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Finding Money for College

Experts report that many colleges are so concerned about declining student enrollments (down 13.5 percent from 1975), that they are willing to negotiate financial arrangements. To aid in this process, we offer the following suggestions:

  • Shop for great deals.

  • Spend time with your child's teachers and guidance counselors, and evaluate your son or daughter's strengths.

  • Apply to the schools that value your child's strongest assets. If your child excels in a sport and plans to play in college, look for schools that give athletic scholarships. If he or she excels academically, look for schools that offer scholastic bonuses: For example, students who rank in the top 10 percent of their class can attend New York's Bard College (normally $27,000 a year) for the same price charged by their state university, if they are accepted.

  • Be a shrewd negotiator.

    Beware of the second-year "slump in money"

    A growing number of colleges award to incoming freshmen generous aid packages, then dramatically reduce the awards in subsequent years. However, many colleges are willing to place limits on price increases. Request written commitments that lock in college costs and aid packages for all four years.

    If you have changing family circumstances during your child's college years (perhaps a younger child begins the college process), try to renegotiate your initial aid awards. Submit a written request for an evaluation, provide documentation about increased family need, and ask for a larger amount. Be specific about requests; for example, say, "I would like $6,000 in grants or scholarships – not loans."

    Turn four into three

    More colleges are offering three-year tracks. Adopting this path can save families as much as $20,000. Talk with your child to decide if the extra load and summer courses would be manageable for him or her.

    Check out hidden scholarships. Although many scholarships are based on academic merit or family need, there is a wealth of scholarship money available from other sources. Many corporations, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations offer unique scholarships that are not well known, so they have fewer applicants.

    For more information on scholarships, first seek advice from your son or daughter's guidance counselor. Next, check with colleges, past and present employers, community organizations, and fraternal groups. Then hit the library. Ask the resource librarian if she has any of the scholarship databases available on computer.

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