Table of Contents(From Frederick News Post March 5, 2004 )
The rising cost of higher learning
(From Frederick News Post May 4, 2004 )
Crash Course in funding college
(From CNN\Money April 16, 2004 )
School officials look at more redistricting
(From Frederick Gazette April 8, 2004 )
Offbeat ways to pay for college
(From CNN\Money March 31, 2004 )
Paying for college
(From CNN\Money March 8, 2004 )
(From Frederick Gazette February 26, 2004 )
Maryland State officials consider new graduation proposal
(From Frederick Gazette February 26, 2004 )
Teachers needed for Nicholas Leakins SAT Scholarship and Study Group
(English and Math teachers are needed to give pre-test Verbal and Math SAT instructions)
The New PSAT for Fall 2004 and SAT for 2005
(From College Board website - www.collegeboard.com )
by Diana Mota Morgan
If Allison Stone of Walkersville had her way, the state would never alter high school graduation requirements.
The seventh-grader at Walkersville Middle School is not
thrilled with the state's proposal to tie a state high
"I don't think it's fair, because nobody else had to do it to get out of high school," Allison said. But she considers the proposal better than the previous one: the prospect of county diplomas vs. state diplomas.
State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick nixed that idea, and is considering one state diploma tied to a combined passing score from four exams.
"I think Nancy Grasmick listened to input from a variety of sources and made a good decision," said Jack Dale, superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools.
The proposal calls for students to take four freshman-level high school assessment exams (English I, algebra/data analysis, government and biology). However, students would be able to pass one or more approved substitute assessments in those subject areas, such as an Advanced Placement test or SAT II exam. Students would also be required to meet other graduation requirements already in place.
Students would need to meet minimum scores on each test, but not necessarily pass each assessment, and earn a combined score on all four exams in the passing range, said Bill Reinhard, a state spokesman. The levels have not yet been set.
State board members approved the new proposal 8-1, with one member abstaining and another absent.
Although the county school system does not support high-stakes testing, the new proposal is in the realm of being acceptable, Dale said.
Creating a composite passing score is better than using four
separate passing scores that each student must
But Daryl A. Boffman, a county Board of Education member, disagreed. He would rather not have any link between assessments and graduation requirements.
"I'm still against holding students back from graduating based on a test," Boffman said. "I still think it's a challenge that we don't need at this time."
In December, the state board voted to develop a plan that would create four paths to complete high school, which included adding two diplomas in addition to the state diploma and certificate of program completion already in place.
The concept of several diplomas did not sit well with the community at large. Dale was one of those people. He considered it a "dumbing down of the diploma."
The new proposal still requires students to complete credit and service-learning requirements, attend school for four years beyond eighth grade, and complete any local graduation requirements.
As part of the process, the state is developing online courses in each of the four subject areas that students will be able to access at no cost.
In the next couple of weeks, state officials will publish the new proposal, Reinhard said. The public will have 90 days to comment, and a public hearing will likely be scheduled for the state board meeting on May 25 and 26. Final approval is tentatively set for the board's meeting on June 22 and 23.
by Diana Mota Morgan
As state officials continue
to work on a plan that ties high school assessments to graduation
The community action group has scheduled its third meeting in
what is expected to be a series of meetings
Students from Frederick High School will join the process,
said Maria Whittemore, FCPS minority
Group members decided they needed to hear from students, Whittemore said.
Three years ago and this year, students from Frederick High
participated in student-led caucuses for
Students attending Saturday's meeting will share the caucus's
process and some of the feedback that
Daryl A. Boffman, school board member, plans to discuss how
the county's Board of Education is
With the state Board of Education moving forward on its plan
to tie assessments to a high school
If time permits, Whittemore said the group would prioritize
actions community members can take
Forum organizers are appealing to the community at large to become involved.
"This forum is not just for minorities, because this issue
will impact everyone," Boffman said.
