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Dollars and Sense

Why are some colleges and guidance counselors so concerned over a family hiring a professional educational consultant?

To find the answer, you must first understand that college is not only essential and expensive, but it is also a business.  Most everyone is familiar with the necessity of a college education and the expense involved, but far too many fail to understand the business aspect.

Although funding for college was originally intended for those who need it most, it actually goes to those who know the most about the process.  The more you know, the more you get!  Likewise, the less you know, the less you are likely to receive.

Since the colleges themselves are the single, largest source of funding, especially the "free" money; it would stand to reason that dealing with uninformed consumers is ideal.  This explains statements like: "you can do it yourself, for free" and "you don’t need to hire anyone to help you."

Many are mislead into thinking that if the forms are free, the process must be easy.  Actually, it is exactly opposite.  There are so many variables involved and details to consider, most families simply don’t have the time to do the necessary research, devise a plan, and stay on track throughout the entire process.

The free forms are not the focus, knowing how to complete them to your best advantage is.  For instance, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the government’s required funding application that helps determine a student’s financial need (keep in mind that the FAFSA is a very small part of the overall process).

The FAFSA asks for assets and earnings, very similar to income tax returns.  Many questions on the FAFSA are confusing, with "no" room for error.  There are dozens of strategies that must be followed in order to complete the FAFSA most effectively.

The answers given on the FAFSA are just like those given on tax forms – they determine how much you pay!

Like the FAFSA, income tax forms are also "free."  However, nobody seems to be overly concerned about people hiring a professional to assist with tax returns.  If tax forms, codes and laws are all available for free, why do people hire accountants?  Simply put, they don’t want to pay more than their fair share of tax.

Do you want to pay more than your fair share of college costs?  It makes you think – how much does free really cost?