College Goal Sunday – touchdown or fumble?
In countless locations in over 40 states, college financial aid officers and state officials are the main sources of information at this new generation of financial aid night called, College Goal Sundays. Traditionally, financial aid nights are held in the fall at thousands of high schools, and it is here that parents and their students learn about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the CSS Financial Aid Profile, federal loans, and grants for very low income families. However, as informative as these programs may be, what is noticeably absent in their game plan is any discussion whatsoever about the many legal options families have that will help them qualify for maximum financial aid.
With all the hype preceding a College Goal Sunday, families are led down a slippery slope leaving them with the false impression that the colleges will assist them to obtain all the aid necessary to send their sons and daughters to the college of their choice. When the award letters arrive in the spring revealing thousands of dollars in unmet need, families face the rude awakening of having to pay additional monies they thought they could bank on; money that unexpectedly ended up accruing interest in the bank account of the college their student will be attending.
Most applicants have no clue where to turn for the kind of help that will make it possible for them to reduce soaring tuition and related costs. Consequently, most put all of their eggs in the College Goal Sunday basket limiting the advice they receive to speakers who represent those who profit from the financial aid process. Such a game plan sets families up for major penalties and turnovers when the financial aid game begins.
Financial aid officers and the federal government are the custodians of the cash and keepers of the financial aid checkbooks. They conduct the business of providing a college education with the philosophy that they serve the people best when at the same time they also serve themselves, putting their own financial interests ahead of the families they counsel or assist. If this were not so, the endowment funds of our colleges and universities would not be in the billions and bursting at the seams! Harvard’s endowment fund of 35 billion could actually pay for their entire enrollment for the next 100 years and still have billions of dollars left over!
The one inescapable irony here is that the vast majority of families obtain professional assistance when completing state and federal income tax forms, but when it comes time to apply for financial aid, too few seek professional counseling and grossly overpay for college. This makes little sense when you consider that the annual cost of a 4-year college today far exceeds the average annual tax bill.
Somehow, the American people have been duped into believing that they must do everything they can to reduce or eliminate their taxes, but that it’s OK to overpay for their kids’ higher education. Just imagine an Income Tax Goal Sunday sponsored by the IRS. Do you honestly believe they would offer tax planning strategies guaranteed to reduce your tax liability? Of course not, and no College Goal Sunday quarterback will be offering financial aid strategies to reduce your college bill either. While it is certain they will assist families in how to properly file the FAFSA, showing them how to maximize their financial aid awards will not be one of their College Sunday goals.
Families should be forewarned and not attend such gatherings blindly believing that all of their prayers will be answered. They should absorb all the useful information offered, but before filing the FAFSA, they would be wise to contact a local college funding professional for expert advice.
The counseling of financial aid professionals is always far more beneficial than school or state sponsored programs as they begin with how to apply for financial aid and include instruction on how to apply legal financial strategies that are guaranteed to maximize financial aid dollars. Seek them out. Go to them. Learn from them. Financial aid professionals are the one sure way to reduce tuition and related costs by thousands of dollars.
P.S. College families, as well as the college-bound, should be comforted by the fact that even after the FAFSA has been submitted, it can still be corrected so that revealing financial information can be legally deleted thereby maximizing their financial aid packages for every year their students are in college. (You’re not likely to hear that useful piece of information at a College Goal Sunday…)