form if you are applying for aid.