The Willis Report: Understanding college offers - Fox 2 News Headlines

The Willis Report: Understanding college offers

Posted: Updated:
It's that time of year when prospective college students all over the country are getting acceptance letters and financial aid packages. If you or a member of your family is part of this group, steel yourself. Confusion is the most common reaction to these packages. What's more, you may be disappointed. That's okay, it's also that time of year  when you can ask college administrators to step up the grant money.

But first, understand the package itself. The big headline is whether  your son or daughter (or yourself) has been accepted. Congratulations if the answer is yes. Step No. 2 is  to understand just how much this is going to cost. It's not simple, given the way most of the award letters are written. A third of the award letters don't include the full cost of sending Junior to school. Yes, it will include tuition and some fees, but other major costs, like books, transportation and living expenses are omitted, says Mark Kantrowitz, in his hew took, "Filing the FAFSA: The Edvisors Guide to Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid."

Watch out, too, for whether the money the college is willing to give you is a grant, which does not have to be paid back, or a loan, which clearly does have to be paid back. You'd think it would be easy to discern this from the letter, but unfortunately it is not. Loans are often not labeled as loans. So you'll need to check with the school to make sure you understand which money is free and which has to be paid back.

When comparing offers, you'll need to understand what the net costs to you will be. Beware: The letters include a net cost figure, but these often include loans. So, do the math on your own. Calculate a true cost of attendance and subtract grants, scholarships and gift aid - money you will not have to pay back. Then compare these figures across institutions.

The good news is that it pays to ask for more - more free aid. Thirty to 50 percent of the families who ask for additional money from private colleges and universities get it. Many Ivy League schools will match need based offers from other schools. Or if your financial situation is changed through job loss, for example, you may be able to get more money. The key, here, is that it doesn't hurt to ask. Insiders, however, say you're best off not describing the conversation as a "negotiation."

Bottom line, get the details before accepting the offer. Be sure you understand just how much money you and your family will be on the hook for, and what free money or grant aid you will get.
  • BusinessMore>>

  • CEO: Rivers to quit Clippers if Sterling stays

    CEO: Rivers to quit Clippers if Sterling stays

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:03 PM EDT2014-07-23 01:03:48 GMT
    Richard Parsons, the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, is due to step into the battle of billionaires going on in probate court over the proposed sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.
    The interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers testified Tuesday that coach Doc Rivers told him he will quit if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the team.
  • Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash

    Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 8:33 PM EDT2014-07-23 00:33:27 GMT
    A federal appeals court has delivered a serious setback to President Barack Obama's health care law, potentially derailing subsidies for many low- and middle-income people who have bought policies.
    President Barack Obama's health care law is snarled in another big legal battle, with two federal appeals courts issuing contradictory rulings on a key financing issue within hours of each other Tuesday.
  • Microsoft CEO sees 'bold' plan as 4Q tops Street

    Microsoft CEO sees 'bold' plan as 4Q tops Street

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:51 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:51:18 GMT
    Microsoft is reporting fourth-quarter earnings that came in below analyst expectations, as it took a hit from the Nokia devices business that it bought in April.
    Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella painted an upbeat vision of the future Tuesday, saying that the next version of Windows will be unified across screens of all sizes and that two money-losing units - Nokia phones and Bing...
Powered by WorldNow

WJBK-TV | Fox 2
16550 West Nine Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48075

Main Station: (248) 557-2000
Newsroom: (248) 552-5103

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices