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Parents4Parents: Parent of Two, Highly Knowledgeable in Financial Aid Matters - ASK ME ANYTHING!

CCadmin_SorinCCadmin_Sorin 2880 replies399 threads Community Manager
edited September 9 in Parents Forum
@kelsmom is the parent of two adult children, so she understands first-hand the challenges of paying for college and the importance of choosing an affordable school. Her older child attended a private school that meets need and her second child attended an in-state public university. Not only did they work hard to put together initial lists with cost in mind … but both of her kids transferred after freshman year, so they did it twice for each.

She has worked in higher education administration for many years, with experience in financial aid, admissions, and Registrar; her soft spot is for financial aid. kelsmom has more than a dozen years of experience working directly in financial aid, including at the Director level. She has worked hard to gain an understanding of what students/families want (and need to know) and she strives to provide information from that point of view.

Her most recent experience was at a small private graduate school, where she was a “working director.” Previously, she worked at a very large urban public university and a relatively small private college. She has worked directly with students and parents as they have navigated the financial aid process, including assisting with FAFSA completion, explaining aid packages, and identifying issues that may be affecting financial aid. She has attended numerous training sessions at the state and federal level, giving her an excellent understanding of federal aid rules and regulations. In addition, she has been in charge of institutional grant and scholarship programs, giving her insight into how schools distribute internal funds.

kelsmom looks forward to answering financial aid questions!


Are you a parent who accumulated expertise with certain schools or topics (e.g. financial aid, FAFSA, essay writing, test prep, etc.)? Do you have a unique story you want to share to help and inspire other parents? If so and want to be part of our Parents4Parents initiative send me a private message and we'll connect on next steps.
edited September 9
127 replies
Post edited by CCadmin_Sorin on
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Replies to: Parents4Parents: Parent of Two, Highly Knowledgeable in Financial Aid Matters - ASK ME ANYTHING!

  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 42700 replies2301 threads Super Moderator
    @kelsmom, thanks for doing this!
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16318 replies99 threads Senior Member
    I am looking forward to providing insight & assistance!
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  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame 999 replies16 threads Senior Member
    Thank you @kelsmom for generously offering to answering questions.

    1. What are the 3 most common misconceptions and mistakes made by students and their families in regards to Financial Aid that you have seen in your career?

    2. How difficult was it to get significant financial aid awards when your children transferred schools?

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  • CaliforniaMommaCaliforniaMomma 36 replies29 threads Junior Member
    Is there any reason to not fill out the FAFSA? around what household income means no financial aid? My husband and I have heard the paperwork is crazy and not sure if we need to bother or not. Any guess what income level for a family of 4 would not qualify?

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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16318 replies99 threads Senior Member
    @CaliforniaMomma, the FAFSA is not difficult to complete at all! I suggest completing it because some schools will require it in order to be considered for scholarships. Your student might get the scholarship even without financial need, but that form needs to be filed. It is required in order for a student to borrow a federal loan (even filthy rich students can borrow an unsubsidized loan). And heck, you might be surprised to get some institutional money, even if your only federal aid ends up being loans.

    That said, whether or not you want to fill it out is a personal choice. My son did not complete one for his transfer school, because we knew we wouldn't get any subsidized loans (which we would have had him borrow, because it's free money if you pay it back before repayment begins).

    The Profile is another story. This is a separate form which some schools require (in addition to FAFSA). More information is required for this than for FAFSA. Again, though, it might pay off. I think filing the form(s) freshman year at least is wise.
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  • compmomcompmom 12095 replies82 threads Senior Member
    I hope you can clarify subsidized versus unsubsidized loans.

    We had made it a goal to avoid all loans. But for the last half of senior year we are doing subsidized loans with a plan to pay them off quickly.

    The debt burden for so many young people is truly tragic.

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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16318 replies99 threads Senior Member
    @Lindagaf, thank you for asking your question. NPCs are pretty easy to complete, and they are accurate as long as the info entered is accurate. Of course, a student might be awarded a scholarship that would not be included in the NPC calculation (only automatic scholarships would be included) - but getting more is better than getting less.

    The exception to the NPC being accurate is for self-employed parents at schools that use the Profile or their own financial aid form to collect information. FAFSA-only schools do not add back the business-related deductions, but many schools that use Profile or their own aid form will add them back. This can increase the parent contribution and therefore decrease aid. In this case, families are wise to contact the school's financial aid office to ask for a financial aid estimate for their situation.
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  • compmomcompmom 12095 replies82 threads Senior Member
    After doing it for three kids, the FAFSA now takes me about 15 minutes :)

    great info @kelsmom on the loans...
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 84670 replies752 threads Senior Member
    Lindagaf wrote: »
    What are common mistakes people make when running NPC’s and why are there sometimes big discrepancies in the amount of FA expected and the amount of FA awarded?

