Frequently Asked Questions

These questions are presented to give you an idea of the kind of information you can expect when you consult Steve Shapiro.  To get a clearer understanding of your own unique situation, set up an individual consultation.

When should we begin planning for our child’s college education?
The earlier you begin planning, the better.  Starting a savings program early will build-up a college fund that could reduce the amount of money you have to borrow when your child enters college.

Also, many parents come to our office at the last minute, when their child is a senior in high school or when they are filling out the financial aid forms.  While it is never too late to begin planning, what many parents don’t realize is how much more we could have done for them if they had come in sooner.

Will we qualify for financial aid?

Colleges and the US Government offer two forms of financial aid: need-based and merit-based.

Need-based aid depends on the family’s income and assets, the student’s income and assets and the type of school the student will be attending.  Since private schools are so much more costly, the chances of receiving need-based aid are greater at a private rather than a public institution.

Merit-based financial aid is awarded based on your child’s “perceived value” to the school.  If your child happens to fill a need for a given college, or if the college wants your child on their campus because they feel he or she could contribute in some fashion and make their school a better place, there is good chance you will receive some merit-aid.  An indication of how badly a school wants your child can be seen in the amount of merit-aid they offer.

We can’t guarantee whether you’ll receive financial aid — or how much or what kind.

But don’t make this mistake: Many parents assume they won’t qualify for need-based aid — so they don’t even apply.  Certain private schools will not consider your child for merit-aid unless you have filed the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile Forms for need-based financial aid.

Should we save money in our child’s name?
If your family qualifies for need-based financial aid, having money in your child’s name will count against you in the financial aid formula more heavily than if the funds were invested in the parents name.

But if your family is not going to qualify for need-based aid, saving in the child’s name might be exactly what you want to do.

We can help you assess the likelihood of getting need-based aid and the best way to save for your child’s education.


Why should we pay a consultant if we’re not eligible for financial aid?

Many middle-income families will not qualify for need-based financial aid, especially if their child attends a public college.   We add value by helping you to figure out the best and most cost effective way to pay for college by looking at tax, cash flow, investment and borrowing strategies.  As a CPA, Certified Financial Planner, and a member of the National College Advocacy Group,  I know the ins and outs of the financial world. I deal with these challenges every day.

I will help you:

  • Analyze the list of schools that you provide to identify the ones that are more “financial aid friendly”.
  • Fill out the FAFSA, CSS Profile and Institutional Forms correctly and on time.
  • Keep track of all of the deadlines.
  • Determine whether or not you have a basis on which to appeal for more money.
  • Negotiate with the colleges if appropriate.

Most parents cannot do all these things effectively, especially if they work full-time or are busy raising their family.  In the same way that a good CPA will make sure that you take advantage of every tax savings opportunity, a good college planner will help you take advantage of all of the planning options available to you.  It’s not just about financial aid.

Lastly, we can assist you with the “appeal process”, and often we can encourage a college to increase its first financial offer.

With college costs so high, how can we send our child to an expensive private school?
These schools have the endowments and the money to offer your child.   They attract the best and the brightest kids through grants and scholarships.

Your student should apply to both public and private schools.  Since private schools have more money to offer to students they want to attract, you are ignoring an opportunity if you only apply to public colleges.

Bottom Line: If a private college or university wants your child on their campus, there is a good chance that they will offer merit aid or a tuition discount.