Marie Morris, Independent College Consultant, stopped by with common myths about college financial aid and the information parents need to know. For more information from Marie, check out her blog.
Five Common Myths about Financial aid:
Myth #1: I won't qualify for aid.
This is perhaps the biggest and most believed myth about financial aid. Sure, there will be families with incomes that will not qualify for need based aid, but they still should file the FAFSA. Every student that does qualifies for unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans.
You never know when the family's financial circumstances will change. Loss of job or divorce or death can take a toll on income and assets. Having the forms already filed will stream line the process should the need arise.
Applying for aid is the only way to know for sure if you are eligible
Myth #2: I can declare myself as an independent student.
The federal government has a very strict definition of what makes a student independent: he or she must be older than 24, married, serving in the armed forces, enrolled in a graduate program, orphan or ward of the state, emancipated, homeless or financially responsible for a dependent.
Unfortunately, the federal government dictates that if a student is less than 24, his or her parents are responsible for paying for their education - whether or not parents actually can is another matter.
Myth #3: I didn't qualify for aid the first time, so I won't qualify again.
Just as circumstances change, so does financial aid. As stated earlier, a job loss or divorce can have an impact on whether or not a student is determined eligible for aid. If a family has two students enrolled in college at the same time, both of those students may then be eligible for financial aid. With that in mind, students and their families should apply for financial aid with the FAFSA every year.
Myth #4: I shouldn't accept a financial aid package with any self-help.
Many families hear "student loans" and automatically reject the financial aid package - as well as the school. The truth is that student loans have the lowest interest rates of any type of loan. While you hear horror stories of students graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, that's not necessarily the reality. The trick to tackling a financial aid package with student loans is to borrow smartly.
Some families want their kids to have "some skin in the game". Student loans are great for this. The student is the one who ultimately will have the greatest benefit from their education.
Also, another form of self-help is work study, aka,campus jobs. It may not pay tuition, but it will put some cash in the student's pocket for weekend activities
Myth #5: I can't appeal my financial aid package.
When you get your financial aid letter, it may seem as if there is no compromise or ability to appeal. Fortunately, that's not true either. While you can't make changes to the FAFSA at that point, financial aid officers are always willing to work with students and their parents. Many times they are the unsung heroes.
Sometimes, financial aid officers can find ways to add to the financial aid package. As students decide during the summer months that they really don't want to go to a particular college - or to college at all - their financial aid at that school becomes available. Some families are able to benefit from this sudden allowance of financial aid if they contact the school and ask about any further available financial aid opportunities in July. This is known as "summer melt".
Don't fall for the myths. If you do, your ability to pay for the school you really want to attend could be in jeopardy. So before you make any hard decisions, make sure you're working with the truth about financial aid and paying for school.