Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Afford College at All Costs

The nation's total student debt is about $896 billion, according to a recent report by Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit independent research and policy organization. That's more than the nation's entire credit card debt.
So, as kids and families receive acceptance letters from schools, the euphoria of getting in is quickly tamped down by the fact that it's going to potentially cost about $30,000 a year -- or more.
So what can you do to make sure you can pay for your dream school?
On "The Early Show," CBS News Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis advised, if you haven't already, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.
"You go to the website and fill it out," she said. "It is a first-come-first-serve type of program. So, for Pell grants, for Stafford loans, for work study, this is what you're applying for through the FAFSA. The first people to fill it out are the first people to get it. On average, they get about $7,000 more just for filling it out earlier."
Co-anchor Chris Wragge said, "A lot of families fill it out saying there's no way we'll qualify for financial aid. You kind of have to appeal to some of these places, these schools and make a case for yourself."
"You do," Jarvis agreed. "And if you received a letter back from a school saying, 'Welcome aboard, we'd love to have you,' there is no reason why you can't go back to the school and say, 'Listen, I would love to attend, but financial aid package that you put together for me is not one that I can live with. It's not one that I can afford to pay.' One great thing to do is, if you get into a handful of schools, and one of them gives you a great financial aid package, take it to the school where you really want to attend and say, 'Listen, I would come here if you could do what the other guys are doing for me.'"
She continued, "If there's been an illness in the family, there's been a change of job circumstances, someone in the family lost their job, you can also appeal to a college or university on those grounds. About 30 percent more people are appealing these decisions now than they were before the recession began. So it's becoming more common."
Wragge said calls and appeals may help.