Spring 2018 Parent News
Middle-income families often feel like they’re caught between a rock and hard place: They make too much to qualify for much need-based aid, but not enough to foot the entire college bill. So how do they make it work?
“Some of these families understand after completing the FAFSA that they don’t qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, but fail to realize there is other gift aid available to help with the cost. Some have been able to save for their child’s college education, but many have not been able to do so,” said Jeff Younge, director of financial aid at Bethany Lutheran College.
Colleges work hard to meet the needs of these middle-income students. While the meaning “middle-income” is notoriously slippery, for this article we’re defining it as those who the FAFSA determines make too much to receive the Federal Pell Grant but are still eligible for state grants or federal subsidized loans.
“A large portion of Augsburg's population is considered middle income,” said Gina Jones, director of financial aid at Augsburg University. “A common question we are asked is ‘How can we make this work because my child really wants to come here?’ We spend a great deal of time with these families in counseling sessions to make sure they understand all their options and have a plan in place before their child begins classes.”
Understanding financial aid
Middle-income families aren’t in it alone. When it comes to paying for college, Younge stressed that it’s a partnership with five potential players: the parents, the student, the government, the school and private parties offering scholarships. “If we can get all five players contributing, it can make college very affordable,” Younge said.
“Middle-income families should understand that there are multiple avenues and components when it comes to paying for college and the determination of aid eligibility,” Jones said. That often means using a combination of need-based grants, scholarships, work-study, loans, savings and current income. Many colleges work with families to set up payment plans for out-of-pocket costs. “We counsel families setting up a payment plan by semester and by academic year. We also counsel them on Parent PLUS loan and private loan options.”
It’s important to note that financial aid eligibility isn’t just determined by income. The FAFSA uses a number of components to determine need, including the age of the oldest parent, marital status, non-retirement assets, the number of family members and how many family members are enrolled in college. One the biggest surprises is the effect of having two children in college at the same time. “For some, that means that both students receive a Minnesota State Grant, when prior to the second child enrolling, the enrolled student did not receive one,” Younge said.
Merit aid from the intuition or scholarships from private organizations may factor in other criteria such as the student’s major, high school GPA or ACT/SAT scores as well as the parent’s professional affiliations.
“Another piece of advice we give these families is to have the student apply for student work-study positions on campus,” Jones said. “This is a great way to help the student gain work experience and contribute to their educational expenses.”
Save for retirement or college?
Often wrapped up in the broader conversation about paying for college is how to balance saving for college with saving for retirement, especially since many parents reach the peak of their earning years when their child is in high school or college. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or advice when it comes to saving for college and retirement since every family’s financial situation is unique.
Younge did point out that for some families it might be better to prioritize saving for retirement over saving for college. “While the money for college will likely be needed sooner than money for retirement, there are really no loans available to subsidize a retirement plan. They will be in a much better position to help their children with college expenses through a monthly payment plan with the school if the concern about retirement savings is being satisfied.”
And Jones advised that families make sure they complete the FAFSA accurately and completely. “Sometime parents leave out information or don't include the correct number in the household and this can have a significant impact in their child's aid eligibility. Also, if a family has experienced a large debt burden — such as bankruptcy or the medical or college expense for another child — we recommend inquiring about a professional judgment to ensure the income on the FAFSA is a true representation of the family's financial situation.”
Estimating how much you might pay for college doesn’t need to be a mystery. Each colleges has a net price calculator on its website to help families get an idea of what a school might cost based on your specific circumstances. “While only an estimate, many parents are very surprised by how affordable private schools can be,” Younge said. “Many don’t realize the amount of institutional dollars that are available until they use the calculator or receive their official financial aid award from the school.”
Jones emphasized that it’s never too early to ask questions and to make appointments with the college financial aid offices to find out more information. “At Augsburg we hold two separate open houses each year and invite local high school students with their families to visit our campus and get all their questions answered.”
“I’d also recommend that students get to know their guidance counselor at their high school,” Younge said. “Many times these folks can point families to local scholarships that they can apply for.”
And don’t forget to check if your local high school holds FAFSA completion nights, which can be a good option if you need help or just advice on completing the FAFSA.
Learn more about how to pay for college.
