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View Full Version : Will all colleges give you about the same amount of aid based on your FAFSA?



CrazyMom
07-12-2015, 02:07 PM
Oh HELLS no, they won't.

You need to shop around. The amount of aid you'll get at different colleges is VASTLY different, depending on the institution and it's level of funding. Funding can also be departmental. If you happen to be going into a field that a particular school just got a huge grant to support, your chances improve.

I'll use Elle's experience as an example.

She applied to and was accepted to: Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, and University of Michigan.

Each college got the same FAFSA info, and each college sent her a Financial Aid Award Summary.

***At Western Michigan University, she was offered about $4000 per year in federal student loans. She was invited to the Honors College, which may or may not qualify her for departmental scholarships. No grants, no work study, no nada. Total cost of tuition/room/board = $24K per year. Total funding deficit 20K per year.

***At Michigan State University, she was offered about $4000 in federal student loans. She was offered about $2000 in grants per year. $500 Scholarship (possibly renewable each year). Honors college. Was told she might get offered work study as a junior or senior. Total cost of tuition/room/board = $23K per year. Total funding deficit of $16,500 per year.

***At University of Michigan, she was offered about $4000 in federal student loans. She was offered $11,000 in grants (free money that she doesn't have to pay back). She was offered $2500 in work study, working at a cutting edge lab in her field. She was offered $5000 in Scholarships renewable for four years as long as her GPA doesn't go below 3.0. Total cost of tuition/room/board = $26K per year. Total funding deficit of $3,500 per year.


For the sake of argument....lets say she gets private loans to make up her funding deficits at each college....and lets look at what her debt load would be attending each school while working summers. Lets assume she makes $3000 each summer working. And lets use her college savings....which total around $15K (we tried to save a thousand dollars a year for her college, had a couple of bad years)

Western Michigan University..

Total loans per year $24K.
Debt for four years: $96K
Summer wages: $12K
College savings: $15K

Total debt for four years at Western = $69K (Ouch!)


Michigan State University

Total loans per year $20.5K
Debt for four years $82K
Summer wages $12K
College savings $15K

Total debt for four years at Michigan State = $55K (Ouch!)


University of Michigan

Total loans per year $7.5K
Debt for four years $30K
Summer wages $12K
College savings $15K

Total debt for four years at University of Michigan = $3K (which Mom and Dad will happily pay)


It's worth noting that as colleges get more selective....the amount of aid available to your kids goes up. Stanford just announced tuition is free for families that make under $125K per year.

In my examples....Western is the least selective, Michigan state is somewhat selective, University of Michigan is very selective. (selective meaning, they accept students with higher grades, higher ACT scores, more challenging curriculum in transcripts, leadership roles in ECs, and volunteer involvement)

Better grades, scores, and a more academically challenging transcript = more funding at traditional 4 year universities.

If you've got a kid who WANTS to go to college....it's important to show them how investing in their high school grades, and taking the most challenging classes they can comfortably complete.......can mean substantially less debt for them later.

If your kid is a good student who makes respectable grades, but can't quite be Type A enough to get the scores....Another great way to cut costs, is taking pre-requisite classes at community college before going off to a four year university. Each school has it's own transfer guides, and rules about how many credits must be earned at each school to graduate. Make SURE the classes you are taking will transfer to your target university.....but done successfully, this is a HUGE money saver. Particularly, if kids can cut costs staying home that first year.

College costs are crazy. It pays to research all your options. Paying a few hundred dollars to apply to a few more colleges is a worthwhile investment. Adjust expectations. We really thought Elle would go to Michigan State. It's a little closer to us, and has a strong science department. University of Michigan wasn't even on our radar until Elle's math teacher suggested she apply. We figured it was a long shot, but we're really glad she gave it a try.

aspiecat
07-12-2015, 05:04 PM
CM, thanks for that. Definitely something worth considering!

murphs_mom
07-12-2015, 10:26 PM
Another warning about transferring credits...not all schools will take them credit-for-credit. For example, you take a 3hr English course at a community college with plans to transfer to a 4yr. The 4yr, however, may only accept 2 of the 3 credit hours. That 4hr history course may only be worth 2 or 3hr at the university of your dreams. Check before enrolling in either school.

