Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Over! EFC Unbelievable?!?

<p>According to our estimated EFC, I can afford to send my kid to my alma mater which is now about 10 times as expensive as when I went there in the (ahem) 70s. Did I fill out something wrong? </p>

<p>We built our own home, but still have a mortgage. No car payments, but the car and van are almost as old as the kid leaving for college. We have a second mortgage because as you see below we had some extra debt when the hub lost the job. We have some credit card debt. We save very little. (mostly what my employer takes away from me. I have PERA ... gasp)</p>

<p>It looks like we have a decent income this year, but after the hub being out of work for a year, and just starting a business ... it feels like we live hand to mouth, but fafsa thinks we can afford a fantabulous education.</p>

<p>Oh, yes, and we own a "vacation" estate we inherited from the uncle (did anyone ever see THE MONEY PIT?) which is in value limbo since the cabin, but not the shed of course, burned down in the fires in Northern Minnesota last spring. The "deduction" for the loss of the cabin ... ah, what deduction?</p>

<p>Where do they think we have this money? Does anyone have a divining rod they can lend me so I can find that loot buried in the back yard. What are the key things that make them think we have gramma's loot stashed somewhere?</p>

<p>We are conservative with the cash, i'ts not like I have plasma tvs or a blue ray player or a diamond tierra I wear to costco. Very little in our house isn't homemade, OPS, clearance or inherited. </p>



<p>(btw, I solve unbelievably complex problems in IT for a living, but that fasfa form made me scream for my mommy).</p>

<p>They assume that you should have been saving for your kid's college education for the last 18 years.</p>

<p>P.S. Sending my sympathies.</p>

<p>Same here Cezzium!
I cannot understand where they think we have money. Maybe they can tell me - I'll be happy to search there. No assets (less than a 3-month-income emergency fund). No home equity. And Bay, if they assume this they could have requested our income history! 18 years ago we were in college ourselves.</p>

<p>It's that second "property". It's viewed as an asset that can be sold...</p>

<p>I know...it's no fun....</p>

<p>Citymom! Three months ... when can we move in?!?! I just wondered cuz i'm seeing these 1900 numbers and 0s and I wonder gee how bad do you have to be to get a 0. </p>

<p>I can only hope the college has some sort of questionnaire that takes other factors into account. </p>

<p>I can't wait till #2 son is a senior (omg).</p>


<p>The bottom line is that you are expected to save for college education. If you don't do that then the formula assumes you will sell or 2nd mortgage your vacation home and borrow from your IRA and/or 401k.</p>

<p>There is no financial aid reward for not saving for college.</p>

<p>Actually, I disagree, Iron Maiden. There certainly is a financial aid reward for NOT saving for college. Here's my story. ... </p>

<p>My husband and I were diligent for 18 years in saving for our two daughters. We were extremely frugal, paid off our modest home, drove high-mileage old cars, did state park-type vacations, and squirreled away every penny we could, looking ahead to the day they would head off to college. Unfortunately, tuitions increased at a rate that far, far outstripped our ability to keep pace. Still, we saved and saved. We were ultimately "rewarded" by qualifying for zero need-based aid when our first daughter left for college. Now that our second daughter is also in college, we get a little. Very little. ... Our college savings are being depleted at an alarming rate and our out-of-pocket costs are more than half of our annual pre-tax income. It won't be long before we'll be taking out a home equity loan to pay some school expenses, and we'll almost certainly end up as parents nearing retirement age taking on huge debt. Either that, or our daughters will leave college with enormous debt. Or both. ... Hmmm. </p>

<p>Yet, we have a friend who owns a 400-acre Thoroughbred farm, drives expensive new gas-guzzling SUVs, lives in a mansion, sends his children to an expensive private high school, travels all over hell's half acre, etc. Somehow, because the farm hasn't shown a "profit" of late (he invests his profits right back into the farm) and he still owes on it, his son has qualified for a very nice "need-based" award from the same school where my older daughter received zero. Ditto for an affluent doctor in our town, whose well-heeled lifestyle (huge home, new Lexus, etc.) apparently put him in hock to the point where HIS son qualified for significant need aid. ... Hmmm. </p>

