Getting the Financial Aid You Need

The upcoming school year is rapidly approaching for the next class of college-bound students. As the clock is winding down, I’ve been spending a lot of time working closely with families to ensure they get the most out of their financial aid.

Many families submit their FAFSA forms early in the year, generally in January or February, in order to meet university deadlines. Because these forms need to be filed so early, they are commonly filed before taxes. When this happens, families indicate on the FAFSA form that they will file a tax return for the current tax year at a later date. Once taxes have been filed, the FAFSA forms need to be updated. Many colleges and universities request that the updates be taken care of as soon as possible. The sooner the better!

Additionally, right around tax time, families start getting their financial-award letters. Some families, unfortunately, are left underwhelmed by the award amount. For students, this can be disheartening, especially after they’ve been accepted to a school and are relying on financial aid to attend. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been helping families appeal these less-than-impressive awards and have been getting them the aid they truly need. While the amount we can get through the appeals process varies greatly, there are instances where we have helped families secure an additional $100,000 covering a four-year period.

Over the past few months, as well, we’ve been focusing on expanding the scope of our services. We’re beginning to look at tax-planning strategies to supplement college savings. There are cases where families simply aren’t eligible for financial aid, or they are denied, for any number of reasons. When this happens, depending on the situation, I may recommend a "tax scholarship."

A tax scholarship isn’t an official scholarship offered by schools or other institutions. Essentially, it’s found through tax savings. We identify potential deductions or tax credits families may qualify for. I do want to stress that I am not a CPA, so once deductions or credits are found, families should consult with a CPA in order to maximize these savings, which can then be applied to educational expenses.

In other news, toward the end of April, my wife and I, along with my mother-in-law, visited Elon University. My daughter, Laine, who graduated at the end of May, was honored for academic excellence. She was recognized at the Phillips-Perry Black Excellence Awards as a Maroon Club honoree. A number of distinguished black students were honored and celebrated for their academic achievements at Elon. All I can say is, we’re all extremely proud!

-Kevin Anderson

For St. Louis College Planning Workshops, or our free college funding analysis.