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College-bound? How to pay for higher education

A FAFSA form.

By now many soon-to-be high school graduates are settling on their choice of where they plan to attend college. Brian Brosseau is one of those students. Luckily, he got into every school he applied to and will be attending Bowling Green State University this fall.

"We were very specific of applying only to the schools that we felt were within our requirements," says Brosseau's mother, Jena.

Among the requirements: somewhere close to home with fields of study that interested Brian. And of course, financial considerations. Because Brosseau would be living on campus, his family would be paying roughly $23,000-$32,000 a year for many of the schools he applied to. He did receive a small scholarship from Bowling Green for out-of-state students, but costs will still be about $27,500. And at this point, Brosseau's family is not considering loans to pay for his education.

While Brosseau's family seems to have figured out how they will pay for his higher education, many other families are trying to decide how to choose between a dream school and a more affordable option. That's where Trever Ramos comes in. He's a certified college planner with College Funding Remedies in Pasadena, Calif.

"The way this system is structured, you get accepted to colleges and then you find out how much they cost with only a few weeks to make a decision," says Ramos. "Many parents are not aware of what college is going to cost them until this point. There are private student loans and there are government student loans. If the student's in a situation where [the parent] is looking at private student loans upward of 10-12 percent, I'd rather them take the decision of going to the school that is going to mitigate some of those loans."

For students planning to apply for federal financial aid, Ramos says it's important to note that if their family makes over $185,000, they likely won't receive a ton of money from the federal or state government. He also says families should remember -- as their high school senior considers different schools -- that they can go to the college and negotiate financial aid offers that they've received.

When seeking more money in financial aid, Ramos says families have a few options. First, they can go to the school and say that the financial aid package they received is not realistic -- and inquire about whether there's anything more that can be done. Second, if the income a family is bringing in includes things like unemployment or situations that aren't apparent on paper, families can explain their circumstances to a financial aid officer. Lastly, if a student is accepted to multiple colleges, that can be used as leverage to appeal for more aid.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.
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