Investing in a college education is a large expense for most families. To make the most of this investment, we recommend that all students create a financial plan. It’s not enough just to “get” to DU—we want your student to graduate! A lot of unexpected changes can happen; creating a strategy before you arrive on campus will help you and your student immensely. This email outlines some factors to consider when creating your family's four-year plan.
The Cost of DU
Tuition, housing, and meal plan rates change over time. Based on information from prior years, you should anticipate a small increase in costs annually. New rates are typically announced in March.
Aid in Future Years
There are a variety of factors that can impact the amount of aid a student will receive in subsequent years. The most important points to remember are:
- Apply for aid every year. The financial aid award estimate your student recently received is only for the 2016-2017 academic year. With the exception of admission merit scholarships, financial aid awards are not automatically renewed—you must apply for aid each year your student attends DU. The priority deadline for continuing students to apply for aid is March 15th. Be sure to submit your application by that date so your student doesn't miss out on funding!!
- Merit scholarships amounts are fixed. Although tuition costs will increase slightly each year,merit scholarships will remain the same for all four years.
- Your student can only receive the Residence Hall Grant while living on campus. If your student's financial aid estimate included a Residence Hall Grant, it can only be used if he or she lives on campus. Juniors and seniors who live off campus, for example, are no longer eligible to receive that aid.
- Your student may be eligible for additional departmental scholarships in future years. Once your student has chosen a major, he or she may be eligible for additional scholarship aid from that academic department. While many of these scholarships require financial need, some are merit-based. The Departmental Scholarship Application opens annually in March.
- Your student will be eligible for additional Federal Direct loan funds in future years. If needed, students can borrow an additional $1,000 in Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized loans in their sophomore year, and an additional $2,000 in their junior and senior years.
- Be sure your student pays attention to the requirements to keep aid. To remain eligible for financial aid, students must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress. There are also minimum enrollment requirements for certain awards.
The number of siblings in your family concurrently attending college can have a considerable effect on financial aid eligibility. Your student's financial aid package will change in future years if there is a change in the number of siblings enrolled in college. Contact our office for more information.
Your student's financial aid application only captures one point in time in your family's financial life. In the future, if there is an unexpected change to your family's financial situation that is not reflected on the FAFSA or CSS PROFILE, you may submit a Special Circumstances form (also known as an “appeal”). Examples that may constitute a special circumstance include loss or reduction of employment or wages, bankruptcy or foreclosure, or loss of child support.
Don’t forget about the earning potential your student has during the summer! Summer earnings can be set aside to help with books, supplies, and other costs throughout the upcoming academic year.
There are a number of tax credits and deductions available that can help your family with higher education expenses. Be sure to speak to a tax advisor about these opportunities when you file your taxes next year!
- If your student borrows an Unsubsidized Direct loan or private loan, encourage him or her to pay the interest on these loans, if possible, during the year. Paying the interest as it accrues will reduce the amount owed at graduation.
- Make sure your student puts time and effort into applying for private scholarships! There are many scholarship opportunities available through entities not affiliated with DU, including community, women’s, ethnic, or religious organizations. The most common application period is late-Fall through early-Spring. The search can begin on our scholarship search page.
- Encourage your student to cut costs any way possible—rent rather than purchase books, buy clothing at thrift stores, etc. As the saying goes: "Live like a college student now so you don’t have to after you graduate!"
The bottom line: Be sure your family's college financing strategy is a strategy you can rely on for four years. Need help? Feel free to contact our office. Our advisors can help map out a plan for you and your family.
Up next week: What to Expect Going Forward/Next Steps
Want to review past Financial Aid 101 emails? Check out the archives!