Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

The college financial aid process can be confusing. Read on to explore our most frequently asked questions:

General Questions

HIDDEN ITEM

Who is College Affordable and how do you help families?

College Affordable is a non profit organization built to help families reduce the cost of college, minimize debt and increase higher education choices. Most families struggle with the rising costs of college. At College Affordable we position families to secure optimal financial aid from a myriad of sources. At College Affordable, we help families with the following to make support with the college financial more equitable by doing the following:

  • Create a realistic family budget to measure affordability
  • Optimize scholarship and grant opportunities at target colleges
  • Assist with completion of aid and grant applications
  • Review and interpret award letters to allow for fully informed decisions
  • Identify additional non-college scholarships
  • Review potential lenders to select the best opportunity

Knowing how to navigate this process saves substantial time and money!

Learn more about how we are supporting current school or community based organization here.

What services do you provide?

College Affordable offers a variety of services to assist students and families ranging from online self help tools to over the phone full support. Whether you need a small amount of help or assistance with every aspect of the process for accessing financial aid we are here to help you.

Check out our full list of services on our website. We are here to help in any way that we can.

Which schools and community based organizations is College Affordable currently working with?

We are happy to partner with several local schools and community organizations. Each of our partners has a personal page full of resources.

For a complete list of our partners please visit our partners page. To find your school or community organization please visit our  programs page.

Lastly, if you are interested in a program for your school or community organization please contact us here.

Can you share an example of how College Affordable helped a student?

Of course we can! In fact, we have already helped over 2,000 students, and continue to help more everyday and our stores continue to grow and grow!

We’ve helped students build affordable list of schools, complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile forms, understand and compare award letters, file appeals, find 3rd party scholarships, compare loan options and helped with renewals while in college (you have to reapply for financial aid every year while in college!).

For some examples check out our website.

Affordability Questions

HIDDEN ITEM

Will cost impact my choice of college?

Each person is different, but cost may play a factor in your college application process and ultimate decision making. As noted by Sallie Mae in 2022, 81% of students said they eliminated a college choice before even applying, meaning they had no knowledge of what they would actually pay after discounting and financial aid. For help estimating your potential costs, please check out our Student Aid Index Calculator and other financial tools here.

If you are affiliated with an existing school or community based organization we also provide a free, confidential aid eligibility assessment linked here.

How does the overall process work for accessing aid and paying for college (understanding need vs merit based aid)?

The good news is there is a significant amount of aid and financial support most students can access. The problem is the forms and processes for accessing the various type of financial aid are complex and time consuming, so it’s easy to make mistakes or not complete these at all (too much effort required).

We have a helpful webinar you can watch here that explains some of these processes and the difference between need based and merit based aid. 

Can you explain the various forms we are required to complete for financial aid?

Many forms are required to be completed in order to access various forms of possible aid. To access support from the US (Federal) government students need to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Many private colleges and universities also required the  CSS Profile as well. The CSS Profile is an online application used by colleges and scholarship programs to award non-federal institutional aid. In addition, some colleges may have their own forms too. 

Lastly, most 3rd party scholarships also require forms to be completed in order to be considered for their scholarships. Unfortunately these forms can be confusing, overwhelming and prone to costly errors. But we’re here to help! 

For more information, check out our webinar here.

I have a college counselor at my high school, isn’t this what he/she helps me with?

Yes, your school college counselor will definitely help you navigate the college financial aid process to some degree. However, think about all of the other students and tasks on your counselor’s plate– he/she is very busy! So busy in fact, that a recent 2022 study published by NACAC (National Association of College Admission Counseling), found that public school counselors are only able to spend 19% of their time on college advising! College Affordable was created to help counselors, students, and families to navigate how to reduce the cost of college, minimize debt, and increase higher education courses. We augment the great work school counselors do and work all together to help every student with the complicated financial aid world. 

For more information about how we can help you please visit our school programs page.

 

What services do you offer to families?