By Lisa Thompson
Discussing money can be an uncomfortable topic for even adults to broach, but it's important to have a sit down with your student about paying for college so they have a better idea of what college costs as well as how and who will be paying for it.
Start with the basics
The cost of college is more than just tuition and required fees. There’s also room and board (that is, housing and food for the academic year), books and supplies needed for classes, living expenses and transportation expenses to get to and from the college.
Net price vs. listed price
This is often where families get confused, but it's vital that you understand the difference. When you see the cost for one academic year posted on a college's website, don't assuming that is what you will pay. Only a small percentage of students, generally those from the wealthiest families, pay the full amount. Most students benefit from financial aid as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA).
Using a number of factors (not just income), the FAFSA estimates how much need-based aid each student is eligible to receive. That can changes depending on such things as the cost of each college and the number of students you have in college.
To get an idea of how much a college might cost BEFORE you apply or fill out the FAFSA, use the college's net price calculator. By entering some of the financial information unique to your family, these calculators will give you a better idea of how much the college will cost based on your specific financial circumstance. This adjusted cost is referred to as "net price" and is a more accurate estimate of the college's cost.
Filling out net price calculators with your student provides a good opportunity for you have a candid discussion about cost before any college applications are submitted. To help get you started, we've compiled a list of links to each of our member college's net price calculator.
You can also use the FAFSA4CASTER to get an estimate of your expected family contribution and eligibility for financial aid. This tool has fewer questions than the actual FAFSA and requires you to enter less personal information.
When to file the FAFSA
You can file the FAFSA beginning on October 1 for the upcoming academic year. It can pull in your previous year's tax information so there is no need to wait until after January 1. Remember: To be considered for federal, state and institutional aid and be offered the most complete financial aid package, you must complete the FAFSA.
Need help managing all deadlines? We've gathered together the key admissions and financial aid deadlines for our colleges in once place to make it a little easier.
Need more information and guidance? These past articles might help:
- Keep your options open by finding the real cost of college
- What you need to know about applying for financial aid
- Considering financial aid
- Answers on affordability
- Where to turn for college planning, prep advice
By Lisa Thompson
Looking for ways to keep your student learning or physically active this summer? Our colleges have options — from sports to music to culture camps! Many programs are offered every year for middle and high school students. And if your student has never been on a college campus, a summer camp at one of our colleges can be a fun introduction.
View our list of programs and then follow the links to more information.
There is a common narrative that going to a liberal arts college leads to a worthless degree because grads can’t get jobs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that career options are almost limitless. Here are two interactive tools that help visualize this:
- Carleton College’s interactive tool helps both current and prospective students understand that majors can lead to many types of careers. It shows the major of graduates and their career field, connected by a line. These lines have different thicknesses corresponding to the number of graduates with a specific major and a specific career. Learn more about the tool.
- The Hamilton Project’s interactive career path tool looks at career paths and earnings of graduates within a college major. The results can also be filtered for specific genders and age groups.
And consider this: employers say that a college grad’s major matters less than their soft skills, such as the highly sought after critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills taught at a liberal arts college. So remember to look beyond specific majors.
Read the insights from the presidents of two of our colleges on how the liberal arts prepare students for today’s — and tomorrow’s — workforce.
If you’re craving more about how a liberal arts education or majors actually work in the workplace, check out the following articles:
- Business schools’ new artsy edge
- The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students
- Yes, your kid will do something with that philosophy degree after all
- Liberal arts education prepares you for life in a rapidly changing world
- The unexpected value of the liberal arts
- Why we need the liberal arts in technology's age of distraction
- Six reasons why your college major doesn't matter
- Will picking the right college major land you a better job?
Registration will open on April 1 for Minnesota Private College Week, a five-day campus visit event held annual the last full week of June. This year’s event runs from June 25 to June 29 with two session daily — from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — at all 17 of our member colleges.
- Use our college finder to narrow down which colleges you might want to visit.
- Check each college’s profile to learn more.
- Get your questions answer with our frequently asked questions page.
- Read what past students and parents had to say about event.
- Check out our ideas and advice on how to make a road trip out of it.
The map below provides a general idea of where each campus is located. For specific locations, visit our Google map. Also be sure to check out our mileage chart of distances between campuses if you intend to visit two in a day.
