College Funding Strategies

Need-Based Financial Aid

Need-based financial aid is determined by a formula summarizing the family’s financial situation to determine their Expected Family Contribution, or EFC.

A student's financial need is determined by the following equation:

Cost of Attendance - (minus) Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = (equals) Financial Need                

The Cost of Attendance is the total amount it will cost a family for a student to go to college for an academic year. It takes into consideration tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, transportation, child care, costs associated with a disability and miscellaneous expenses. This figure is set by the college. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an amount determined by formulas established by Congress, and the individual college, that indicate how much of a family's financial resources should be available to help pay for school.

The student and his family must file a FAFSA and sometimes a CSS Profile to qualify for need-based aid. This article describes ways to optimally position one's resources before filing the FAFSA. 

After all corrections have been made to all financial information each family provides, the financial aid administrator at each college which receives information from you will create a financial aid package  [or award] for each student. Using available resources, the aid administrator gives each student the best possible combination of gift aid (scholarship and grant monies which do not have to be repaid) and self-help (loans and work study programs) monies to meet the student's aid. These monies may be from federal and state (and, in the case of some public and private schools, campus) sources.

Students are given a strict timeframe in which to respond to any or all of each school's offers, usually 15 to 21 days. Colleges and universities try to mail their packages to families as soon as possible, usually in March or April.

The best contact each family has while applying for financial aid is the financial aid administrator at each college in which a student is interested.

Federal Financial Aid Programs

While the list here does not represent an exhaustive list of all federal financial aid programs, we have highlighted those programs most popular with our families. Students and parents demonstrate eligibility for these programs by completing the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Federal Pell Grant

A federal program which awards up to $5,920 annually to needy families. Not many suburban families qualify for this program.

Federal Direct Subsidized Loan

A need-based, low-interest loan program. For undergraduate students who have financial need; U.S. Department of Education generally pays interest while the student is in school and during certain other periods; student must be at least half-time. Interest rate is 4.45% for loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2017 and before July 1, 2018, and fixed for the life of the loan. 

Maximum annual loan amounts (depending on grade level and dependency status):

                        Freshmen----$5,500

                        Sophomores----$6,500

                        Juniors, Seniors (per year)----$7,500

                        Total Cumulative not to exceed----$31,000

These limits apply to a combination of both subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

The government pays the interest on the student's behalf while the student is in school and during any authorized deferment periods. Students repay the subsidized Federal Loan back over a period of 10 to 25 years on a monthly basis.

Students demonstrate eligibility for this program by completing the FAFSA.

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan

A non-need-based, low-interest loan program. For undergraduate and graduate or professional students; borrower is responsible for all interest; student must be at least half-time; financial need is not required.

The interest rate for the 2017-2018 school year is 4.45% for the life of the loan.  Maximum loan amounts are the same as above for dependent students.  Interest begins shortly after funds are disbursed but can be added to the principal balance of the loan. Repayment of the balance begins 6 months after disbursement. Students repay the unsubsidized Federal Loan back over a period of 10 to 25 years on a monthly basis.

Students apply for this program by completing a FAFSA to demonstrate ineligibility for a full subsidized Federal Loan.

Federal Direct Plus Loan for Parents

Loan for parents of dependent undergraduate students, not based on financial need. Parents may borrow up to the cost of attendance at the school minus any financial aid. The amount a parent may borrow is subject to a credit check.  These are conventional loans, with repayment beginning within 60 days; parents from 10 to 25 years to repay these loans.  Parents may consolidate several PLUS loans.  Parents may also defer payment of the principal on a PLUS loan until their student is out of college

Effective this year, parents must file a FAFSA to determine if the family is eligible for any other aid.

The current interest rate is fixed at 4.264% for disbursement dates on or after Oct. 1, 2017, and before Oct. 1, 2018.

Federal Work Study

Students work a set number of hours each week on campus (usually 10 to 20 hours/week) and are paid at least minimum wage. The money is either deducted from a student's bill or is paid directly to the student for miscellaneous expenses.

State Financial Aid Programs

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) administers a host of scholarship and funding programs for Illinois families; we highlight only the Monetary Award Program here.  Information on other programs sponsored by the State of Illinois can be found at www.collegezone.com.

Monetary Award Program (MAP)

A State of Illinois grant program; monies received from MAP do not have to be repaid. Only tuition and mandatory fees at ISAC-approved Illinois postsecondary institutions are eligible for payment. Maximum award for the current year is $4,869 for full-time students; minimum awards are $300.  Awards can vary from each institution and can be used for up to 135 earned college credits.