<p>The lesson in this? Live above your means, squander your income and go into debt on fancy cars and expensive vacations. Or maybe develop a crack habit. If my husband and I had done any of the above, our family might have qualified for some need-based aid.</p>

<p>Fortunately, there probably are some colleges that you can afford even if it means taking out loans or having your kid commute from home. The U.S. ha thousands of colleges, and more than likely there are some that your kid can gain entrance to and your family can find a way to pay for.</p>

<p>"The lesson in this? Live above your means, squander your income and go into debt on fancy cars and expensive vacations."</p>

<p>Nope. Won't work. Credit card debt, living above one's means won't qualify one for financial aid. There may, however, be people who lied or hid money in order to qualify for financial aid while living above their means.</p>

<p>Hindoo; It certainly seems to work that way doesn't it. At least we get to reapply every year and hope for a new situation. Personal situations change, 529 or college savings slowly or quickly are depleted, more children going to school etc. I believe that saving for college is one of the best things you can do for your children. We are in the same boat as you, have saved quite a bit for three children (all very close in age.) A couple of years ago, after my third corporate restructuring, I decided to go on my own. Luckily it was over a year ago, so my FAFSA does show my current reality. I expect as my business grows that this will change and my EFC will go up. I guess that is a good problem to have. But for you, next year may be different and you will get additional help.</p>

<p>Good luck to you. Seems that your kids future is a priority and that will suit them well, yesterday, today and tomorrow.</p>

<p>cezzium- you might double check all your numbers to make sure no mistakes were made, and check the info on one of the EFC calculators to make sure your FAFSA EFC is similar.</p>

<p>How did you value your MN asset? You should have provided the NET proceeds you would receive if you had to sell it in today's market to pay for college. </p>

<p>Make sure that all info provided is as accurate as possible so you don't harm yourself ;)</p>

<p>Also, don't believe everything you hear from other people- we hear stories all the time about kids getting a full ride scholarship to the Ivies, as if the kid earned some fabulous merit award, yet the real award is need based only. Unless you have seen the package in writing take everything with a grain of salt- kids often don't know the true story with their folks, and people spin the truth many different ways.</p>

<p>It could be that the horse guy is "abusing the system", showing losses and not counting the horse farm assets as it is a business with less than 100 employees, but having had horses many years ago, he could also actually belsing his shirt on it ;)</p>

<p>"Fortunately, there probably are some colleges that you can afford even if it means taking out loans or having your kid commute from home. The U.S. ha thousands of colleges, and more than likely there are some that your kid can gain entrance to and your family can find a way to pay for."</p>

<p>This seems to be the message that many middle class families get. It's true, but not helpful, and I for one find it frustrating. Kind of like: "Stop whining! And why are you looking at those expensive LACs that give little or no merit money! Sorry your savings were too pitiful to help, but you DO have options: Go into enormous debt; take out huge loans; keep them home, attached firmly to your invisible umbilical cord; find some way to do college on the cheap, perhaps at a sixth-tier school that'll toss some merit $$ your way." </p>

<p>Yep, we could have forced our girls to live at home and to attend the public university they grew up half a mile from. It certainly would have been a lot cheaper and I would have had less to gripe about from a financial point of view. That's definitely THE middle class option I hear about over and over again, whereas the wealthy, the poor, and those who live high but cleverly conceal their assets or irresponsibly squander them away--those people can "afford" to send their bright kids wherever they want to go because they'll be subsidized to do so. I have no complaint whatsoever about the first two--if you're affluent enough to write a check and price is no object, good for you! If you're barely able to make ends meet and have a son or daughter who qualifies for aid to a great school, that's also wonderful! But if you fall into the vast middle, tough luck. Keep your kids at home and send them to a huge factory school where they can attend classes with 150 other bored students. I had that wonderful experience, 'lo those many years ago when I first attended college. Lived at home with Mom and Dad, commuted to a mediocre school, never felt a part of the campus community, made few new friends, loathed every minute of it, and dropped out my junior year. </p>

<p>OK, I'm ranting. Our family has chosen to tighten the belt to the point of strangulation, take on an ever-increasing debt load even though our retirement years loom straight ahead, and allow our daughters to attend quality schools far from home (Carleton and College of Wooster), where they are happily growing up as they learn and experience life in a way they could not have if I were still washing their clothes and fixing their meals.</p>