CrazyMom
07-13-2015, 01:46 AM
AP scores earn different credit at different colleges, too.

Some won't give you any credit for anything but a score of 5.

Some will give some credit for 3's and 4's. Depends on the school, and sometimes, even the department.

Some schools recognize some AP classes for credit, but not others.

For instance......At U of M, a score of 4 on the AP Calculus test gets you no credit in the LSA (college of literature, science and the arts) You need a 5 to get any credit......but U of M's college of engineering will recognize a 4 on the AP Calculus test for four credits. Bizarre, isn't it?

At one school, a 5 on both AP English tests will be worth 6-8 credits, and satisfy the freshman writing requirement...but at other schools you're lucky if you get 2 credits for them and still need to take freshman English. (even though the credits might not be satisfying requirements, they still help with distribution credits and giving your GPA a boost.)

It's pretty arbitrary. Crazy, no?

murphs_mom
07-14-2015, 06:40 PM
It's all about the $.

crunchynerd
07-14-2015, 10:03 PM
Thanks for that breakdown, CM! That is really good info to have. It does all seem like such a shot in the dark, and the more from-the-ground reports we hear, the better.

CrazyMom
07-14-2015, 11:38 PM
I remember trying to research personal accounts of how average typical people pay for college.....it seemed so damned daunting. Everyone had these nice vague explanations, but no one would give any real-world details.

People don't like to talk about the nitty gritty of money. Certainly not on public boards. And it's a shame they don't, because I know a ton of people are searching for that information.

LKnomad
07-15-2015, 12:38 AM
Actually the best place to go for info on college - including finance - is the college confidential website. While the majority of the students are boasting crazy high scores, the majority of adults/parents are talking about typical kids. There is a forum on finance as well as a forum on homeschooling and college. I spend a lot of time on the parent board with other parents of students graduating in the same year as my older son. I recommend it for all college info.


College Confidential (http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/) - general
Financial Aid & Scholarships - College Confidential (http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/) - financial aid

Mariam
07-15-2015, 01:04 AM
I want to mention that there are other alternatives that people look at, especially if their kids can't realistically attend a highly-selective school.

Many community colleges have agreements with universities. I remember many people went to community college first, which were selected based on which colleges they had agreements with, and used the agreement to get in to their college of choice. All the while paying much less in fees than going to said college. Of course I lived in a state that heavily subsidized the community college, and as such it was quite a deal, even with the raise in prices today.

Another alternative for going to college is to get a benefits-rewarding job at a college or university. Many of them (even some of the Ivy League schools) will let employees take 1 or 2 classes for free per semester. While it would take a while to complete your degree, you will be debt free and have job experience.

I worked 40 hours a week at a college that I did not take classes at, but would reimburse my tuition at another college while I worked on my degree. For obvious reasons, colleges value education and encourage their employees to seek it out. I took 2-3 classes a semester. While I was busy, I also had no debt at the end.

Also, some colleges let an employee's kids take classes for free or for a significant discount. I have worked a various colleges where the kids attended for free (or a token amount for fees) to 50% off of tuition. While we don't want to box our kids in, it is a way to get a serious discount on college.

dbsam
07-15-2015, 01:20 AM
Also, some colleges let an employee's kids take classes for free or for a significant discount. I have worked a various colleges where the kids attended for free free (or a token amount for fees) to 50% off of tuition. While we don't want to box our kids in, it is a way to get a serious discount on college.

I know several people who have done this. The colleges they work for have reciprocal agreements with other schools so their children had quite a few options when choosing a school and getting full tuition reimbursement from their parent's college employer.

e.g. This is from one of our local college websites:
TUITION REMISSION
Tuition charges, which are not covered by outside scholarships or grants, are remitted for the eligible faculty or staff member, the current spouse, and the unmarried dependent children of the employee. The University belongs to Tuition Exchange, an association of colleges and universities which subscribe to a program of reciprocal remission of tuition charges for children of faculty and staff members of the participating schools. Eligibility requirements are available from the Office of Human Resources.