College Goal Sunday – Touchdown or Penalty?
Regarding those countless locations in over 40 states where college financial aid officers and state officials are the main speakers, College Goal Sundays, a new generation of Financial Aid Nights, could have disastrous consequences for those families who need financial help the most.
Does anyone believe these programs are actually held solely to serve the best interests of families soon to apply for financial aid? Does anyone doubt they have their own agenda based on the policy that they serve the people best when at the same time they also serve themselves? As they are the custodians of the cash and the keepers of the financial aid checkbooks, it is safe to assume that they put their own financial interests ahead of the families they counsel.
While College Goal Sundays are held after the Super Bowl, Financial Aid Nights are usually held in the fall at thousands of high schools where guidance counselors and local Financial Aid Officers are usually the only speakers. It is here that parents learn about the dreaded FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the CSS Financial Aid Profile, federal loans, and grants for very low income families. However, as informative as these programs may be, what is never a topic for discussion is how a family can legally qualify for maximum financial aid. If it was, the endowment funds of our colleges and universities would not be in the billions and bursting at the seams!
With all the hype preceding a College Goal Sunday, families are led down a slippery slope leaving them with the false belief that the colleges will assist them to obtain all the aid necessary to send their sons and daughters to the college of their choice. Sadly, this is rarely the case. When the award letters arrive in the spring revealing thousands of dollars in unmet need, families will face the rude awakening of having to pay additional monies they thought they could bank on; money that remained accruing interest in the bank account of the college their student is attending.
Most applicants don't have a clue where to turn for the kind of help that will make it possible for them to reduce soaring tuition and related costs. Consequently, they put all their eggs in the College Goal Sunday basket. This is tantamount to turning the foxes loose to prey on an untold number of unsuspecting chickens! Families should not go into these meetings blindly believing that all their prayers will be answered. They should absorb all the useful information offered, but before filing the FAFSA, they would be wise to contact a local college funding professional for an expert opinion.
The one inescapable irony here is that the vast majority obtain professional assistance when completing state and federal income tax forms, but when it comes time to apply for financial aid, too few seek professional counseling and grossly overpay for college. This strikes me as particularly odd, as the annual cost of a 4-year college today, far exceeds the average annual tax bill. It seems somehow the American people have been duped into believing that they must do everything they can to reduce or eliminate their taxes, but that it's OK to overpay for their kids' higher education.
Just imagine an Income Tax Goal Sunday sponsored by the IRS. Would they be offering tax planning strategies? Of course not, and none of these College Goal Sunday quarterbacks will be offering financial aid strategies either. While it is certain they will assist families in how to properly file the FAFSA, showing them how to qualify for maximum financial aid will not be one of their College Sunday goals.
Programs of this nature that are presented by financial aid professionals are always far more beneficial as they not only explain how to apply for financial aid, but also how to maximize financial aid dollars. Seek them out. Go to them. Learn from them. They are the one sure way to reduce tuition and related costs by thousands of dollars.
College families, as well as the college-bound, should be comforted by the fact that even after the FAFSA has been submitted, it can still be corrected so that revealing information can be legally deleted, thereby maximizing their financial aid packages for every year their students are in college. You're not likely to hear that useful piece of information at a College Goal Sunday…