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College Talk Blog

Financial Aid and Scholarships

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Every summer I get calls from parents wondering when the financial aid office will let them know about scholarship and financial aid awards. They ask this because they assume that colleges send a letter or a direct email to students about awards. This is not always the case.

More commonly, colleges post awards in the student portal on their website. The student is expected to check the portal regularly to determine whether they have been accepted, whether the admissions or financial aid offices need anything from them and how much money they have been awarded.

The 7% Solution

Families of this year's graduating seniors are celebrating graduation and making final plans to pay any college costs not covered by grants and scholarships. A majority of parents previously tended to take what I am calling (this year) "The 7% Solution". That is they borrowed from the government student loan program. The interest rate this year is 7%. The government loan for parents is called the PLUS loan (parent loan for undergraduate students). Parents can borrow up to the full amount of college costs for their student each year of undergraduate school (minus scholarships, grants and other student loans).

CSS What?

Most parents are aware of the FAFSA, a federal form families file if interested in receiving need based and some types of merit based college financial aid and scholarships. The less well known form, required by some colleges, is the CSS Profile.

The CSS Profile is a College Board product for which parents must pay a fee for each college to which the report will be sent by College Board. The CSS Profile tends to be required by colleges that are more selective. It takes about an hour to complete the CSS Profile while the FAFSA takes less about 20 minutes.

Money, Money, Who's Got the Money?

When children are young, relatives sometimes set up Uniform Transfers to Minors Act or Uniform Gifts to Minors Act accounts to save money for the future. They often do this as part of a tax or saving strategy. Sometimes families choose UTMA's or UGMA's rather than 529 plans when they are unsure the child will decide to attend college. 

For financial aid purposes, UTMA's and UGMA's are considered the property of the child while a 529 plan is considered the property of the parent.

Parent Service to Country Helps College Students

Students whose parents have served in the US military should make sure that they find out if their parents have any veteran's benefits that can be used to help them pay for college. In addition to money from the Veteran's Administration, students should look at service-connected organizations for the parent who was in the service as well as their parent who was not. There are many spouse organizations that also award scholarships to dependents of active or retired military.