University of Virginia

NBC12 Story: Students Missing Out on Financial Aid

Great piece by Heather Sullivan of NBC12 on college students leaving money on the table by not filling out the FAFSA and applying for all the financial aid they are entitled to. Heather was kind enough to include some of our comments, and I thought I’d share a bit more information. The NBC12 piece can be found here.

It’s a shame that students who would qualify for need-based aid don’t go through the necessary steps to receive it. If you don’t know if you qualify for need-based aid, go to null and run the calculator to see what your Expected Family Contribution will be. If your EFC is less than the cost of one year of college, you will qualify for need-based financial aid. Qualifying for aid is not the same thing as receiving aid, but you have to start with figuring out if you even qualify.

But say you don’t qualify, and many families don’t. Where do you look for money for college?

The best place to start is merit aid from the colleges themselves. But there is a catch: not all colleges award merit aid. Among those that do, the levels of generosity are all over the board. You want to apply to colleges that are generous AND at which you will be a good academic fit. The package for the most desirable students is often better than for the last student admitted. It is not uncommon to receive grants or scholarships

Virginia offers a Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG) for residents attending private colleges in Virginia. This year the amount is $3,100. You do need to apply for this grant through your college’s financial aid office.

Tax breaks are an often overlooked way to help pay for college. There are something like 18 different provisions of the tax code for education expenses, but the biggest is the American Opportunity Tax Credit at up to $2,500 per year per child if you qualify. If you don’t qualify, is it possible for your son or daughter to claim it?

Local, private scholarships continue to fly under the radar as a means to pay for college. The key is to find scholarships you connect with! It takes work to complete the applications, so you want to make your time count. We can help: our free scholarship newsletter is filled with tips and highlights, and our CFG ScholarBank is a free database of local scholarships.

These are just a few other sources of money for college. Every family’s situation is different and your plan to pay for college will reflect that. Please let us know if we can help you figure out what works for your family.