As a whole, the county's academic performance looked good,
according to information reviewed
Frederick County Public Schools' parents will have an
opportunity to talk with teachers about
Parent-teacher conferences give parents an opportunity to
discuss their child's performance,
The average conference lasts about 15 to 20 minutes so parents
should start with their most
Parents may want to ask teachers to explain standards for
their child's grade level, how
Parents should also inform teachers about any changes in the
child's life, such as a death
Both agreed parents should also communicate with teachers outside the conference time.
"They can always follow up at any point with the teacher," Collette said.
Parents should ask teachers how best to communicate with them,
such as e-mail or voice
Conferences also represent a chance for the teachers and
parents to work together in
Parents should contact individual schools for conference schedule information.
On March 11, students attend school in the afternoon only.
Afternoon and evening
Pre-K, special education pre-K and half-day kindergarten
students will not attend.
On March 12, schools close 3 1/2 hours early for afternoon
The New SAT for 2005 and PSAT for Fall 2004
be made to the SAT and the PSAT. The new SAT will start in the
Addition of a Writing section. This will consist of multiple-choice
questions and an essay question. (There will not be an essay question on the new PSAT,
only multiple choice questions.) It will basically be just like the current Writing SAT II test
(which may ultimately be eliminated). It should be noted that a student-written essay from
a standardized admissions test will be required for admission to many of the nation's
post-secondary institutions, beginning with the high school class of 2006.
Even with some errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar, a student can get a top score
on the essay. Each essay will be scored independently by two readers on a 1-6 scale. If the
readers' scores differ by more than two points, a third reader will evaluate the test. College
Board reports that fewer than 2% of all scored essays from the current SAT II Writing
Tests required a third reader.
The Verbal section will be re-named "Critical Reading." Short paragraph reading
passages will be added to the existing long reading paragraphs, and the analogies (for example,
clay is to potter as stone is to sculptor) have been eliminated. Vocabulary words will be no
longer be given, but a strong vocabulary will help the students with the reading passages.
Math will be expanded to include some questions from Algebra II, and
analogies will be dropped. Algebra II questions will not be a part of the PSAT.
Total Test Time Current SAT: 3 hours
New SAT: 3 hours, 35 minutes
You will get your scores in 14 days at no additional charge. The cost of the test will
go up about $10.00 or so dollars, though!
How to prepare? Students, take the most rigorous courses that you can: Honors
Classes, AP Classes, and read, read, read!!! Read the newspaper, magazines, books
(fiction and non-fiction), publications, anything that you can. Practice tests and tons of
more helpful advice can be found at: www.collegeboard.com/newsat
Teachers needed for Nicholas Leakins SAT Scholarship
and Study Group
Boundaries in conjunction with support and funding from the
Here is how you can help
provide the maximum the program
can offer to all our members. We
are seeking qualified
follow-on program, after the March 27th test, we will order the
you are interested in working with our SAT Study
Group, please email us at
Published on Friday, March 5
Apr. 8, 2004
With two new schools on
the horizon, Frederick County officials are once again looking to
adjust attendance lines in several neighborhoods.
are being created for Centerville Elementary, scheduled to open August
2005, and a new middle school, slated to open August 2006 -- both in
the Urbana area.
School system staff
developed three options for each of the new schools, which can be
viewed online at www.fcps.org. Parents who have children attending
Green Valley, Kemptown or Urbana elementary schools and Windsor Knolls
Middle School -- the schools affected by the changes -- can attend a
series of meetings to learn more and provide feedback. Meetings are
scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Kemptown Elementary
School; Wednesday at Green Valley Elementary; and April 15 at Urbana
Elementary. A meeting already took place March 31 at Windsor Knolls
Only about 10 parents
attended the first meeting, said Ray Barnes, facilities services
Parents can attend any
of the meetings to obtain information about both the elementary and
middle school redistricting options.
The redistricting plans
will help reduce overcrowding at existing schools as well as make room
for expected residential growth and full-day kindergarten, Barnes said.
"Urbana Elementary is
the most overcrowded at 126 percent capacity," he said. The school
currently has six portables with four more expected this summer, he
The new elementary
school will reduce enrollment at Urbana by about 400 students, he said.
According to the school system's online profile for the school, 714
students are currently enrolled.
