How to Pay for & Afford College Without Student Loan Debt

When Princeton Review editor-in-chief Robert Franek stopped by the Teen Kids News office to take our questions and yours about ways to afford college, we hit him with all our most pressing questions about what can be a daunting and confusing question about How to pay and afford college What did we learn?

WHAT DOES A YEAR OF COLLEGE TYPICALLY COST – HERE ON EARTH?

Well the way we talk about it at Princeton review is one year of public university average across the states, and that number for this year is $20,090 and remember that’s the big 4. Tuition, Room and Board, Fees and Books.

On the other side of the spectrum are schools that are private colleges. now for one year of private college average across the united states.  again the big four: Tuition, Room and board,fees and books, is $45,370.

WE ALWAYS HEAR ABOUT FINANCIAL AID.  HOW DO YOU FIND OUT IF YOU QUALIFY FOR THAT?

There are two ways to think about financial aid. Financial aid given out, based on a family’s need and then based on academic merits. So How well did you do in high school?  How well did you perform on the sat and act.

Here’s the important distinction about financial aid. One, for those dollars that your applying  to receive based on family need, you need to apply for financial aid through the FAFSA form (Free application for federal student aid). That’s active on your part and your parents part to make sure that you’re filling out and completing that FAFSA form and sending it in.

For the other dollars, for scholarship dollars and this is merit based dollars, grant dollars, scholarship dollars, you want to look for those words because that’s all money that you do not have to pay back. And that’s based on academic merit. The two factors that most schools will look at is, high school GPA and rigor of your courses and then SAT and ACT scores. so crossing those two streams will require that, will award you at the majority of schools scholarship dollars based on that academic need.  but remember there’s no separate application for those dollars in your application.

DO DIFFERENT SCHOOLS OFFER DIFFERENT AMOUNTS OF FINANCIAL AID?

The answer to that question is absolutely yes. and the interesting part is that there is a wide cross section of different dollar amounts given out by different schools, so it is well worth your while and your parents while to do your due diligence and dig down into the research of those different dollar amounts being awarded.

HOW CAN YOU TELL WHICH SCHOOL IS OFFERING THE BEST FINANCIAL AID?

One of the things and this is what, i’m very proud about doing this at the Princeton Review, we look at the total cost of attendance and we talked about that already that being the big 4: tuition, room and board, fees and books. But that only gets us the sticker cost of the school. Where it’s really valuable in thinking about what schools are actually giving out to being those sometimes lofty sticker costs down to something that’s going to be attainable and actually viable for the average family. So that is how aggressive is a school being to offer scholarship dollars, grant dollars, merit based dollars, and those are the things that we’re giving out, so sticker cost and then the average grants and scholarships that those schools are giving out. In addition to that and this is an important metric, we’re looking at the average amount of debt that students will graduate with after 4 years of college. so again, thinking about doing your due diligence we have done so much of that homework for students, in getting what is the real sticker cost that the typical student and parent will have to pay.

Let’s say we’ve done all our research and we’ve come up with What the ultimate cost is going to be… are there things we can do to actually increase the amount of aid we’re being offered – or will that give the school a bad impression of us?

it is an excellent question. and one that comes up pretty often. most deans of admission and deans of financial aid don’t like us to use the term “negotiate our financial aid package” however, that said, most deans of admission and deans of financial aid will invite a conversation with you and certainly with your parents in saying, you know, can we have a discussion about the cost and the scholarships we’ve already received.

The thing that I feel very comfortable for students and parents to do particularly if it’s a school  that is a first choice school for you. meaning that the 9 schools, that you’ve applied to, the 8 schools that you’ve gotten in to, this is your number one school. But for some reason you just can’t make the dollars work for the average student and family.  That is a very fair conversation for you to have with an admission or financial aid representative.  again you’re not negotiating your package, you’re having a conversation with them and talking about is there a way that we can bring down the even with the scholarships that we’ve gotten, to something that’s going to make it more viable for me as a family.

WHAT’S A “FINANCIAL SAFETY” SCHOOL?

Financial aid safety school is simply a school that you know that you’re going to be receiving either one, great amounts of financial aid to go to that school based on academic merit or scholarship dollars based on our family need or a school that simply has a lower sticker cost that we know as a family we can likely afford.

Getting a good college education can be priceless.  so don’t let sticker-shock prevent you from reaching for the stars.