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Can you separate college financial aid myths from facts?

For all you parents out there, how knowledgeable are you about college financial aid? See if you know whether these financial aid statements are myth or fact.

1. Family income is the main factor that determines eligibility for aid. Answer: Fact. But while it’s true that family income is the main factor that determines how much financial aid your child might receive, it’s not the only factor. The number of children you’ll have in college at the same time is also a significant factor. Other factors include your overall family size, your assets, and the age of the older parent.

2. If my child gets accepted at a more expensive college, we’ll automatically get more aid. Answer: Myth. The government calculates your expected family contribution (EFC) based on the income and asset information you provide in its aid application, the FAFSA. Your EFC stays the same, no matter what college your child is accepted to. The cost of a particular college minus your EFC equals your child’s financial need, which will vary by college. A greater financial need doesn’t automatically translate into more financial aid, though the more competitive colleges will try to meet all or most of it.

3. I plan to stop contributing to my 401(k) plan while my child is in college because colleges will expect me to borrow from it. Answer: Myth. The government and colleges do not count the value of retirement accounts when determining how much aid your child might be eligible for, and they don’t factor in any borrowing against these accounts.

4. I wish I could estimate the financial aid my child might receive at a particular college ahead of time, but I’ll have to wait until she actually applies. Answer: Myth. Every college has a college-specific net price calculator on its website that you can use to enter your family’s financial information before your child applies. It will provide an estimate of how much aid your child is likely to receive at that college.

5. Ivy League schools don’t offer merit scholarships. Answer: Fact. But don’t fall into the trap of limiting your search to just these schools. Many schools offer merit scholarships and can provide your child with an excellent education.

 

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