Windsor Knolls Middle is
presently at 115 percent capacity; Green Valley Elementary, 94 percent;
and Kemptown Elementary, 101 percent.
School is currently under construction and the middle school is being
Centerville Elementary options
Elementary, located on Fingerboard Road between the villages of Urbana
and Urbana Highlands, option one divides the existing Urbana Elementary
district and does not change Green Valley or Kemptown elementary
The second option
divides Urbana Elementary and adds the neighborhoods along Ed McClain
and Green Valley Roads in the Green Valley district to Centerville
Option three also
divides the existing Urbana Elementary district and adds neighborhoods
along Ed McClain and Green Valley Roads as well as the neighborhoods on
the west side of Lynn Burke Road that are in the Green Valley district
to the Centerville district. The Harvest Ridge neighborhood that
attends Kemptown Elementary would attend Green Valley.
Urbana middle school options
The yet-to-be named
Urbana middle school, will be built on Fingerboard Road across from the
Villages of Urbana. The first option for the middle school draws
students from Urbana Elementary School, while Green Valley and Kemptown
students attend Windsor Knolls Middle School.
The second option also
draws from Urbana Elementary and includes students in the neighborhoods
along Ed McClain and Green Valley Roads, while others at Green Valley
and Kemptown attend Windsor Knolls.
The final option is for
students attending Green Valley and Kemptown as well as those living
east of I270 and Doctor Perry Road and south of Price Road to attend
Windsor Knolls; all others attending Urbana Elementary feed into the
new Urbana-area middle school.
The Board of Education
will schedule a hearing before making its final decision. The public
may submit comments concerning the options at any of the scheduled
meetings, via email to Redistricting@fcps.org or to Beth Pasierb,
facilities planner, FCPS, 7630 Hayward Road, Frederick, MD 21702.
From Frederick News Post May 4th, 2004
FREDERICK -- The rising price of a college education has students over a barrel.
"I know students who say, 'I'm going to transfer,'" said Jami Douglas, a sophomore at Hood College. "But where are you going to go? The whole state is experiencing tuition increases so you're kind of stuck."
Ms. Douglas said she's on a never-ending quest for financial aid and scholarships to make educational ends meet.
Martina Calhoun, a Hood freshman, said tuition hikes don't seem fair.
"I don't know why they're increasing it. My parents are still making the same amount of money as they did last year," she said.
Fair or not, and not just at Hood, nothing seems to be stopping the upward trend in the cost of college.
Last year, tuition rose nationally by an average of 14.1 percent at four-year public colleges and universities and 6 percent at four-year private institutions, according to the College Board, an organization that tabulates tuition increases in October.
Experts say the national average tuition will increase next school year, but probably not as dramatic this past year.
"There have been fewer dramatic announcements so far," said Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst at the College Board. "But there are a lot of conversations still going in state legislatures."
Maryland is one such case.
The governor could veto a bill passed by the General Assembly this year that would cap tuition hikes in the University System of Maryland at 5 percent.
If it the bill becomes law, university undergraduates will pay $7,072 in tuition and fees next year. If it is vetoed, those costs will be $7,426 at the university, an increase of 9.9 percent over this school year, said John Blair, the University of Maryland's director of budgets and fiscal analysis. The tuition cap has the support of the University of Maryland in College Park because the loss in tuition with a cap would be offset by a $24.5 million increase in state funds for the system as a whole, Mr. Blair said.
Whatever happens to the tuition, College Park students will see increases in their room and meal costs.
The a room on the College Park campus will cost $4,656, an increase of 5.4 percent, and the meal plan will cost $3,135 next year, an increase of 2.7 percent.
Provided the state doesn't pass the 5 percent cap, a full-time in-state undergraduate in College Park who lives and eats at school will pay $15,217 for the year.
Frostburg State University, also part of the state university system, plans a 9.1 percent increase in tuition and fees, going from $5,342 this year to $5,830 next school year. Add in minor room and board increases and the total price for the next year is $11,530.
Private institutions in the region are posting increases similar to last year's national average.
