Having your very own personal financial aid expert continually looking out for your interest is as valuable as having a very good defense attorney. Throughout our society we have become increasingly depended upon the services of experts to advices us on the most complex and challenging parts of our lives. Just like a tax professional helps prepare our taxes, a personal trainer help us get in shape, a nutritionist picks our meals, a financial planner help us with our finances or even a realtor help us find our dream home. A personal financial aid consultant works on their client’s behalf helping them and their families navigate through the constantly changing and often complex financial aid process.
To understand the value of a Consultant and why so many families are turning to them for help, you must first understand the cost to obtain a college education. According to a recent College Board report, college tuition has risen all across the country. According to the report the average in-state public college tuition grew to $22,261 per academic year while private college tuition rose to $43,289 per academic year. While only two-thirds of full-time students receive grants or federal tax breaks, many are left to foot the bill themselves. According to another report by the Institute for College Access & Success Project on Student Debt, two-third of the class of 2011 held student loans upon graduation, and the average owed was $26,600. According to the U.S. Department of Education 13.4% of those borrowers will default on their student loans within three years after graduating.
Traditional Help Resources
Historically, 1 in 7 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms has errors or inconsistencies which are one of the major reasons students lose some or all of their financial aid. With regard to additional grants and scholarships outside of the FAFSA, many families simply don’t know where and when to look, how to look or have no time and energy to look and they just end up getting frustrated trying of compete for the free aid. Most of these issues could be avoided by using a consultant but unfortunately most students and families rely on traditional resources which offer limited support in trying to get financial aid.
Traditionally, families get their financial aid information and help from four main sources:
High school guidance counselors – for many families of college bound students their guidance counselors are their first source of information and help. Unfortunately, most counselors are so over worked and are usually not adequately trained and up to date with the constantly changing policies and regulations in the college funding process. These inadequacies can cause family thousands of dollars in aid.
Your financial aid office – maybe the best place to information, with adequately trained staff with up to date knowledge of policies and regulations, however they have their challenges too. Most Colleges don’t provide information on additional grants and scholarships outside of what their school provides. Their biggest challenge however is the huge workload of thousands of students who apply or reapply for aid every year. This huge volume of students weakens the ability of advisors to spend adequate time with each student which leaves the student and their family to fend for themselves in the application process.
The internet -The internet can be a good source of help but without an expert to decipher all the information and protect you there is a risk of errors and even fraud.
Parents and Friends – yes parents provide the support and insights which are helpful but may don’t have up to date information. While family can spend hours in front of a computer screen and hours more around the dining room table filling out forms they may never really know if the information they are providing is helping or hurting their eligibility.
Why a Financial Aid Consultant?
There are several benefits to having a consultant none more significant than the fact that the consultant is your employee whom you have hired and can fire. His or her sole job is to be constantly looking out for your interest and making sure that you are in the best financial situation during and after you have graduated from college. Many families are finding it economically smart to invest a few bucks now in a consultant who can help them save thousands in student debt in the future.
These are some of the services that a financial aid consultant provides:
Assists you in the filling out financial application forms.
Ensures you meet all deadlines.
Helps you in your search for more grants, scholarships and loans.
Ensures you receive the maximum aid you qualify for.
Guides you step-by-step through the entire process.
Saves you time and money by helping you receive financial aid.
Helps determine your eligibility.
Determines if you are receiving a fair financial aid offer.
Offers you relevant information on all different types of aid.
Provides an estimate of your expected family contribution.
Recommends schools that offer you the best package.
Assists in appeals.
An independent advisor provides you that peace of mind of knowing that you’ve received the best financial aid you’re entitled to.
If you decide that a financial aid consultant is right for you, you should take some precautions. Like everything, using a consultant has its own sets of challenges so here are 5 tips that you should use:
Even though there are tremendous benefits in using a consultant, remember the FAFSA application is free so you should never pay excessive fees for a consultant service.
Choose a consultant that is well versed in the laws and availability of each type of government and private education programs – preferably an insider with tremendous experience.
Choose a consultant that been recommended by a friend or family member who can vouch that the consultant offered great value to them.
Avoid any consultant that is not honest, ethical or completely open with you.
Make sure your consultant is willing to sign the FAFSA, as any professional will sign the document that they prepare for clients – this ensures that they will stand behind and back the application if further issues or question should arise and remember to get a detailed receipt.
Dealing with the financial aid process for college is overwhelming for many students and parents. More and more students and their families are finding comfort in knowing that they have an expert on their side. As the cost of college continues to rise they know that they have a trained professional who they have employed to help them navigate the financial aid process. A personal consultant is the resource that ensures families and students get all they can when it comes to loans, grants and scholarships.
Rosezza Miller is one of South Florida leading financial aid expert. For over 12 years