Tuition for Four: Ouch!

Out of our family of five, four of us are in higher education. My question is, why do we not qualify for financial aid other than the usual FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) monies? The head of the family earns $47,000 a year. That money doesn't carry us from paycheck to paycheck with all of the tuition dues.

--linda44
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Bruce Hammond

Bruce Hammond is an expert on college prep, applications and cost, and author of Discounts and Deals at the Nation's 360 Best Colleges and... Read more

Anybody who has paid one tuition can sympathize with a family trying to pay four! As I am sure you know, according to the federal need-based aid formula, every family has one "expected contribution" that is divided among all the students in the family who are pursuing higher education. Thus, four in college should usually translate to more aid. But whether it actually does depends on a lot of issues, notably how much aid the colleges are willing and able to give. The federal aid formula determines need, and the federal government offers some aid, but nowhere near enough to meet the whole need. At many universities, public and private, a gap is left uncovered between the amount of the need and the total of the aid package. While tuitions have skyrocketed since 1980, federal grant money has fallen in real terms.

At least one piece of good news is headed your way--the new Hope Scholarship and Lifelong Learning tuition tax credits. They should help by next April. You can read about them at www.ed.gov/inits/hope/tax_qa/. Maybe this will be a silver lining.

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