    Would most of the common mistakes be along the lines of missing or incorrect information?

    E.g. student's parents are divorced. The college in question requires both parents' finances. The student puts in only the custodial parent's finances and gets an unrealistically optimistic estimate. Or the non-custodial parent, not wanting to let the custodial parent know the true state of his/her finances, gives an inaccurately low estimate of his/her income and assets to the student running the net price calculator, resulting in an unrealistically optimistic estimate.
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16318 replies99 threads Senior Member
    edited September 5
    Yes, errors entering information or omitting information will certainly lead to an incorrect NPC result. The only way to get an accurate idea of financial aid is to provide accurate information. And the only way to get an accurate initial award letter at acceptance is to provide accurate information.
    edited September 5
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  • thumper1thumper1 78861 replies3558 threads Senior Member
    Could you please comment on how retirement rollovers are handled on the FAFSA form? From my back seat, this is one of the most common errors folks who have done these rollovers make. They don’t deal with this data correctly on the FAFSA form.
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  • ArtsyKidDadArtsyKidDad 199 replies19 threads Junior Member
    edited September 5
    kelsmom wrote: »
    The exception to the NPC being accurate is for self-employed parents at schools that use the Profile or their own financial aid form to collect information. [...] In this case, families are wise to contact the school's financial aid office to ask for a financial aid estimate for their situation.

    Do you suggest waiting until FAFSA and Profile becomes available on 10/1, or contacting the FA office earlier?
    My concern would be that for the ED application, knowing the FA amount would be necessary for our non-full-pay family, and waiting until 10/1 would leave only 1 month for their review and our decision, while they will probably be flooded with such requests at that time.
    edited September 5
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16318 replies99 threads Senior Member
    edited September 5
    Although it’s relatively uncommon (at least from the perspective of someone on the aid processing side), errors in reporting retirement account rollovers can really mess things up for the student.

    Retirement savings moved from one qualified retirement plan to another qualified plan should not be reported as untaxed income on the FAFSA. However, if a parent/student uses the IRS Data Retrieval Tool embedded in the FAFSA any rollover will be reported incorrectly.

    The data retrieval tool does not identify and exclude tax return IRA and/or Pension distributions that have been rolled over into another account. It will take the IRA/Pension distribution minus the taxable portion of the distribution and enter the result as untaxed IRA and/or Pension on your FAFSA. This may result in a higher Expected Family Contribution (EFC) than you should have.

    When transferring data in the DRT process, you will be asked if you had a rollover. When you check yes, you will be asked for the amount; enter it here. The amount you enter will be considered when the EFC is calculated. Some schools may want to verify the amount you reported as being rolled over; in this case, they will request documentation.

    If you miss the rollover question, DO NOT attempt to correct the information yourself (not sure you even can, since that is probably not a field you can change). By changing any of the tax data, you compromise the data transferred from the IRS.

    So what do you do to fix the issue? Contact the school to find out what information they want & how they want you to submit it. If you’re applying to more than one school, you need to do this for EACH school. They will most likely want a note requesting a correction to your FAFSA Untaxed IRA and/or Pension Rollover and a copy of IRS Form 1099 from the organization the IRA or Pension was rolled into. The school will make the necessary updates to the FAFSA.

    edited September 5
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16318 replies99 threads Senior Member
    @ArtsyKidDad, if you have financial aid concerns, I encourage you to contact the financial aid office as early as possible. Schools are typically slammed at the start of the school year, but they should be ready to talk a few weeks into the semester. While some may ask you to wait until after the new FAFSA is released, others have no issue talking with you sooner.
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  • HMom16HMom16 872 replies22 threads Member
    Given layoffs and unemployment due to Covid, it is likely that many families have finances significantly different than those reflected on their 2019 tax returns. As a result, initial awards may need to be appealed after admission. Schools that meet full need and don't require loans are likely to be inundated with this type of request. What are your thoughts regarding how this will play out this coming year?
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  • bgbg4usbgbg4us 1646 replies46 threads Senior Member
    Grad School FA. My daughter is looking at a Masters of Architecture. She wants to go to a good school; (at our state school now and wants to leave). I can't believe how much it costs in tuition.

    so - can you tell me
    1)how grad school FA works at meets needs schools?
    2)Is a kid considered independent for grad school? does that matter at all?
    3)does a kid fill out the FAFSA for grad school? I know there's no pell or subsidized loans in grad school; what if a kid hasn't taken those out before. . . can they be offered in grad school? ;
    4) anything else we should know as she starts looking at this? thanks!

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