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At this time of year, arriving college financial aid letters force many parents and students into an anguishing decision. If the student’s “A” school isn’t offering enough aid, should the student take on more debt to pay for an education there, or fall back to a more affordable “B” school?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. The future value of attending a particular college is very subjective. The family’s current financial circumstances and the student’s financial prospects after graduation also factor into the decision.

Student debt is definitely on the upsurge, partly because financial aid as a percentage of the cost of attendance has slumped. Before nailing down the choice of a college, consider these tips:

Compare Financial Aid Packages

Be sure you compare apples to apples. On a spreadsheet, write down the amount of “gift” aid each school has offered (scholarships, grants, work-study awards), then preferred loans (federal Perkins loans and subsidized Stafford loans, whose interest is paid by the government while the student is in school), and finally other loans. Compare this data with the school’s cost of attendance (tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses). Which aid package will really save you the most out of pocket?

Review Your FAFSA

If your circumstances have changed, appeal. Are there reasons why you need more aid since filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), such as a job loss or high medical bills? If so, ask the school’s financial aid office if they will review the package they’ve offered.

Apply For Our Scholarship

Apply for our annual scholarship. In 2020, Winslow Community Federal Credit Union will grant a graduating high school senior with one $1,000 scholarship! The applicant must be a member, must have acceptance to an accredited college, university or technical school, and must demonstrate passing grades in all subjects during high school years. Download the application here and return to the credit union before April 30th.

Come See Us!

If there’s still a funding gap after you’ve maxed out government and school financial aid, come in and talk to us. An option many credit union customers have used is a loan or credit line secured by home equity – a relatively low-cost way to borrow that is usually tax-deductible. Working together, there’s a good chance we can find a path to higher education that’s right for you and your college-bound student.