Tuition for full-time undergraduates at Hood College in Frederick is going up $1,000, or 5 percent, this year to $20,940. Room and board costs did not increase. Rooms for undergraduate residential students at Hood is $3,920 per year and board is $3,400. Hood charges a $335 student fee. Added up, tuition, fees, room and board will cost Hood undergrads $28,595 next school year.
At Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, tuition for undergraduates is rising 3 percent, from $20,800 this year to $21,430. Room and board rates are also increasing 3 percent to $7,640. Mount students pay $250 in fees. Combined costs total $29,070.
At McDaniel College in Westminster, tuition for the 2004-05 academic year will be $24,500, representing a 6.6 percent increase over the current year's tuition of $22,860. McDaniel students pay $300 in fees. Standard room costs will be $3,000, up $310 from this year. Board costs for next year increased $10 to $2,600. Total costs $30,400.
Ms. Baum said students don't have to be millionaires to attend top colleges and universities, pointing to Harvard University as an example.
According to Harvard, undergraduate families earning $40,000 or less annually don't have contribute toward their children's Harvard education. Parental contribution expected from families earning between $40,000 and $60,000 is also reduced.
The college, located in Cambridge, Mass., said financial aid programs cover roughly 70 percent of its student's total costs.
Harvard undergraduate tuition and fees, room and board increased by 5.15 percent for the 2004-2005 academic year. Tuition is set at $27,448, but with the cost of a room, $4,974; board, $4,286; health services fee, $1,264; and student services fee, $1,908 factored in, the overall charges will total $39,880.
Community colleges offer an alternative to the four-year schools for some students.
Frederick Community College is posting a 2 percent increase in tuition and fees for next school year. Last year, community colleges nationally showed tuition increases of 13.8 percent, according to the College Board.
5 Tips: Planning for college costs
March 8, 2004: 4:16 PM EST
Posted from http://money.cnn.com/
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - It's that time of year again when colleges and universities start sending out admission acceptance letters and financial aid awards. And if you're like most American families you'll probably need some help with the hefty college tuition bill.
In fact, according to the College Board, at 4-year public institutions, tuition, fees, room and board will cost an average $10,636 a year, up 9.8 percent from a year ago. If your child is planning on attending a private institution, it will cost you even more -- try an average of $26,854 a year. That's up nearly 6 percent from a year ago.
So what are some options to control what will come out of your pocket? Here are today's five tips:
1. First step: Financial aid.
There is no need to be intimidated about the prospect of applying for financial aid. In fact, there's good news. According to the College Board, in the 2002/2003 period there was more financial aid available than ever before -- over $105 billion. And the number is expected to only go higher.
So, the first step to getting federal and state aid for college is filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Log onto fafsa.ed.gov for an application or call 1-800-4-FED-AID. Among the information you'll need to have available: the W-2 form for you and the student applying and the balances in your checking and savings accounts.
Once this is completed and sent in you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR should arrive anywhere from two to four weeks after the FAFSA is submitted. Look for the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure printed on the front page of the SAR report in the upper right. If the SAR has not been received four weeks after submitting the FAFSA, call. If there are any errors, make the corrections and send them back immediately.
As far as who decides how much a family is able to contribute, this figure is determined by whoever is awarding the aid. This includes the federal government or individual colleges and universities. Since financial aid is limited, they use formulas based on need that compare your family's financial circumstances with others.
Ideally, your child should request college applications and financial aid information the summer before his or her senior year of high school. However, it is never too late to try. Each college has its own filing date deadlines as does each state. On fafsa.ed.gov (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/) you'll find deadlines for federal and state aid.
Also, check out the financial aid calendar on Collegeboard.com to help you stay ahead of the deadlines.
2. Get the lowdown on loans.
Student loans make up the largest part of financial aid, making up 54 percent of the total financial aid awarded each year. There are essentially two types of loans, those based on financial need and those not based on financial need.
Among the different student loans out there is the Stafford loan. More than 90 percent of all student loans are Stafford loans. A "subsidized" Stafford loan means the government pays the interest that accrues on the loan while your child is in school and during the six-month grace period after graduation, resulting in substantial savings. The current interest rate is at an all-time low of 2.82 percent.
