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>>

  • US bank earnings up 5.2 percent in 2Q

    US bank earnings up 5.2 percent in 2Q

    Thursday, August 28 2014 6:19 PM EDT2014-08-28 22:19:18 GMT
    U.S. banks' earnings rose 5.2 percent in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and lending marked its fastest pace since 2007.
    U.S. banks' earnings rose 5.2 percent in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and lending marked its fastest pace since 2007.
  • JPMorgan investigating possible cyberattack

    JPMorgan investigating possible cyberattack

    Thursday, August 28 2014 6:19 PM EDT2014-08-28 22:19:14 GMT
    JPMorgan Chase, the nation's biggest bank by assets, is working with law enforcement officials to investigate a possible cyberattack, said a person familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of...
    JPMorgan Chase, the nation's biggest bank by assets, is working with law enforcement officials to investigate a possible cyberattack, said a person familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity,...
  • Obama puts Ukraine violence squarely on Russia

    Obama puts Ukraine violence squarely on Russia

    Thursday, August 28 2014 5:39 PM EDT2014-08-28 21:39:51 GMT
    The Obama administration isn't outlining any immediate punishment of Russia even as it decries President Vladimir Putin's government for the apparent invasion of Ukraine.
    President Barack Obama suggested Thursday that the U.S. might impose new economic sanctions on Russia, blaming it squarely for the warfare in eastern Ukraine. But he ruled out any military options and proposed no shift in...
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 | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices