How do you plan to pay for college? You need to have a plan! Complete College Consulting understands financial aid and how important it is to a family. Planning can have a huge impact on the financial aid outcome. Starting early is very important. Part of the planning process is to be aware of some of the options available to most families:
Federal Money (Government Loans and/or Grants)
Savings (529 Plans, 401k, etc.)
Borrow (Equity Loan, Private Loan)
Scholarship (Private, Institutional)
Attend a Lesser School – (Public vs. Private)
Not Go At All
Complete College Consulting clients will also have the option of receiving an Academic Scholarship Report. This is a report of academic scholarships available at the colleges of your choice. These scholarships are referred to as “MERIT” scholarships. Knowing what academic scholarships are offered at the colleges you are interested in, and knowing which ones you might qualify for, is key to being awarded the scholarships.
Merit scholarships are primarily based on academic factors, such as high school grades, your ACT or SAT scores, and class rank. They are not based on family income, assets, or other financial factors. This report lists your ACADEMIC PROFILE. It includes your performance on these academic factors: GPA, SAT, and ACT. Your eligibility for each college merit scholarship is included in the scholarship description in the Scholarship Achievement Criteria.
What is EFC (Expected Family Contribution)?
One of the key components in determining a financial aid (especially need based) is how much the family can afford to pay each year towards college. The 130+ calculations done on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student) and the CSS (College Scholarship Service) will determine a family’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution).
Financial need is easy to calculate – right? It’s the Total Cost of Attendance (COA) minus your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
COA – EFC = Need!! That’s straight-forward and easy to understand – right? Wrong!
It is true that COA – EFC = Need is the basic formula used.
However, there is a huge variable: your EFC.
EFC is amount that a student and family are expected to “contribute” each year for college. The amount can vary by thousands of dollars from institution to institution. Why? Basically because of the way financial information is gathered and how it is interpreted by each institution.
What Formulas are Used to determine EFC?
There are two basic formulas used for gathering information and determining a family’s EFC. One formula has been developed by the federal government; and the other by the College Board. The government’s formula is used in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board’s formula is incorporated into the CSS/Profile. All colleges require the FAFSA and approximately 271 of the nation’s most selective colleges (mostly private) also require the CSS/Profile in addition to the FAFSA.
What Is Professional Judgment (aka Internal Adjustment)?
Seems pretty easy so far – your financial information is gathered, calculated, and your EFC is determined. Wouldn’t it be great if it was truly that simple? Unfortunately, it’s not!
After your original EFC is determined (either from the FAFSA, and/or the CSS), then it is each school’s job to determine how much money a family can actually contribute and how much money a student really needs to attend. The school’s Financial Aid Officer (FAO) makes that determination.
The college’s FAO can use “professional judgment” to decide what amount of funding each student should receive. How the three building blocks of funding (assets, income, and expenses) are evaluated has a huge impact on the amount and type of financial aid a student is offered.
After all the data has been collected, each school’s FAO then looks at their institution’s own “need” formula. Simply put, this is how bad the school wants an applicant based on their academic accomplishments and other qualifications. The FAO then has the “option” of changing the student’s award package as they see fit. This practice is seen more in the private university than in the public university. At that point an award letter is sent to the family to help in the decision process for the “Best Fit” for the student and the family.