Another need-based loan is the Perkins loan. Funding is made available to colleges and universities from the government and the schools administer the aid to the students.
An "unsubsidized" Stafford loan is a non-need based loan. This means the borrower is obligated for the interest from the date the loan was dispersed. In other words, the interest accrues on top of the principal.
Among other non-need based loans is the PLUS loan. This is sponsored by the federal government and is geared towards parents. Parents can borrow up to the total cost of education. These loans currently have a very competitive interest rate, around 4.2 percent. Many people are unaware of the PLUS loan and have instead been tapping their home equity. Log onto collegeboard.com (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/) for more detail.
3. Go for the free money.
By free money we mean taking advantage of the scores of scholarships available. And help is actually no further away than your home PC or laptop.
The key is to use your imagination. Business organizations, service groups, clubs and more offer scholarships of $1,000 to $5,000. So think about your interests and affiliations. Many are not needs based; some simply require that you write an essay to compete for the money.
Do you spend your weekends helping the local park service? The World Wildlife Federation offers scholarships. Has your dad been a Rotary Club member all his adult life? That service group offers them as well. Don't forget that companies like Microsoft and Intel give away money to students too.
To find the best options, use search terms such as "online application" plus another phrase that describes any area where you might distinguish yourself, such as "athletic scholarship." One more trick when searching online, to avoid a bunch of commercial sites put the phrase "-.com" or minus.com into your search. Zero in on current info by including dates and even locations in your search.
It also can't hurt to apply multiple times. The more scholarships you apply to, the better.
4. Tapping college savings.
You've been saving for years for this special day and now might be the time to tap those reserves.
First and foremost, retirement savings should always be the very last thing you tap. Think about it. You can't borrow for retirement, but your child can borrow for his/her education and has a much longer period of time to pay it back.
Among the college savings plans or funds most people have are 529s, Coverdells, savings bonds, and investments owned by the child. Think before dipping into any assets owned by the child first since these could hurt your chances of getting a financial aid package. Financial aid programs penalize students' assets more than parents' when it comes to the proportions that must go to education. That simple fact may drive families to hold college savings in parents' names rather than their children's.
529 plans and Coverdell accounts are the next option. Simply request a withdrawal from your program administrator. This typically only takes a few days to process and you have a choice of how to receive the money. You can receive it yourself, have them make a check out to the student/child or ask them to write a check directly to the college. Make sure not to take it out all at once. Just withdraw enough to cover one year. Taking more than the annual education expenses is one of the common mistakes people make.
An investment in a 529 College Plan and Coverdell grows tax free and withdrawals are free of taxes when used for educational expenses. Therefore, make sure to keep your receipts. If you are audited, you will need them.
5. Go for the top.
The College Board says students should not rule out a school simply because it costs more to go there.
Let say the family's EFC, Expected Family Contribution is $5,000. That means they are expected to pay $5,000 towards the education. At a college with a total cost of $8,000, the student would be eligible for up to $3,000 in financial aid. On the other hand, at a college which costs $25,000, the student would be eligible for up to $20,000 in aid. The bottom line: the family would be asked to contribute the same amount at both schools.
Another thing to consider. The Census Bureau says people with a bachelor's degree earn over 60 percent more on average than those with only a high school diploma. In other words, investing in college now could very well pay off in the long-term.
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March 31, 2004: 4:39 PM EST
By Leslie Haggin Geary, CNN/Money staff writer
Scholarships offered for left-handed people, students named Zolp, and Trekkies who speak Klingon.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Like many college students, Jeannie Miller relies on scholarship money to help pay her tuition.
Miller, a zoology major at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, has been pretty skilled at getting free money. She gets one scholarship for her good grades. There's another from AmeriCorps for her volunteer work last summer participating in a wild-fire education program.
And then there's the $1,000 Miller gets for being left-handed, as a recipient of Juniata's Buckley Scholarship.
The prize is a gift of Mary Francis Buckley, a southpaw Juniata alumna who met her husband, Frederick, when he also attended the college back in the 1920s.
