Why Financial Aid Offers Are So Difficult to Understand

Stanford recently announced that they are currently offering free tuition to any student whose parents have a combined income of less than $125,000 a year. This not only makes the school financial accessible to a greater range of students, it is a simple way for families to accurately estimate their expenses and know for sure how much financial aid can they can expect.

Unfortunately for most families, financial aid is not so easily deduced. When families submit the FAFSA they are also able to calculate their expected family contribution (EFC). However, many financial aid offers stop well short of meeting the family's complete need, meaning the amount they have to pay can be well above their EFC.

There are other tricks college use, like front-loading your financial aid offer with lots of grants for freshmen that go away in your sophomore year. Or packing an aid package with loans making their offer appear to be generous when it really isn't.

To top it off, there is no standard format for how colleges report their financial offers, meaning comparing offers can be difficult. How do you know if the one you received is fair?

Comparing Your Offers

Based on data the schools themselves report to the government, you can determine whether you received more or less than the typical applicant. If you want to try our tool that automatically compares your financial aid offers, start here!

Few families know that you can contact college to ask for more money in the form of scholarships and grants. If you want help with this process, check out Project College Cost Cutter. When you sign up you’ll also be sent our free eBook “Avoid Wasting Money on College Tuition”.