College Financial Aid: Where is the Money?

By Dr. Gina La Monica

As parents are analyzing their financial aid awards before the May 1 college decision day deadline looming close ahead many are confused about their child’s financial aid awards. Additionally, some families made the common mistake of only applying to public colleges with the thinking that private schools were out of their financial reach. As I dissect each family’s financial aid award letter, it becomes evident which college is the most affordable for the family.

Generally speaking, public colleges have a tighter budget than private because their budgets are based on public funding, although, there are some public colleges that have done a tremendous job of acquiring huge endowments. Also, public colleges have complex funding restrictions that private colleges do not have to adhere to. With that said, a review of a college’s endowment and past history of giving will provide you with an insight into its financial aid practices.  Furthermore, identify if the college’s student awards are need-based versus need-blind.  Need-based means the institution funds strictly on the financial need of the family, which the majority of public colleges fall into this category. Whereas need-blind funding means the college funds are based on who they admit to the college, and most importantly, being of lower income or not having the funds to afford the college will not affect your chances of being admitted. Many private universities are need-bind and even state they will secure the student’s total financial costs of their tuition.

Completing the FAFSA and/or the CSS is the first step in obtaining any type of financial aid award. Even if you can afford to pay for your child’s college education, it’s important to complete at least the FAFSA in case the college would like to award your child a merit scholarship that is not need-based. Private colleges persuade overachieving, wealthy students to their colleges through merit awards. These institutions know these students do not need the money, but it is a way to secure their admission.

Your child will be awarded the highest level of funding as a freshman, so it is paramount to obtain these funds from the beginning for the four years of undergraduate education. There will be other grants and scholarship opportunities, but the majority are directed toward freshmen to assure their attendance at the institution. Once a student has committed to a college, there is little or no incentive for a college to offer the student additional aid; hence, financial aid is a vehicle to lure a student to their school. Therefore, when committing to an institution, negotiate as much funding as possible upfront for the full four years.

After completing the FAFSA, the government will calculate an expected family contribution (EFC) for each student that the parents are expected to pay. Thereafter, the remainder of the tuition minus EFC will be covered by various types of loans, grants/scholarships, and student worker funds.  There also might be some need that is unmet that parents will have to obtain funding for. Awards vary by student depending on how badly the institution wants that student. Students with higher grade point averages, better test scores, and who complete a more rigorous course study will be more apt to get higher awards.

Reference Sources:

Dr. Gina La Monica has a Doctorate in Education and has worked as a high school counselor, college administrator, and professor at many universities and colleges including the University of California, Los Angeles, California Lutheran University, California State University, Northridge, San Diego State University, etc. She was a tenured professor and an expert in career technical education and adult learning. She currently teaches at a local college and helps students of all ages from kindergarten to the university level with career exploration, college admissions, learning assessment, tutoring, and education plans. 

College and Career Advisement
Dr. Gina La Monica
(818) 359-0859


Written by Gina La Monica

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  1. As a parent of two recent grads from private schools, I can attest to the financial hardship and sacrifice which resulted. We had a 529 for both kids which was exhausted the first year. Two kids in college cost us about $100k/ year. Yes, they had scholarships, but we paid as we went along and had to take out a second mortgage on our home. Both kids graduated debt free without any loans for them. I realize this was a choice on our part and maybe not an option for everyone.
    Now comes “Debt Forgiveness” proposed by the Biden administration. Do I get a refund? How is this fair? Do things right and play by the rules a get nothing!
    I see this this as yet another scam in order to buy votes by subsidizing folks who should not be in college in the first place or may have not completed coarse work.
    If someone wants to go to college go to CC for the first two years, which is virtually free and then pay your own way! Why should the taxpayers and or people who never go to college subsidize someone’s else!
    There are government programs which will pay for college in exchange for public service… it’s called the US Military! That’s what I did.
    But no, it’s election time and in order to get votes the Left is floating this sham to the tune of trillions of dollars which will be to an already bloated deficit causing even more inflation.
    Bernie, AOC, Shummer all trying to float this scam because they know their going to get a thumping in November!

  2. I hear you and sure you’re allowed to be frustrated, but your approach screams of “I suffered, so everyone else must suffer.” Does that really get us ahead as a society? Wouldn’t you be happy that change is on the horizon (hopefully) so no family would have to go through the struggle you did? Or do you want everyone to suffer in perpetuity because you did. Look, you made a choice, and you were lucky enough to be able to afford that choice. Not everyone has the home equity you did, not everyone owns a home, or has parents in a financial situation that are able to graciously help like you did. Does that mean they don’t deserve higher education or some type of debt forgiveness? This is a good thing. That forgiveness will immediately pour back into the economy and stimulate a lot of growth, so let’s celebrate.

  3. You chose to fund your children’s college education by making sacrifices so that they could graduate debt free. That was an awesome thing to do for them and amazing that they are lucky to have parents willing to do that. If anyone owes you anything though it is your children. How amazing to be able to have the full college experience and to have parents that provide that, and then to graduate without debt and be able to get jobs and have all the income from it to live their own lives! I hope that they are paying some of it back to you since you feel owed…. they could have used the military to fund their education but you made it so they don’t have to, and that’s awesome but I can’t help but wonder if they know the value and the extent of your personal sacrifice. I hope so! It’s not the goverment’s job to repay your money that you chose to invest in your children.