"They were paired together as tennis partners because they were both left-handed, then fell in love," says Miller, 23. "When he died, her way to memorialize him was to provide a scholarship to Juniata. It's kind of fun."
Welcome to the world of unusual scholarships. Students no longer need the traditional attributes (e.g. brains or athletic prowess) to get money for college. Sometimes, they just have to have the right name.
Just ask Alice and Bernard Zolp. Their four kids attended Loyola University in the 1980s without paying a dime, and now their grandson does, too, thanks to the school's Zolp Scholarship.
The grant provides full tuition for four years to any Catholic student whose last name is Zolp. (To qualify, the name Zolp needs to appear on a student's birth and confirmation certificates.)
"There was no way I could have given them a college education without it," says Alice of the scholarship, which was established by Father Zolp, a Catholic priest who attended Loyola.
Free money for the taking. To find money for college, start by talking to the pros.
High school guidance counselors or college financial aid departments often have a wealth of information. The Internet also makes it easier than ever to find cash. Free search engines on Fastweb.com and the College Board's Web site, for example, let students match personal profiles against hundreds of thousands of scholarships.
No matter what kind of scholarship or service you consider, traditional or offbeat, be wary of those that require you to pay money upfront to find or obtain an award, says Mark Kantrowitz, founder of FinAid.com.
"If they charge an application first, then something's probably not on the up-and-up," he says. "Scholarships are about giving away money, not charging it."
Sadly, too many families get suckered by con artists. According to one estimate from National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, 350,000 people are cheated out of $5 million in scholarship scams each year. (For more about scholarship scams, click here.)
Watch out for offers that "guarantee" a prize, too. Like all legitimate contests, there will be winners and losers. No reputable scholarship will promise rewards to all.
Duct tape to the prom. You can maximize your scholarship chances, especially if you've got a special talent, by looking for unusual scholarships.
Consider the Duck Brand Duct Tape "Stuck at the Prom Contest." Creative high school couples who attend a prom wearing attire fashioned out of duct tape can win up to $2,500 each. Past winners have created almost museum-worthy outfits.
As it turns out, duct tape comes in a slew of colors -- including fluorescent and neutral hues -- and students may enter one of three "divisions:" traditional prom attire, theme/costume wear or "just Plain Silver" attire. Check out the Stuck at the Prom Contest Web site.
If you'd rather sport natural fibers consider the National Make it Yourself From Wool Competition. It awards $1,000 college scholarships for students who create especially stylish wool garments. The contest was first founded in 1947 in Utah and has since expanded to various states.
Meanwhile, linguaphiles (and Star Trek fans) can make their passion pay off by entering the Klingon Language Institute's $500 scholarship contest. Designed to "recognize and encourage scholarship in fields of language" the prize is awarded to one graduate and one undergraduate student majoring in languages, though familiarity with Klingon isn't a requirement to win.
Maybe you're more adept at communicating with animals. The Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest gives out a $1,500 scholarship (and several runner-up prizes) to any high school senior who can call a duck. Specifically, winners must be proficient in four calls: hailing, feeding, comeback and mating calls. For more information contact the Stuggart, Ark., Chamber of Commerce, click here.
It may pay to follow in your ancestors' path, too. Hood College in Frederick, Md., has a heritage scholarship that lets incoming freshmen pay the same first-year tuition as their parents or grandparents paid. This year, freshman Rebecca DuPont is paying $350 vs. $19,940 -- just as her grandmother did back in 1948.
Don't have a special skill? Then how about natural attributes? Tall Clubs International, (http://www.tcifoundation.org/scholarships.cfm) for example, offers a $1,000 scholarship for women who are at least 5' 10" and men who are at least 6 '2".
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By Sarah Max, CNN/Money Staff Writer
Acceptance letters have arrived. Now (gulp) you have to figure out how you're going to pay for this.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - For many U.S. high school seniors, April is College Acceptance Month, the time when letters of admission finally arrive. For their parents, it's Welcome to Poverty Month, when they see the size of next year's tuition bill.