When comparing college costs, it’s important to also factor in how long it will likely take to earn a degree. Although no one plans on taking more than four years to graduate, the reality is that many student do — paying more years of tuition and losing out on income because they’re starting their careers later. That’s why graduate rates matters, and our 17 member colleges have the best grad rate in the state and the Midwest as well as the third highest nationwide.
When senior Hamline University business major Madi Nelson was exploring her college options as a high school student, affordability was a major consideration, but it wasn’t the only factor. “I felt like I was going to be the most successful at Hamline,” Nelson said. That success allowed her to graduate early, and she gained a unique perspective on financial aid by working in campus financial aid office.
Learn what’s happening at our colleges with a quick rundown of recent news.
Augsburg's Hagfors Center opened for courses January 8
Augsburg University's largest academic building embodies Augsburg’s commitment to student learning, urban placemaking and thoughtful stewardship.
Bethany looking to the sun for energy
Bethany Lutheran College has moved to purchase some of the electricity it needs through the Community Solar Garden program; the solar farms involved are near Mankato and Waseca.
Bethel student makes history and raises awareness for people with disabilities
Bethel University BUILD student Mikayla Holmgren ’18 became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant.
Lakota Language Initiative at Pine Ridge
Carleton College’s Sydney Botz '19 and Haley Grable '20 interned at the Lakota Immersion Childcare, developing educational curriculum for the next generation of fluent speakers.
Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s ranked among top study abroad schools
The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University are ranked among the top baccalaureate schools for the total number of students who studied abroad.
St. Scholastica faculty member lends expertise to EPA research efforts
The College of St. Scholastica Professor Jen Maki is playing a key role in a research effort that will help scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency determine how certain chemicals affect living things.
Cobbers compose for Lyra Trio
A Concordia College junior's musical composition will be performed by a music faculty trio. The student was asked to create a piece for the Lyra Trio.
CSP student-athletes achieve outstanding academic success rate
Concordia University, St. Paul student-athletes achieved a four-year 92 percent Academic Success Rate and are one of 32 NCAA Division II institutions to earn the Presidents’ Award for Academic Excellence.
Gustavus announces $10 million gift from transportation entrepreneur
A gift commitment to Gustavus Adolphus College will support the Nobel Hall of Science expansion and renovation and scholarships for the most talented students.
Hamline plays at new TRIA hockey rink
The Hamline University women's and men's hockey teams have a new home to skate in — one with a panoramic view of downtown St. Paul.
When internships don’t pay, some colleges, like Macalester, will
Dean Mindy Deardurff of the Career Development Center was quoted and Macalester College mentioned in the “Education Life” section of the Sunday New York Times.
Updates from MCAD president Jay Coogan, including election signage
Staff and students at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design created the design templates for the election signage used throughout Minneapolis at 125 polling place.
Saint Mary’s launches new online business program
In January Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota launched a master’s degree in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics.
St. Kate's graduate behind monthly "Come Together" prayer service and peace walks
St. Catherine University alumnae Bonnie Steele '07 wants to spread healing, love and hope to neighborhoods across Twin Cities.
St. Olaf ranks No. 1 in study abroad for ninth straight year
St. Olaf College once again sent more students to study abroad than any other baccalaureate institution in the nation, according to the Open Doors 2017 Report on International Educational Exchange.
University of St. Thomas kicks off $200 million scholarship drive, announces $50 million gift for GHR Fellows
The University of St. Thomas has set scholarships as priority one for fundraising with a goal of infusing $200 million in support for students over the next eight years.
Interested in more campus news? View past news items from all our campuses.
Here are some of the best recent articles that we’ve come across:
What is college for? (Hint: It’s not just about getting in.)
Washington Post, Dec. 13, 2017
More Minnesota students are graduating, but how many are actually ready for jobs or college?
MinnPost, Jan. 24, 2018
Planning to borrow for college? Then it’s time to clean up your credit
Pioneer Press, Jan. 27, 2018
Business schools’ new artsy edge
The Hechinger Report, Jan. 30, 2018
What’s the purpose of higher education? College is about more than simply getting a job
Inland Empire Community Newspapers, Feb. 7, 2018