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Well, I took my first look at the CSS profile today, and I am ****ED:
Item SR-160 "Enter the amount your parents think they will be able to pay for your 2008-2009 college expenses." What sort of stupid question is that? The whole reason for filling out the profile is to guesstimate that amount. Is there any reason not to enter "0" on this line?
item PD-170 and PD-270 "Enter the total current value of this parent's tax-deferred retirement, pension, annuity, and savings plans." Does this question imply that they count retirement savings as something which should at least partially be contributed towards tuition? If yes, I am flabbergasted... Even divorce lawyers cannot touch that, but in effect this is in play for greedy colleges?
item SQ-523 "Enter the estimated amount that will be withdrawn for the student for the 2008-2009 academic year from Section 529 prepaid tuition plans" Does anyone know how this enters the calculation? Am I better off stating that we will withdraw the majority of the account during the first year, or just 25%. We will probably be paying full ride anyway, I just want to "stick it to the man" in any shape or form possible :-)
item SQ-524 "Of the amounts reported in PROFILE Help Codes SA-100 and SA-110, approximately how much of the total cash, savings, and investments was provided by your parents?" Same question as above - my D has a small UGMA investment account. How does this go in the calculation if funded by us vs. saved by her?
Section PA "Parents' Assets" This one really drives me nuts. For starters, savers are penalized over spenders. You are asked to enter the value of all savings/investments, but not other assets such as cars, expensive jewelry, ATVs, 100-inch plasma TVs, that $20k audio system, gizmos of all sorts, etc. So if you happen to drive a beater and have $50k in savings your EFC goes up, but if you drive a BMW and have $0 in savings your EFC goes down. Or if you are a total slacker, and are still paying off college loans when your own child is about to go to college you get a break. Or if you are one of the very few who can afford tuition for private secondary school (a completely discretionary expense) you also get to deduct that. Or if you have a home equity loan that you used for a Bahamas vacation but "forget" to mention that fact you get a break. Grrrr....
Living above your means is encouraged because your mortgage payment is "protected". To add insult to injury, the student is asked to report the value of their vehicle (item SQ-505), which is counted as available 100% for college contributions, despite the fact that in the vast majority of the cases this vehicle is paid for with parent resources. Worse yet, you are penalized in the calculation if the vehicle is paid off than if you owe money on it (item SQ-506). Double grrr...