No matter who you are, how many assets or how much income you have, your family will fall into one of three categories while going through the Financial Aid and College Funding Process.
Families who definitely should qualify for need-based financial aid no matter which school they choose, as long as the process is completed accurately and all deadlines are met.
Families who will qualify for need-based financial aid depending upon the school that they choose and how they have positioned their income and assets at the time of application.
Families who will not qualify for any need-based financial aid. Emphasis should be on a number of other financial, tax and student positioning strategies so as not to overpay for College.
"We make too much money to qualify for any financial aid."
Families we meet with are often surprised at what "too much" really entails. Many families who earn 6 figure incomes qualify for varying amounts and types of financial aid, especially families with multiple children.
"We own our house, so we'll never get any money from the College to help us pay the bill."
Different Colleges look at different things when it comes to income and assets, and the majority do not view home equity in aid determinations.
"Our Neighbors didn't get any money for college, so we won't either."
Have you ever heard that misery loves company? We find that families that pay too much for college subconsciously don't want anyone else to attempt things differently than they did. Every family's situation is unique - don't assume another family's situation is the same as yours... Or that your neighbors navigated the process correctly anymore than you would.
"Can't I just have our CPA fill out the FAFSA? "
Just because accountants complete tax forms each year, doesn't automatically mean they have been trained in the college financial aid process! Often good Tax planning may equal bad Financial Aid planning, costing you thousands of dollars in lost financial aid to pay for college.
"Can't the college financial aid dept help me? They come to our school and help us fill out the FAFSA for free..."
Colleges financial aid departments have an overarching goal to get the best students to come to their school and still get them to pay as much as they can get them pay to come there. They have little interest in making your cost less. Another way of looking at it is this... If the IRS came to your school and offered to fill out your tax forms for free, would you attend thinking they would help you lower your tax bill?
"Can't I do this all myself?"
Of course, you "can." But that probably isn't the real question to ask. You also "can" perform surgery on yourself. However, wouldn't you rather have an expert, who does this every day, guide your family through the process? There is no shame in hiring experts, especially when the experts save you money.