How Much do I have to Pay? Why Determining Your Bill is so Important.
Figuring out how much a college costs is half the battle. We all have heard of the pricetag attached to attending college, but few people know exactly how much it will cost to get an education at an instituition. Many people will look at the sticker price and become overwhelmed and disillusioned with the prospect of attending college all together without taking the time to do the actual math needed. In order to figure out if a college is affordable for you, you need to determine your "gap."
What is the "Gap"?
A "gap" is the amount of money needed to satisfy the bill directly with the university. The gap is money paid directly to the college after all scholarships, grants and student loans have been applied to the student account.
Why is it important to determine the gap?
Your gap gives you a better picture of exactly how much is needed to pay out of pocket to attend a school. This number does not include books, miscellaneous expenses, personal or travel as these are all estimated expenses that a student and family can control and though important are not paid directly to the university.
How do I determine my "gap"?
Once you get accepted to a college be sure that school is listed on your FAFSA. You will receive a financial aid award letter listing all financial aid the student is eligible for from the college. A student will receive a financial aid award letter from eac college he/she is accepted to AND is listed on the studens FAFSA.
Use these calculations to determine "gap"
Tuition + Fees + Room + Board = Direct Costs
Direct Costs – Scholarships Awarded – Grants Awarded = Net Cost (Out of Pocket Cost without Loans)
Direct Costs – Scholarships Awarded – Grants Awarded – Direct Student Loans = Gap or Bill (do not include Work Study or Parent PLUS Loan
What should I do after I determine my gap?
Compare the final “gap” or “bill” of each college after completing these calculations. See which school is most affordable with and without student loans.
College should be approached as a financial decison. By completing these calculations and comparing costs the student and family can become smart consumers in the college game. With student loan debt on the rise we have to educate ourselves about the pitfalls of college financing and approach it with as much information and prepration as possible. Be smart about college money!