Financial aid award not taking into account on campus housing costs

Hi, All.

My DS got accepted at both CSU Fullerton and CSU Long Beach as a Spring 2018 ccc transfer. He received Long Beach’s FA award a few weeks ago and it covers full tuition and on campus housing costs. We were waiting anxiously for Fullerton’s FA offer so that we could compare and decide which admission to accept before the 11/15 admission acceptance deadline for both colleges. By 11/09 we still hadn’t received it, so we ended up accepting both admissions on that date with the intent of making a final decision on where he would go once the second FA award was received.

Fullerton’s FA offer came in on 11/14. The COA was calculated as if DS was commuting from home when he actually will be applying for on campus housing. Consequently, the FA award isn’t sufficient to cover all costs and there’s a deficit of about $3K-4K. My son called Fullerton’s FA office today to discuss the situation and it was verified that his FAFSA for the college was submitted correctly and indicated the intent to live on campus. We live in Sacramento, so commuting is not an option. The FA counselor said that Fullerton stopped including on campus housing costs in its FA awards starting this year because students were accepting the higher awards and ending up not actually moving in to campus housing. She went on to say that Housing would notify FA once a student was assigned campus housing and the COA would then be adjusted to include increased room and board costs; however, the FA award probably wouldn’t increase. This seems incredible to me. The counselor said that I could apply for a PLUS loan to cover the deficit and if I don’t qualify, then DS could apply for addtional FA loans himself.

DS has decided that Fullerton is his first option over Long Beach; mainly because it has specific classes geared toward his business major that Long Beach doesn’t. I, however, am not comfortable with him signing a contract for Fullerton housing without knowing how it’s going to be paid for. Also, the application process has been so much smoother with Long Beach that it’s shown it is focused on making the process as easy as possible for students and their families. I’m convinced that it’s more student-centered, so would prefer my son go there.

What are your suggestions?

Most schools do not increase grant aid to cover the cost of on-campus housing. If the loans are maxed ($5,500), it doesn’t matter if he is living on or off campus. I am curious about the awards at each school … can you please post?

If you apply for and get a PLUS loan that is your debt, not your son’s.

You said that the Long Beach FA package covered all costs - does it do so with student loans? If so, is your son aware of how long and how big those payments will be? Are there unsubsidized student loans that will be accruing interest while he is in school?

Here is a good website to calculate the loan payment schedule, at the bottom of the calculation it includes the annual income necessary to support the loan comfortably.

Make sure you look up and use the current interest rates for the different types of loans. Student loan rates are very high these days.

What special courses for a business degree does your son think he needs? Beware of fancy titles. Sometimes the same course just has better “branding” at a different college.

The first semester in a Corporate Finance sequence might be called “Valuation” which sounds nicer but it will use the same textbook, cover the same material, and require the same amount of prep in order to take the CFA exams down the road…

Did he actually visit both campuses??

My son liked Long Beach because it was more residential. Fullerton appeared to be more commuter. Long Beach is harder to get into. Just curious why he wants Fullerton?

Since both are instate and CSUs, I assume the aid that would be federal and state aid should be similar at both.

Did he receive a scholarship at either one? Was his maximum student loan of $5,500 included at both?

Is the published room and board rate for on campus housing similar at both?

I agree with @kelsmom that comparing both offers side by side might help.

Also is it quite possible that he will get on campus housing at both schools?