College Affordable offers your family the personalized support necessary to understand the financial aid process. We will be your ally helping you navigate this process throughout the year.  Some of the services we offer:

  • Create a realistic family budget to measure affordability
  • Optimize scholarship and grant opportunities at target colleges
  • Assist with completion of aid and grant applications
  • Review and interpret financial aid offers to allow for fully informed decisions
  • Review potential lenders to select the best opportunity

In addition to the above, we will be hosting a monthly webinar series to provide you timely information throughout the academic year. For more information and to register for our webinars, please register on our website.

What is the average student loan debt?

According to the Education Initiative, as of May 2023, the average federal student loan debt was $37,338 and the average private loan debt was $54,921. In addition, the average student borrows over $30,000 for a bachelor’s degree alone, and 20 years after entering school, over half of borrowers still had over $20,000 in loans outstanding.

We have a free tool to help you better understand loan calculations.

Can the FAFSA really make a difference?

It can! According to a February 2023 report from the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), 47% of students who graduated from high school in 2022 left about $3.6 billion in Pell Grants unclaimed by not completing the FAFSA. The average four year grant would have been worth over $20,000.  Grants do not need to be repaid. In addition by completing the FAFSA you can be eligible for US (Federal) Government loans that generally have favorable terms and conditions (when compared to private sector loans).

For more information check out FAFSA webinar here.

 

How does cost vary at different colleges?

The National Center for Educational Statistics reported that 1 in 10 freshmen pays sticker price, while average actual price is 53% off the sticker price.

There are a variety of choices and pathways to earning a college degree including community college, state colleges and more selective private colleges and universities (including a combination of these). The costs of these alternatives can vary significantly so each student should reach out to College Affordable for help building an affordable list of schools.

For more information check out our webinar here

I’ve heard there are significant changes to the FAFSA this year (class of 2024). How will this impact me?

“We are calling it FAFSA complication, not FAFSA simplification” – Samantha Veeder, Senior Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid at Univ. of Rochester

Families applying for financial aid for college for the 2024-25 school year are facing major changes to the financial aid application (FAFSA), the workflow for completing it, key terms and the formula being used to determine eligibility. Further complicating matters is that we are anticipating that the form is going to be released nearly 3 months later than it has been in the past. The deadlines to complete the FAFSA will be very tight once it is released by the Department of Education. The delay is going to also mean that aid awards are going to come later than normal as colleges wrestle with the integration of these changes putting even more pressure on families. While some students will face a negative impact from these changes, low-income students stand to see increased access to aid including Pell Grants. College Affordable is ready for these changes and positioned to support students and their parents/guardians to navigate these changes so they can access what is available to them. – Gregg Cohen, Board Chair, College Affordable

For more information, check out our webinar here.

I received my financial aid package from my college of choice, but unfortunately, it isn’t as much as I hoped it would be. Is there a way I can appeal to the school?

Yes! College Affordable can help guide you through this process. We offer support in reviewing and interpreting award letters to help you make fully informed decisions about what is best for you and can assist with the appeal process. 

As a first step, please watch our webinar on Financial Aid Offers and Appeals here.  Another helpful step is to submit your award letter here.

For additional support or questions, please contact us at financialaid@collegeaffordable.org. 

 

I’ve heard mixed things about 3rd party scholarships. Do you help with these?

3rd party scholarships can be a fruitful source of additional aid. Many require additional forms and materials to be submitted but the work can be well worth it. In general, focusing on local scholarships. Most schools maintain a list of local scholarships so students should proactively reach out to your school counselor department early in your Senior year (or earlier!) to find out what scholarships they may be eligible for. For our partner programs we provide a free  Scholarship Search Engine Tool as well.

How does the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance (OFSA) support me as a student?

As a resident of Massachusetts who has applied for financial aid via the FAFSA (link to related FAQ) you will receive an automated email notification  “Your Complete 2024 – 2025 Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) – next steps”.  We recommend that each student subsequently does the following:  

  • Login
  • Create an account
  • Check the information represented to them
  • There could be some additional MA State aid the student could qualify for that they should research within the portal

 Please contact our team with any questions: financialaid@collegeaffordable.org