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Gaming the Financial Aid System


An article in this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal highlights how wealthy families can still pull down a lot of financial aid for their students–if they know how to game the system.Piggy Bank Graduate
It’s true.  Plenty of clients are surprised (pleasantly!) when their kids with average or slightly above average talents are awarded hefty aid packages.  Colleges want good students, and they are willing to offer discounts to the students they want.
Of course, there are plenty of colleges that don’t award any sorts of merit aid or scholarships.  These are generally at the top of the pile, academically and financially.  They don’t have a deficit of good students from which to choose, and their financial health allows them more freedom in selecting the kids they want without regard for ability to pay.
But many highly ranked colleges and universities are willing to provide discounts to good students.
Unfortunately, wealthy families are generally much more likely to understand how to game this system than their less well-off counterparts.  This fact was also reported in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education.
I’m glad to report that not all my clients are wealthy.  Many are of modest means who figure out–somewhere along the way–that an investment in learning to play the game like a pro will pay healthy dividends down the road.  I have one client, for example, whose family lives entirely on Social Security.  This student and his mother figured out that the boy could likely receive an excellent financial aid package–if they knew where to look.  But they didn’t know where to look.
So they invested in my fee to give the young man a better chance, and to ensure that he had an excellent strategy for gaming the financial aid system.
The result?  He will be attending a top liberal arts college tuition-free.  He also will pay nothing for room and board.  Books?  Free.  Travel?  Gratis.  By having a great strategy, this young man was able to pull together both need-based and merit-based aid.
Most of his friends at his Houston high school will be attending either the University of Texas or Texas A&M.  What sort of money was this boy offered at those two school?  Not a dime.
So what is his entire college education at an elite private college going to cost him (the sticker price is over $200,000)?  My fee.  A tiny fraction of the sticker price.
Some investments are worth making.
Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant and Gamer of the Financial Aid System
Technorati Tags: financial aid, college admission, educational consultant, scholarships, educational consulting, Denver, Colorado, Texas Tags: financial aid, college admission, educational consultant, scholarships, educational consulting, Denver, Colorado, Texas


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