Grants vs. Loans

Financial aid award letters are coming in soon, and it is important that you read them carefully. Aid comes in different forms. The total amount of the aid package is less significant than the mix of grants vs. loans. Packages heavy on grants are what you want.

There is no standard form to the award letters, so they can be difficult to compare from school to school. Be sure to double check the Cost of Attendance (COA) for each school, and look at the individual components to confirm they are accurate for your family (items like personal expenses and transportation for example.) You can find COA information on the school’s website or on

When looking at the award, identify the amount for grants, work-study, and need-based loans. See if non need-based loans are included in the letter. Write down the amount for each category.

Here’s a tip: when you subtract the amount of the grants, work-study and need-based loans from the COA, you should be close to your Expected Family Contribution.

The letters can be confusion, so if you are not clear on what the college is offering, have your son or daughter pick up the phone and call the aid office. Ask them to explain the package, specifically the amount of grants vs. loans. Your student will get a better understanding of how this process works and so will you.

If you have any questions, we’re here to help.


Beyond the ScholarBank

Parents, thank you for coming to check out the CFG ScholarBank.  Going after private scholarships can be an excellent way to get your son or daughter closely involved in the college process, and help them work on some lifelong skills like marketing themselves, meeting people, writing essays, and carefully following directions.  Even if they don’t win, they will greatly benefit from the process.

Helping your family with scholarships is only one small part of what we do at College Funding Group. We encourage you to read our Services page to see how we can help you every step of the way through this maze, including being sure you have a plan to reduce your out-of-pocket cost as much as possible.  Click Start a Conversation and let us know what we can do for your family.  It’s never too early to be proactive!


Protests and Budget Cuts

March 4th was a National Day of Action for Public Education, designed to draw students to protest planned increases in college tuition. The movement started in California but has found allies all over the country. Georgia is battling a massive budget shortfall and on top of huge layoffs and program cuts, there is talk of a 30+% tuition increase. Sadly these types of stories are becoming more common, as states grapple with the realities of the economy.

Here’s an important tip for students considering public colleges, especially those out of state. Check the state’s finances first! You might know the tuition for your freshman year, but at the rate things are going, your senior year could be significantly different.

It’s not hard to find articles on state finances. Try searching Google News or the Wall Street Journal. Check the local newspapers in the state capital. Do some investigation and it might affect your decision.


Who is Getting Squeezed?

A recent study on college perceptions contained an interesting finding, an example of Positive Illusion as it applies to college. See if this sounds familiar to your situation.

Only twenty-eight percent of respondents believe that the vast majority of qualified, motivated students have the opportunity to attend college. In other words, college is so expensive it is out of reach of far too many kids. Read on: Ninety percent of these same parents of high school students believe that their child is going to college!

How can those both be true? College is out of reach for everyone else but their own kids? Perhaps what is going on here is that parents hope that somehow their own kids are going to college, even if they see that it is far too expensive for most families.

Fortunately, there is something proactive parents can do. Click Start A Conversation to find out what.

The report is titled Squeeze Play 2010 and it was put out by the Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.


The Importance of Finances

An article in the New York Times by Kate Zernike describes the importance of financial considerations to college freshmen.  Check out this quote from said John H. Pryor, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, which conducts the survey:

“What was more surprising,” he said, “was that it goes beyond just [how finances impact the ability to pay] into other areas. Everywhere we turned, whether it was how you chose your college or what do you think you are going to do in college, everywhere the finances piece popped out.”

We encourage you to contact us to discuss your family’s situation.


Having “The Talk” — Get the Right College Fit for Your Student & Your Budget

So your kid has finished with college visits and read through all the admissions brochures and has decided on their top-choice colleges. Now is the time to make sure that potential schools are a good fit–for both of you.
Many parents overlook just how much emotion comes into play when making college decisions. Hopefully, your student has more stringent criteria than which school has the best football team or simply wanting to go to the same school as their friends. Your emotions can also get in the way when faced with the reality of your child heading off to college and the desire to make their dream school a reality. These emotions can lead to some very expensive tuition bills.
No worries, we’re here to remind you about your financial priorities. Before the college applications are submitted and the “dream” school chosen, you need to decide what the maximum out-of-pocket costs you are willing to pay each year for your child’s college education. Setting these funds aside will affect your retirement plans, so you need to feel very comfortable with the amount.
The next step is to sit down your student and share this budget with them. Any school that doesn’t fit in this budget, after merit aid and any additional financial assistance, needs to be taken off the list of potential colleges. By proactively discussing your budget and working with your student on their college list, making a final college choice when the acceptance letters pour in will go that much smoother.
College Funding Group can help your family identify dozens of colleges around the country that are the right fit for your student and your budget. Find out more about College Funding Group’s services.


Top 5 Reasons to Have a College Funding Plan

You’ve been saving money for college since the day your child was born. You’ve got a tidy bucket of cash in a 529 plan. Now your little one is a rising junior, and it’s time to plan for her or his college career.

What’s your plan?

If you think that, given your income and/or assets, that you’ll just have to write a check, you’re making a mistake. Would you pay sticker price for a car? Why would you pay sticker price for a college education?

Here are the top 5 reasons to have a college funding plan:

1.    You can pay for college with pre-tax dollars.

  • By taking advantage of often overlooked portions of the tax code, your family can create “tax scholarships.”  A tax scholarship is any new found tax deduction that creates money you can use to reduce the cost of college. In essence, you can have the IRS pay a big piece of your college expenses.

2.    You can get tuition discounts from schools, even if you don’t qualify for need-based aid.

  • If your child is a great fit for a school, that college or university will want your child to attend. Use that to your financial advantage and negotiate with the school, ask about discounts and grant programs that can reduce the sticker price of tuition.

3.    You can send your child to a top school for the same price as a small state college.

  • Using tax scholarships, tuition discounts, merit-based aid, grants, and your negotiating skills, you can reduce the cost of an expensive private university to less than a state school.

4.    You can achieve your family’s educational goals without sacrificing your values.

  • Help your child get a great education without putting yourself in debt, or sacrificing your retirement goals. Demonstrate financial responsibility in service of a life goal.

5.    Your child learns the value of planning, and participates in charting his or her own future.

  • Your college-bound child can learn valuable life lessons by leading the charge on discovering private scholarships, learning how to assess their interests and skills to find the right college fit, and becoming the project lead on one of life’s most important projects.

Work with your college-bound student to help get him, or her, off to a great start on a meaningful education, and career. It’s all in the planning!