Each year, more than $200 billion is available in financial aid from the federal government, state governments, colleges and private organizations. As a Certified Financial Planner specializing in the area of college financial planning, Bob Traitz regularly uncovers the strategies that qualify a student for scholarship, grant and financial aid. Traitz is the founder of American Education Funding LLC, a N.J.-based non-profit that conducts the free college funding program entitled “Affording College through Scholarships, Grants and Tax Strategies” for students, parents, and guidance personnel throughout the New York tri-state area. Recently, he offered some tips on getting started on the process.
Q. The federal government is not the only source of financial aid application, yet the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the primary tool that students use when applying for college financial aid. How does this work?
Traitz: Let me first say that all parents should complete the FAFSA – www.FAFSA.ed.gov – even if you think your family will not qualify. The FAFSA is used to determine financial need by calculating how much a family can afford, which is called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The FAFSA takes many things into consideration including the number of members in your family and the age of the student’s parents when determining the amount of financial aid your family may be able to receive. The form for the 2013 school year becomes available on January 1st. As I said, don’t ignore this form! While it is true that a family has to demonstrate extreme need, your FAFSA may get colleges to take notice.
Q. How can parents get a better sense of the funding offered by particular colleges as they start the college search and financial aid process?
Traitz: Overall, colleges want to attract the best and the brightest. If your child qualifies as a better than their average student academically for a particular college, that school may be quite willing to give him or her merit aid, i.e. “sweeten the deal.” School websites have a wealth of info on its available scholarships from academic to athletics to need-based ones. As an example, Rider College in Lawrenceville, NJ, offers a number of academic scholarships including its Presidential, Provost, Dean’s and Founder’s ones. These four are typically based on a cumulative GPA and standardized test scores. Rider’s Presidential Scholarship ranges from $19,000 to $21,000 per year! Now that sounds pretty great for a family!
To learn more, visit http://ridgewood.tipsfromtown.com/2012/10/10/ask-the-expert-college-financial-aid-101/. For more information on American Education Funding, www.americaneducationfunding.com.