  4. Similarly, as a woman I’ve been making $0.75 on the dollar compared to men. Do I want all women to deal with the same fate because I did? Hell no. I’ll suffer and fight so the future generations do not have to deal with the same.

  5. Yep. I get how commenting works. You’re responding to the comment that cites this source:
    The comment you’re referencing pulled 2 quotes from the above article and you responded with take an Econ course, even though the quotes were made by economists. In fact, the article states this:
    “To determine the economic impact of student-loan debt cancellation, Insider spoke with six experts and economists, parsed through non-profit and government studies and reports, and dove into the data of national student debt.”
    So..are you, who clearly is not an economist, now saying that the economists quoted should take economy courses at a low level junior college?

  6. Sac, that’s what you pulled from all that I said? Haha. SBCC is a great school, sure, but some friends are professors there and I wouldn’t exactly be calling MSNBC to have them as qualified experts.

  7. 2:41 – just because I point out 1 phrase in your comment doesn’t mean “that’s what I pulled” from it. Just saw that and couldn’t let the “low level junior college” pass without mentioning. I agree with you entirely, except about that. Don’t get too wrapped up in it 😉

  8. Forgiving student loans is just more vote harvesting for progressive liberals. For every one person who made the sacrifices and lived within their means to save for college or take a more affordable route like taking a couple years of CC there are probably 100’s who did not. So, of course the liberals see this as another tactic to get votes. If liberals really want to solve the problem, then address the root cause. Which is reducing the cost to get a college education. This would require “defunding” the bloated salaries of school administrators and minimizing the need to hire so many liberal study professors vs STEM. The liberal politicians will not do this though – since these very administrators and liberal study professors are also their voter base.
    As a society we have lost our sight on what in means to be “educated”. The liberal machine generated tons of propaganda about how important it is to get a college degree and increase your earning power. Well sure – if that degree is in a field like STEM that generates value. What we have now is an excess of college students with worthless degrees that do very little to distinguish themselves from those who do not and university/colleges with bloated budgets.
    Our education system has replaced vocational studies with crap like CRT. We then wonder why a kid with a Sociology major has amassed over $100K is student loans with no marketable skills other than teach more kids to do the same. Stupid is as stupid does.

  9. “Vote harvesting,” “tactic to get votes” “Liberal machine propaganda”.. Who cares! This will change the lives of millions of Americans and stimulate the economy. That’s a win for all.
    Of course you lost me with your Qanon BS but best of luck out there in the world of reality and facts.

  10. SBTEJANO – “Do things right and play by the rules” – what rules? Is taking a second mortgage out on your home the “rule?” Not everyone has that option. Are you saying those who take out loans are cheating? Those who don’t own a home aren’t playing by the rules? Jeez, sorry you had the money to spend I guess?

  11. The promise of forgiving student loan debt is the biggest scam / vote buying scheme ever and one of the worst thought out policy measures. Let’s say we wipe all student today at the cost of billions of tax payer dollars, absolutely nothing is stopping another generation of young adults from taking out the same kind of loans tomorrow. This isn’t even a band-aid, it’s like finding a dirty band-aid on the floor and using that on your wound – won’t help and will only lead to more problems. Capping interest on student loans, allow them to be dissolved in bankruptcy, possibly waiving the interest portion are all reasonable measures to address current debt, but something must concurrently be done to prevent unnecessary NEW student loans from being taken out. All this talk of canceling student debt but nothing to address the exorbitant tuition charged by tax-exempt universities sitting on $650 BILLION in endowments (for which no tax is paid on the gains/income from those funds).

  12. Chevy, more stimulus isn’t what our economy needs right now (listen to what the Fed has been saying and have you not noticed what the CPI has been doing?). More importantly, debt forgiveness does ZERO to address the problem.

  13. VOICE – “Now you’re saying it’s not in colleges either?” Where did I say that? Do you even read my one sentence comments before adding words to them and calling them out? Why do constantly insist on putting forth easily verifiable and blatant lies at every chance you get?
    English 101 Lesson: Saying it’s not true that schools are replacing their vocational studies programs with CRT is not the same as saying there is no CRT taught in schools.
    For pete’s sake man…. lol

  14. Reasonable, but would still require fixing the actual problem. With universities in cahoots with most of the political class, rest assured nothing will be done to impede the massive flow of dollars to these institutions. Allowing the debt to be absolved in bankruptcy would stop a significant part of the problem as lenders would be much less inclined to lend to a 18 year-old studying Latin poetry at Dartmouth vs. a UC Irvine engineering major or a trade/vocational school.

  15. “A one-time cancellation of the $1.4 trillion outstanding student debt held would translate to an increase of $86 billion to $108 billion a year, on average, to GDP. ”
    “…with student loan forgiveness, that is essentially putting almost $3,000 back in Americans’ pockets each year, which as a result could help boost the economy. ”

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