<p>You may have been dissatisfied with your experience at a large university and want "better" for your daughters, but your want apparently challenges your pocketbook. Yes, financing a college education is the responsibility of students and their families. Yes, middle class families may not be able to afford to send their kids to the schools they'd prefer. Yes, debt is a popular option for many families. The other option is to apply to LACs where your kid's stats put him or her at the top of the applicant pool and on track for merit money. </p>

<p>Many fine schools provide middle class families with a great education without massive amounts of student or parent debt. The only problem is that some students and families are so focused on ratings and tiers and status that the quality of the education is less of a concern than the degree to which family, friends and acquaintances will be impressed when they find out where the kid attends school. So, in your own words, "Stop whining!" It is not only, "sixth-tier school that'll toss some merit $$ your way." The majority of students qualified for Carleton and College of Wooster could have great college experiences, receive a stellar education, and graduate with little or no debt from schools in USN&WR's second tier. USN&WR doesn't actually have a second tier but rather lumps first and second tier together and calls it "top tier," so the status conscious can still claim to attend a top tier school.</p>

<p>All good points, dntw8up. Every now and then I feel the need to rant and whine and wallow in a vat of very unattractive self-pity, before bucking up and soldiering on. You're right on everything you said, but still, there's an element of unfairness in the system as described. At least in my demented mind. ... In truth, our family's debt load will probably not end up anywhere near as bad as my end-of-the-world thoughts would have it! (But still "bad!") The Wooster daughter did, in fact, get some merit $$, but, unfortunately, Carleton doesn't believe in such nonsense. She does, however, have NMF $, which is better than nothing. You're correct (as is Northstarmom) in saying that they could probably have had an enriching experience at other less expensive or high falutin' schools, but as perhaps overly doting parents, we wanted to send them off into the world to a place where they (thought) they really wanted to be. ... It's still frustrating to me that people who scrimp, save, and do the best they possibly can, can end up with fewer options than others who may game the system or squander their income as they go along, rather than saving it. ...</p>

<p>I do feel for you Hindoo, and the hundreds of others around these threads that are in similar or, excuse me, more dire situations. There is one girl who has been accepted into a top choice school and given all kinds of aid/scholarships to cover 90+% of her expenses. The problem is they can not afford to pay for or finance the remainder. Off to the local state school. Before I start to sound any more like John Edwards just let me say that I am glad you ranted on this thread. I am certain there are many who would like to have done the same. You have spoken for many middle-class parents. </p>

<p>I agree with the sentiment, but fully disagree with the "huge factory school" comment. Any expereince is what you make of it. There are plenty of examples of confident and successful graduates who went to schools that were not there top choices because of whatever reason; and there are many reasons, not just money. They made the most of their situation instead and took responsibility for their actions rather than blaming others. I count my blessing everyday as I would rather go broke paying for my kids to get a good education, then go broke baling them out of jail, sending them to rehab, paying for their indiscresions, etc.</p>

<p>atg4ever--I did feel a bit guilty about the "huge factory school" remark. But I think that comes from my own background baggage; as a resentful teen, I had attended a mega-school close to home--and commuted, no less--because that's what my family could afford. The experience was anything but enriching; certainly, I was too immature to make the best of it. </p>

<p>Fast-forward more years than I'd care to count: My own daughters have grown up almost literally on the University of Kentucky campus. I myself (as an older non-traditional student) graduated from UK a few years ago and loved every minute of my experience there. But my daughters wanted something different, something smaller, more personal, etc., and I was all for it. That's what they're getting, and I don't regret at all the sacrifices we've making to give them that last, great gift before they head off into adulthood and out of our nuclear sphere. I am, however, irritated by they way the system seems to be set up. Alas, life isn't always fair.</p>

<p>Iron Maiden:
But they are not punishing low-income families for not saving for college? From you current income they can sometimes predict your future income (although this is risky), but there is absolutely no way they can know your past income! It could be high, but it could be low, or even negative (if you were paying for your graduate school).</p>

