“Some parents feel embarrassed about their lack of savings or feel bad that they do not earn enough to allow their kids to choose among colleges, debt free. Please don’t. The chances are very good that you have done the best you could…Don’t measure yourself against other families, either; nobody really talks about this stuff, and you can’t possibly know which families have generous grandparents…who is pulling six figures from their home equity…or is in five figures of credit card debt.”

The Price You Pay For College by Ron Lieber

Colleges categorize themselves two ways when it comes to financial aid, need-blind or need-aware. The former means that they do not consider whether or not a student needs financial assistance when they make their admission decision. The latter means that they have a fixed amount of financial aid resources and this can impact whether a student is admitted or denied.

In theory, on the other side of the table, I suppose we should have cost-blind and cost-aware families. But I have yet to meet a cost-blind family. Almost every family I work with is cost-aware. Even if they have the resources to comfortably spend more that $300,000 on an undergraduate degree, they question the cost.

If you are entering the the college planning stage of parenthood, and I would say this begins when you have a high school student, and you are wondering how to negotiate the quagmire of financial aid and scholarships, I strongly suggest you pick up Ron Lieber’s book, The Price You Pay For College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make. This book is a complete primer on how families are evaluated to determine if they qualify for financial aid, the forms that need to be submitted and how to proceed if you make to much to get any need-based aid but not enough to pay for the full cost.

Lieber writes as a business reporter from The New York Times as well as a parent of college-bound children. He addresses every aspect of this process, from the history of how the system evolved and developed, to the deep emotions that are connected to sending a child to college and paying for it. For $27.99, this book is chock full of useful, hands-on information and I highly recommend it.

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