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7 Myths About Financing the College Bill

What Hudson Valley parents and prospective students need to know

(Students on the campus of SUNY Orange)

Hudson Valley colleges offer a quality education that can be easier on the pocketbook (just check out SUNY prices -- without dorming), but there are myths out there about  financing the college experience that families and young adults should be aware of.  

According to The Financial Aid Handbook by Carol Stack and Ruth Vedvik, here are seven: 

Myth 1

You get what you pay for.
Students pay wildly different prices to attend the same schools, take exactly the same classes and get the same diploma. Colleges practice “tuition discounting,” which means they can change the price around for students they really want. Everyone does it: private colleges, big state schools and even community colleges.

Print out the Hudson Valley College Amenities Chart

Myth 2

If you get into your “reach” school, you should go there.
A “reach” school means you’ll be in the academic bottom of the incoming freshman class and you won’t get enough merit aid (scholarship) to make up the high cost of the tuition. Go there only if your family can comfortably afford it.

Myth 3

I’ll wait until after I’m accepted to figure out how to pay
You’ve got to figure out how much you and your family can afford to pay. After that, you can find schools you like, determine whether or not you have a good chance of getting funded there, and then, finally visit and apply.

Myth 4

If my parents say they won't pay, I'll get more aid.
Simply because your parents don't WANT to pay does not excuse them from the responsibility to do so. In order for your family to be absolved of all responsibility to pay, you would have to qualify as an independent, and meet a strict list of criteria.

Myth 5

Only the very poorest will get any financial aid.
You don't have to be poor to get financial aid. There are numerous kinds of grants (money you never have to pay back), loans (money you do have to pay back) and work-study (money you earn while in school) that you become eligible for by fillout the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) or PROFILE.   These forms crunch the numbers such as parents assets, their income, their savings, their dependents and number of children that will attend college to determine the EFC (expected family contribution).  Every family's EFC will differ, but don't assume there is no financial aid at all available to you.

Myth 6
I can pay someone $99 to find scholarships for me.
Anyone who charges you to find scholarships for you is scamming you.  An enormous amount of free information is out there about private scholarships.  Fast Web is a free online service that will match you to scholarships that are a good fit.

Myth 7
My state school will be the cheapest for me.
Although the average cost of tuition at a public university is about one third less than the average cost of tuition at a private school, your chances of getting a scholarships are generally slimmer. We're not saying that you shouldn't apply to your local state school -- we think you should! -- but it can't be the only place you apply. There are plenty of private colleges that will welcome you into their open arms and discount their tuition (merit aid scholarships) enough to be quite price competitive with your local public.

Carol Stack is the former director of admissions at Macalester College and Augsburg College. Ruth Vedvik has held the position of director of admissions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ball State University, and Agnes Scott College. Together, the two authors have more than 70 years of experience in the college admissions and financial aid fields.