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Finding Money For College

February 6, 2010

Tis the season to find money for college and boy have I been getting the questions.  Parents and students all over the country are looking for the perfect combination of financial aid including grants and scholarships.  So in order to provide the best answers to these questions I enlisted the help of an expert to assist in navigating the sometimes confusing landscape of finding money for higher education.

Felicia Ferguson Ailster is a Financial Aid Professional with over 15 years of experience. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Florida and her Master’s Degree in Business Leadership from Shorter College. She has administered financial aid for schools such as Emory University, University of Georgia, Georgia State University and Georgia Gwinnett College to name a few. She has also contributed her experience to private financial aid firms for the past 8 years.

What is the best advice you could give parents regarding where to start when looking for financial aid?

  • The first step I would tell parents to do is to complete their federal income tax return. Immediately after completing their tax return, if the student is attending a public school, they should complete their FAFSA online. If the student is attending a private school they should also complete a  CSS profile.

What is the most common misconception parents have regarding financial aid?

  • The most common misconception from parents is that they make a lot of money on paper therefore, they will not receive any financial aid. Many times those parents may not be eligible for need based grants, but they could qualify for need based loans. The truth is, you can make a million dollars and still qualify for some type of financial assistance.

Given the economic decline, what options are out there for students whose parents have been affected by the economic downturn?

  • Due to the economic downturn within the past few years, the federal government will recalculate your eligibility due to a lay off status.

What are some great resources where parents can find additional college funding if they need it.

  • Fastweb is a great resource for parents looking to find additional funding for school.

Check out what our expert had to say

How do you assist young people looking for money

I basically direct students and parents to the resources available(maybe not in plain view) to them in assisting them with financial aid. Also, if time and availability permits, I guide parents through the FAFSA and CSS Profile application process. And once a student is awarded financial aid, I explain what each award means to the student and to the parent.

Is Harvard really allowing low income students to attend for free?
Yes. It is a generous opportunity that Harvard is affording its low income students.

What proportion of parents employment earnings (vs savings and investments) is counted in financial aid formulae; also, the pros and cons of putting assets in a student’s savings account. Folks are stretched these days!

One thing parents may want to realize is most assets and savings must be reported on the FAFSA. The calculation of investments and assets may not be as significant as the Adjusted Gross Income and Wages, but it is still calculated nonetheless.

I would like to know her opinion on 529 plans vs. Roth IRA for long term college saving. I’ll be watching.
Funny you should ask. Well, it would depend on when you would begin withdarwing on the Roth IRA –because it could be counted as income for financial aid purposes.  The rules on caluclating a students need (based on assets) are evolving. 🙂 In 20 years, these rules could all change….
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelshia permalink
    February 7, 2010 1:20 am

    I would like to know which is better between a 529 plan vs. Roth IRA for long term college saving.

  2. March 3, 2010 10:16 pm

    Excellent post. In my experience part of the confusion or frustration with preparing for college isn’t so much a lack of financial aid (be it grants, loans or scholarships), it is a lack of knowledge surrounding financial aid! Demystifying FA, and the college admissions process in general and outlining the resources students have at their fingertips will go a long way to help students be better prepared for college, and more importantly, life after college.

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