<p>"It's still frustrating to me that people who scrimp, save, and do the best they possibly can, can end up with fewer options than others who may game the system or squander their income as they go along, rather than saving it."</p>


<p>I too have an EFC suggesting I can pay full cost of attendance at any school. I have worked hard and saved harder. Because home equity products aren't available where I live, I keep a few years salary in a savings account and carry a larger home loan than I would otherwise, so that I'll have cash should I encounter a catastrophic emergency (loss of job, debilitating illness, etc.) This savings is expected to be available to pay for college costs. </p>

<p>I understand that paying for my kid's education is my responsibility. Fortunately, my son is pretty considerate of our family and CHOSE to be enthusiastic about a LAC that gave him a scholarship covering tuition, fees and books for four years (we pay for his living costs.) More interestingly, he made this choice even though that LAC does not offer a major in the field he has been passionate about for many years!!! He rationalizes his sacrifice by changing his attitude. He has decided that an undergraduate liberal arts education should entail study in a wide variety of fields, so he will select courses that satisfy most of the prerequisites for graduate school in his eventual field, and spend the rest of his credits on his last academic opportunity to try different things. </p>

<p>USN&WR ranks his school similar to your daughter's school in OH, and I suppose it would be considered second tier by most people here, but it meets my son's needs and he is very comfortable sacrificing status and name recognition to be able to forgo working while a student, incurring debt, and/or spending our savings. I don't think of us as having "fewer options" so much as being challenged to find options that aren't readily apparent. Finding the right set of compromises hasn't been easy, but all of us are pleased with the results of our efforts. My son will do well because he wants to, our savings will remain intact because we want it to, and I don't worry about those who "game the system" or "squander their income…rather than saving it" because in life you reap what you sow and their practices will eventually make them miserable (think of all the folks who spent money they didn't have gaming the housing market!)</p>

<p>Ah, dntw8up, you are indeed a wise one. ... </p>

<p>Our older daughter went to Wooster, in part, because of their merit offer, which still left us with more than $20,000 out-of-pocket annually for her alone. Our other daughter, a year younger, was rather less considerate of her parents' finances. As a 35 ACT, 2290 SAT, 4.53, NMF, Presidential Scholar, two-year newspaper editor, and accomplished thespian, I believe she felt she'd worked so hard for so long, there had to be a tangible payoff. For her, that meant Carleton. She watched as like-minded friends gleefully accepted admissions to Yale (first-generation college student), Harvard (under-represented minority), MIT (under-represented gender) with impressive financial inducements. My daughter, on the other hand, had no hook, and chose a school that is as stingy as they come with merit money. ... Alas. ... </p>

<p>I'm not sure she understood that she could have been equally satisfied at any one of 100 or more nice schools dotting the American landscape. As her doting and perhaps foolish parents, we bit the proverbial bullet and sent her north into the bitter Minnesota hinterlands. ... (She is, however, doing work-study there, and labored long hours the past year at a restaurant job.) Unlike you, our family's savings will not remain intact, but that was our choice. Yes, I complain and whine at times, but what saint among us doesn't? ... And I certainly hope you're right that people who cheat and "game the system" will reap what they sow.</p>

<p>Hindo..I can absolutely relate to your daughters' desire to go to a smaller school. I was in the same boat more or less some time ago (like you, more than I care to remember). I received an athletic scholarship from a large top public university in Cal (near where I lived at the time); so costs were basically small (my parents were very happy). But after one year, I just could not continue to be just a number, 1 out of 35. I hated the lectures that were given in a hall seating 1500 people. If you did not arrive at least 20 minutes before class started, you had the watch the lecture from tv monitors because all the seats close up were taken. This is the closest I ever got to one og my professors. I had a heart to heart with my parents and told them I just did not want this type of experience. I took a year off from full-time student, worked several jobs and took required classes at a local JC. The, I found the right school. You can imagine when I told my parents that the school costs over $25K per year (= to today's $45K+). I made a deal that I would pay for the first semester and if I did well, they could help with the remainder. Best decision I ever made in my young adulthood. My parents had to sacrifice quite a bit back then (another story), but if you ask them today, they would not have changed a thing. I am proud of your efforts w/your daughters and this will be appreciated by them.</p>