Students apply for this program by completing a FAFSA.  For MAP consideration it is important that students complete the following questions on the FAFSA:

  • Student’s state of legal residence
  • Student’s grade level
  • Completion of first bachelor’s degree (mark “No”)
  • Working on master’s or doctorate degree (mark “No)
  • Parent's state of legal residence
  • School name (must be an Illinois school) and Federal School Code

Please note: It is imperative that you file your FAFSA as early as possible in order to be considered for a MAP grant in Illinois.        

For more information on the types and terms of any loan a student and/or his parents take out, check out this link: Understanding Loans.

Some need-based aid is funded by the federal government. Some need-based aid is funded by certain private schools. Some very competitive schools with large endowments guarantee that they will meet 100% of a student’s Demonstrated Financial Need. Some elite schools offer only need-based aid and do not offer merit-based scholarships. Many other schools offer only a limited pool of need-based aid and award it on a first come, first served basis, so it is important for students to apply early for financial aid. 

Some pertinent resources:
FAFSA Government Federal Student Aid
FAFSA printable worksheet to prepare for online application
PIN.ed.gov Application for Federal Student Aid PIN
Collegeboard.com CSS College Board Aid Application

Merit-Based Financial Aid

Merit-based financial aid is determined by a student’s academic merit, special talents, occupational goals, service record or other specific attributes. Many colleges and universities offer merit-based scholarships. The student should look for these scholarship opportunities on the Admissions/Financial Aid webpage of the schools to which he is applying. It is a good idea to apply early for these scholarships. Often to qualify for merit aid from a school, the student must apply for admission by a priority deadline, which is before the general admissions deadline. Students should check the Admissions/Financial Aid webpage of the schools to which they are applying very carefully.

There are also private scholarships funded by local businesses, civic groups, professional associations and parent’s employers that a student can apply for and use to attend any accredited college or university. Search for these scholarships in Naviance under the Colleges tab. Additionally, check for Libertyville High School-specific scholarships in the Libertyville Scholarship List.

Students can also research scholarships by signing up on search engines, such as:

  • fastweb
  • Scholarships.com
  • CollegeNET
  • College Board's Scholarship Search
  • Peterson's Scholarship Search Engine

Note - Some merit based scholarships include a component of financial need and may require the student to file a FAFSA. Whether merit- or need-based, or both, scholarships do not need to be repaid. 

Student Loans

People take out loans to afford things they can’t afford at present, such as houses and educations. When considering loans, it is important to realize that many purchases are both investments and consumption decisions. In considering a house, certain features of a house determine whether or not it is a good financial investment. Other features may be purely enjoyable. It is prudent to understand what portion of a loan is going towards a financially sound investment and what portion is going towards life style aesthetics. Weighing the future financial obligation relative to the life style/consumption portion of the purchase can be a worthwhile exercise. In considering college educations, ideally one considers the purchase in the same way. Borrowing for your education is an investment in your “human capital” (i.e. your skills, knowledge and credentials) and this often is a sound investment –but there are limits. Paying for the experience of being on a beautiful campus for four years is a consumption choice. The future financial burden is worth considering ahead of time.

Unlike most other forms of debt, student loans are extremely hard to get rid of if you find that you can’t afford to pay them off. Bankruptcy is almost never an option. For a list of ten daunting statements about student debt, read this article. Some of the statements in this article may seem wholly unbelievable. The possible ramifications of debt that are suggested in this article are worth researching.

Debt Free You is the account of how one student made it through a four year university education without taking on loans. Zac Bissonnette, the author, believes that it is possible for everyone. Worth a read.

Student loans may indeed be the appropriate solution for some people. Here are some resources for learning more about student loans:

  • estudentloan.com for learning about and comparing student loans
  • US Department of Education
  • Finaid.org offers information about savings, loans, and calculators
  • Student Debt Crisis.org 

Co-Op Programs

Co-operative education programs at universities have students spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time working in a corporation or lab doing closely supervised, paid work related to their field of study. The earnings from participating in a co-op program can play an important role in off-setting the cost of one’s education. Students in co-operative programs often graduate with four or more semesters of real-world work experience. This work experience can be very valuable in helping recent graduates to find jobs, too.

This article in Forbes discusses co-op programs. Here is US News’ list of the top ten co-op programs. College websites, for these ten schools as well as other colleges that offer co-op programs, will further detail the programs. 

Information provided by: 

Sue Biemeret, College Counselor, Adlai E. Stevenson High School

Jerry Cebrzynski, Director of Financial Aid, Lake Forest College