If your bundle-of-joy plans to head off to some leafy campus, this may be a bittersweet time for you. On the one hand, you're relieved that the college search is coming to an end. Then again, the reality of what college will cost is finally hitting home.
In 2002 alone, tuition prices crept up an average of 5.8 percent at private schools and 9.6 percent at public schools. Investment portfolios, meanwhile, shrank by at least that much.
That sounds bad, but don't nix your kid's dream school just yet. The price of tuition still may be negotiable, and it's a buyer's market if you're shopping for a loan.
Get your facts right about financial aid. The biggest mistake parents make in the college planning process is assuming that they will or will not get financial aid. Those who think they'll qualify for aid don't bother to save, while those who think they earn too much don't bother to apply.
As a general rule, according to Ray Loewe, founder of College Money, parents with income below $75,000 are likely to qualify for some need-based aid, while parents with income above $150,000 probably won't get much unless they have a lot of children.
Still, you can't be sure until you apply.
"There is no such thing as a cut-off for who does and does not qualify for aid," said Linda Peckham, director of financial aid and training for the College Board. "There are so many factors that affect your aid. Often, private institutions have very different ways of determining need."
If you did have the good sense to apply for financial aid in January, you'll want to compare the different schools' award packages, paying particular attention to what you'll be getting in grants versus loans.
If you did not apply for financial aid, look into doing so now. Depending on the school, you may still be able to get some financial aid, though the best awards may already be accounted for. Even then, there's always next year. Financial aid is awarded on an annual basis, and families must apply for these packages every year.
Go where the money is. Schools – particularly small private ones – are increasingly awarding what's known as "discounted" tuition. You don't have to demonstrate financial need for such discounts, and your child doesn't have to be the next Carmelo Anthony or John Nash, either.
"One of the best things that happened to the middle-income group is colleges woke up and realized that it behooves them to divide up scholarships among several kids, rather than giving a free ride to one kid," said Loewe. "Your kid doesn't have to be a superstar to qualify. All they have to be is better than their peers coming into that school."
Parents just starting the college hunt should try to target schools that are most likely to award such tuition breaks. In many cases, the schools themselves supply this kind of information. You just need to ask for it.
"Call the colleges, ask them to describe their ideal student and find out whether they have special scholarship money available to these students," said K.C. Dempster, director of program development for College Money.
If you're already holding acceptance letters from such schools, you may be in a position to negotiate for a better deal.
"One of the things we recommend is when you get financial aid packages, you go back and play one college off the other," said Loewe, who advises clients to approach the schools by saying you can't understand why college B offered you such a different package than university A. Playing dumb, it seems, works better than making demands.
Of course, there are certain schools where you can't negotiate. "State colleges don't have a lot of money and the price is fixed," Loewe said. "At prestige schools there is such a waiting list to get in, they don't need to give discounts."
Borrow for a worthy cause. If there were ever a time to borrow for school, it's now.
"Interest rates are so low, and on top of that they're often tax deductible, said Kalman Chany, author of "Paying for College without Going Broke."
The most desirable loans are awarded with financial aid, are in the student's name and are subsidized by the government. With Perkins loans and subsidized Stafford loans, no interest accrues while a student is in school, payments don't start until after he or she graduates, and interest is deductible, though there are income limits.
Right now rates for Perkins loans are fixed at 5 percent, while rates for Stafford loans are 4.06 percent; they're adjusted every July but are capped at 8.25 percent.
Often, students who apply for financial aid don't qualify for subsidized loans, but do qualify for unsubsidized Stafford loans, which accrue interest during school but still have the same low interest rates as the subsidized variety.
The next best loan, at least for the time being, is a home equity loan or line of credit. Rates on these loans also are extremely low, and in most cases, interest is tax deductible. Keep in mind, however, that rates on these loans are variable. (See "Are you blowing your equity?")
If borrowing from home equity isn't an option, you might then look into a Federal PLUS loan. Rates, also adjusted every July, are 4.86 percent. You could potentially finance 100 percent of your tuition bill with these loans, which are based on credit worthiness rather than financial need.
Many states even offer their own education loans at below-market rates. To see if your state has such a program, contact its treasurer's office.
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