College Funding Resources

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5 Critical Points When Planning For College

Posted on February 26, 2020 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

It appears planning to save and pay for college is always something that is on the horizon. Families never seem to get that “chore” off their to-do list.

Public universities this year approach $30,000 a year, and very few private universities cost less than $60,000 a year. And that’s for one child. How can you ever afford to pay those costs? You could empty your retirement account. You could sell your house and live in a two-bedroom apartment.

While there isn’t any easy solution, there are some basic things parents must understand about planning for college that can go a long way to help survive the coming storm.

1. Ignore College Rankings

The hype around college rankings can be hard to ignore, and many students load high-ranked schools on their wish list. It's easy to assume that a highly ranked college is a good choice, but rankings should support, not replace your diligent research. The "best" college is the right college for the student's personality and the most affordable for the family.

2. Estimate Your EFC

Financial aid is awarded based on your Expected Financial Contribution (EFC). The sooner families know their EFC, the sooner they can make realistic plans on how to pay for college.

3. Use the College’s Net Price Calculators

The net price is the amount that a student pays to attend an institution in a single academic year AFTER subtracting any scholarships and grants. Colleges are required to post “Net Price Calculators” on their websites. While there are various net price calculators on the Internet, each college has a Net Price Calculator that you should use, as it will have the college’s exact cost of attendance and their financial aid parameters.

4. The Most Competitive Colleges Offer the Least Amount of Money

Ivy League schools like Princeton and Harvard turn away 90% of their applicants. They don’t need to provide price incentives for students. Instead, apply to a school that the family can afford, or a college that gives outstanding financial aid packages that will keep your net price at the same level as a state (public) university.

5. Apply to the Schools That Want You

Most private colleges give more desirable financial aid packages to the students they want. Students in the top 25% of the college’s admit list will get larger packages with fewer loans. Students whose qualifications would place them in the bottom 25% of admitted freshman will find themselves with smaller awards and more debt.

If your children weren’t involved, paying for college would be easy. Similar to retirement, you’d merely save X dollars for X years and go from there. But when heartstrings are pulled - the logic goes out the window, and that type of college planning is the reason for today’s college debt catastrophe.

If you need assistance in developing a financial game plan for college, contact Jeffrey Taylor at and select the 15-minute phone chat option. We may be able to save you considerable money and help you avoid strategic mistakes when you file for financial aid.




Posted on April 24, 2019 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (2)

Financial aid award letters can be complex and even deceptive in nature, but professional assistance is available to best understand your options.

In this case, not having an EFC on any of the award letters was not such a big deal to me, but can you imagine a family trying to understand which award is best without an EFC? Then to make it even worse, two of the colleges gave an itemized listing of their costs, while the other two only listed their tuition and room & board cost.

So let me scrutinize each college award to give you an idea why it’s so very important for families to have an expert analyze their financial aid award letters carefully to find which college is offering the best college deal.

Furman University

Furman listed their awards appropriately for a total of $40,872, but neglected to detail their costs. They mention in the written paragraph below the awards that their tuition, fees, and room & board total $59,600, but neglect to itemize the other costs, such as books, supplies, transportation, computer, health care, and other personal expenses. How is a family supposed to know their true out-of-pocket cost (let alone compare other colleges) without these costs?

For a CCFS® (Certified College Funding Specialist) the answer is in the fine print. Furman goes on to mention that the family may also apply for a PLUS loan of “up to” $22,712. This is the family’s true out-of-pocket cost to attend Furman. A far cry from the family’s EFC of $4,460, so not a great deal, right? To arrive at Furman’s total cost of attendance, you merely add the award amount of $40,872 + $22,712 in PLUS loans, or $63,584. Now you can compare Furman’s cost and award with the other schools.

Rollins College

Rollins has a two-page award letter. Why, I have no idea. They could easily design it for one page, and make it easier to read at the same time. Both their costs and their awards are itemized appropriately, but spread over two pages in different formats and difficult at best for families to comprehend and compare. Again, there is no stated EFC, but we know from the above analysis that the family’s EFC is around $4,460. When you subtract Rollin’s total award amount of $36,866 from their total cost of attendance of $67,220, you arrive at the family’s true out-of-pocket cost is $30,354. Almost $8,000 more than Furman.

College of Charleston

Of all the award letters, the College of Charleston is the easiest to read. And their total cost of attendance is $27,944, which is the lowest of all four colleges. Whether the student really wants to attend the College of Charleston is a question that goes far beyond money, but the total cost of attendance is half the other colleges. However, so is the award offer. At $11,865 in total awards, the family’s true out-of-pocket cost is $16,079 ($27,944 - $11,865) to attend the College of Charleston. A better deal than Furman, or Rollins, but still a lot of money for a family with an EFC of $4,460.

University of the South (Sewanee)

Last, but not least is the University of the South (Sewanee, SC). Sewanee has a simple one-page award letter, but it is a bit difficult to comprehend at first glance, especially for families! Sewanee states that their total cost of attendance is $54,500, but again they neglect to itemize the other costs, such as books, supplies, transportation, computer, health care, and other personal expenses

A quick trip to the University of the South website ( reveals that their estimated annual indirect expenses are $3,200. This makes their total cost of attendance $57,700 ($54,500 + $3,200). When you subtract the total awards offered of $42,350, the family’s true out-of-pocket cost to attend Sewanee is $15,350.

The bottom line is the University of the South (Sewanee, SC) is the least cost to the family of all four colleges. But you tell me, how would any family be able to decipher that when comparing these four award letters side-by-side?

It’s apparent to me that college’s today may not actually want families to understand the bottom line. Right? They could very easily make standardized award letters that are easy to read, such as:

Total True Cost of Attendance $50,000

Total Scholarships & Grants $30,000

Family Cost to Attend $20,000

Payment Options:

Stafford (student) loans $ 5,500

PLUS (parent) loans $14,500

How’s that for simple and easy? Anyway, families don’t know what they don’t know. If you received a college financial aid award letter that is confusing, and hard to understand, contact me immediately at Picking the right college at the right price can be a difficult decision, and could cost you a ton of money trying to do it yourself.

Financial aid, award letter, FAFSA, college funding

I Don't Believe In Playing the Lottery! Neither Do I Believe In Relying On Applying for Private Scholarships

Posted on March 13, 2018 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

This is the time of year I get more calls for scholarships and scholarship lists. Why? Award letters are being sent out and parents are now finding out why it is important to plan early for college. The typical gap in funding not covered by the school is approximately $15,000 per year depending on the choice of school. This is what I refer to as the "Parent Deductible". This is a term coined by E. Brian Cox of College Funding Resources.

Despite having an amazing student that's doing amazing things, less than 3% of entering freshman will receive a full ride. It is a fact that is either unknown or ignored with expensive unintended consequences.

Traditional voices tell the community to apply for scholarships as if these are available dollars hanging off money trees that can be accessed by going to any tree and grabbing what's desired. "Just apply and receive", they say.

Yes. There will always be the small number of students that receive private scholarships but they represent a very small percentage of the total number of students that have applied.

No. I'm not encouraging that students not apply. My concern is that many are expecting that process to solve their funding gap and that's just not going to happen for most.

Learning how to strategically pay for college is a far more effective method to filling in the gap. When a family understands the funding process, looking for money becomes obsolete.