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The surprising (non-politically correct) truth about who gets college aid

Uncategorized Dec 10, 2021
Monday night, a woman at a library workshop asked me a toughie:  "What should we know, that we don't?"

Part of my answer was about financial aid, specifically, how it works...

In real life.

Most parents, guidance counselors, and other "experts" will tell you thusly:  Fill out the FAFSA, and see what FAFSA gives you.  That's your financial aid.

But no, grasshopper, there is SO much more to it..

...and so much that is WRONG about that pithy summary.

Permit me to be less pith with you.

Firsth, approximately 300-400 colleges require more than the FAFSA, if you want financial assistance.  These colleges mandate that you complete a CSS Profile too.

The main difference between the FAFSA and the dreaded CSS Profile is that the FAFSA is currently approximately 108 questions. But The Profile is between 200-300 questions, depending on the colleges you apply to.  It's no walk in the park, it's more like a root canal without novocaine.

Secondth, you don't "get" anything from FAFSA.  FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is an APPLICATION.  You submit it, colleges consider it and decide how much to give.

Or not to give.

OK, enough splitting hairs.  Let's talk about the surprising, non politically-correct truth about who gets money from college.

At any given college, approximately 25% of families pay full boat.

Not to show off, but quick math tells me that approximately 75% receive some sort of discount!

Further, the average tuition discount, nationally, at private colleges -- i.e., the "expensive" schools -- was a whopping 53.9% in 2020, according to the National Association of Collegiate Business Officers.

Are you starting to see the light?  If not, let me shine it for you to see...

Paying Full Price is a CHOICE, Not a Requirement

OK, just WHO are these families that pay "wholesale" prices for college?

Overwhelmingly, what you and I would call high income earners.  Families in the top 25%.  Six-figure (or more) earners.

Is this fair?  Equitable?

You can decide for yourself.  I'm not qualified to judge, I'm an amateur ethicist.

Instead, I am occupied on behalf of my clients with how things ARE, in the real world, on planet Earth.

(At least for now, before Zuck moves us to one of his multiverses and we don't have to get off the couch for weeks on end.)

Truthfully, the overwhelming majority of colleges cannot afford to shell out full rides to every deserving applicant from a low income family.  There's not enough budget for that at 99% of colleges in the U.S.

They need families who can pay, either from savings or by borrowing.

Hypothetically, if a college had 60K, and could 1. either give it all to a low income family, or 2. split it four ways among high income families, 15K each, the college chooses Door 2 almost every time.

It doesn't matter if you or I find this practice distasteful. It's just the way it is, Cronkite.

Speaking of distasteful, here's a pseudo-pitch for our services:

If you you have a high school senior (class of 2022) and you're you-know-whatting a brick about how you'll possibly cough up the dough to pay fo college....

And you want help with the overly complicated financial aid applications, strategies to get more money, help negotiating with colleges, more, time is running out.

We're about to temporarily shut down taking on class of 2022 families to ensure we meet all November deadlines.

If you want our expertise in your corner, my advice is to get your rumpus over to this page to complete a short application for our program.  Then we can speak to see if you're a good fit (there's nothing to buy on that page).

Thus endeth today's lesson.


-Andy "Didn't Mean to Pith You Off" Lockwood

P.S. If you have younger kids and want to chat about help figuring out a college list, what it takes to get in, SAT/ACT prep, etc. etc. ad nauseam,  email us at [email protected] and Christine will set up a time to chat.

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