Deep Diving for College Bargains

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Not all colleges are created equal. But are you looking for the college bargains?

Community college. State University. Private liberal arts college. Trade or technical college. Top-tiered business college. Ivy League college. Not all colleges are created equal.

If that’s the case, what makes a good college? Some might think it’s a #1 rated NCAA football team, or a college with an Ivy League designation, or even a school that is highly selective. A good college (as in good fit) meets the following three criteria: academic, social, and financial. The college that meets or excels in all three should be the college your student chooses. Even the best college (based on reputation) isn’t a good college if the student neglects the opportunities he is given while attending.

In terms of financial fit, does the college fit into your family’s college budget?

Look for the bargains

You don’t pay sticker price for a car and you don’t want to pay sticker price for college. Everyone wants a bargain, and college is no exception. Don’t believe the lie that you are at their mercy. You’re not–you’re the consumer and it’s your responsibility to make a wise financial decision.

Most parents believe that state colleges and universities are the best bargain. That’s not necessarily the truth. Don’t discount private colleges and universities. Believe it or not 87% of private institutions give merit aid via scholarships to accepted students. Just because the sticker price for a state school might be less, it doesn’t mean you’re going to pay less once the financial aid is dispersed.

Do a deep dive

Want to know how to find schools that dispense the most merit aid? Go to Click on the “search for college” tab. You will see the website’s search engine. Scroll down to the “financial friendliness” category and click “merit aid-include only students with financial need”. Then you can sort the colleges from the schools that are the most generous to the least generous.

Wonder which colleges meet 100% (or almost) of financial need? Here’s a good list: List of Colleges That Meet 100% of Financial Need.

Encourage your student to “kick in” financially

When it comes to making decisions about financing a college education, encourage your student to invest in their education. Even if you can afford to cover all the costs, students who contribute monetarily tend to take their education more seriously than those who don’t. It just makes sense that they be invested personally. Discuss money with them early in the college search process. By doing this, there will be no surprises when the financial aid award letters arrive.

There are several ways students can contribute: work study programs, summer job savings, and although not the preferred method, low interest student loans. Even if your student doesn’t qualify for work study, encourage them to find a part-time job while they are in college. This will not only ease your financial burden, but students who have some skin in the game will think twice about slacking off, partying all the time, and skipping class.

An added bonus: studies show that students who work during college do better academically because it forces them to organize their time between studies and work. It’s a win/win for both parties!

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