WITH GREAT FANFARE
some big-name schools like Harvard and Stanford have promised to cut the high cost of education with more grants to middle-class families. But education costs for the majority of Americans are still going through the roof, topping out at an average of $140,000 for four years. Below, some strategies for maximizing financial aid.
College-planning specialists have grown to more than 1,200 in number since the National Institute of Certified College Planners was founded, in 2002. They offer ways to boost aid eligibility (deferring income, for example) and take advantage of tax benefits. NICCP.com has a list of specialists; check with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards to ensure they're also certified financial planners.
Dig for scholarships
By last count there was over $3 billion in private aid available, with $100 million going unused annually. David Rye, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Financial Aid for College," says people don't realize it's there. Employers and churches can be sources of scholarships, and you can search on sites like Petersons.com.
If the school's aid offer is insufficient, The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators recommends writing a letter, especially if there are recent changes in the family finances. If the need is real, says NASFAA's Justin Draeger, they won't "turn their backs on you." Be sure to provide evidence, such as tax returns, to support your claims.