Friday, July 11, 2008

Financial Aid Fun Fact Friday

I have been toying with doing a blog regarding the other half of my life, the professional half. Instead of starting a whole new blog I am going to do a post every so often here. We shall see what happens.

I am the director of financial aid at a small (formerly tiny) private college in the very upscale suburb, Newton MA. That does not make me unique. You cannot go more than 5 miles in any direction inside of the RT 128/95 loop without running across another college. We are lousy with them in Boston.

I have been in this industry for 19 years. I have worked at 5 different colleges in three different states during that time; at a four year state college, two year community college, and then a series of private colleges of varying degrees of exclusivity and size. I have been in my current job the longest of any of them. It is a good gig.

I have a bachelors degree in psychology, but after doing my internship I realized I couldn't actually solve any of the problems of the people I might see in therapy, they are mentally ill. They might be functional, but I am a person who likes to be presented with a problem, we find a solution, implement said solution and NEXT. So I found another profession where that is exactly what people expect of me. I have a masters degree in College Student Personnel, which is a fancy way of saying Higher Education Admin. I will never pursue a doctorate. I have just watched my boss get hers, and it isn't worth the pain and agony.

So here is the thing that most people don't get about financial aid: No one owes you a dime. NO ONE. Not the college, not the government, certainly not me. But everyone thinks that somehow it is the opposite. I actually had a mother yell at me one time, at a different college, much more exclusive, competitive college than my current one, because we didn't offer any grant or scholarship aid to her son. "You admitted him, you owe him something." Well now, no, no we don't. Admission is based on academic performance, in most cases. Since that student didn't qualify for any merit aid, and didn't qualify for need based aid based on a review of his family's income, he got no free money. But somehow there was this expectation of entitlement. I don't know where it comes from, if everyone is sold a bill of goods at the high school level, or what, but there are all these people out there who are surprised when they don't get any offer of aid, or get very little. So today's tidbit, today's bit of wisdom, is that if you have a child, and you think that child might go to college one day, SAVE YOUR PENNIES. Start early and keep doing it. Because no one owes you anything. You might get something some day, but don't rely on that. Don't make guarantees and promises to your child about college that you may have to back peddle from when you can't afford to send him or her to that college. PLAN AHEAD.

The next time we talk about this topic I will share how people actually DO qualify for assistance, and some of the things you can do to improve the odds. Fascinating, no?

1 comment:

Angelina said...

I got a grant from the federal government for $12,000 in financial aid, see how you can get one also at