Book Review: Paying For College Without Going Broke, 2009 Edition

by Broke Grad on February 13, 2009

People say hindsight is 20/20, but I think it’s more like 20/15 (when you get LASIK). Looking back at my college years, one of the things I regret is not learning more about how the financial aid system works. Most of us are still dependents of our parents when we go to college, so we give them the financial aid forms and let them to figure it out.

The problem is that most of our parents are just as clueless as we are when it comes to understanding how the financial aid process works. I don’t blame them either. I’d say that applying for financial aid is just about as exciting as doing taxes. There are so many loopholes, old rules, and new rules that it’s confusing and overwhelming. If only there were a book to explain how the entire financial aid process works, including tips on how to maximize your financial aid eligibility to make college more affordable.

Guess what? There is! The Princeton Review publishes an annual guide that does just that. I recently got my hands on a copy of Paying for College Without Going Broke 2009, and it’s great. Written by Kalman A. Chany, founder and president of a college financial aid consulting company, this book covers every aspect of the financial aid process from explaining strategies to maximize aid eligibility to understanding how to compare financial aid offers and negotiate for better ones.

Who Is This Book For?

This book is primarily for parents of college students, not the students themselves. This makes sense, because parents are the ones who fill out the financial aid forms. Graduate students may also find this book helpful, since all graduate students are considered independent. That means you can’t hand your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) over to your parents anymore.

What Do You Get Out of It?

In one word — knowledge.

Most financial aid goes to the people who best understand the process, not the “neediest” people. Why? The financial aid process is a lot like taxes, and in some cases, they go hand in hand. If you understand the process, you can structure your finances to maximize the aid awarded to your children, just like you can make financial decisions that will minimize your taxes.

The financial aid process is basically a game. College, like the government, tries to get as much money out of you as they can, while you try to keep as much money away from them as you can. Colleges avoid explaining the process and formulas they use to determine financial aid awards, but this book demystifies it. By knowing the rules of the game, you have a better chance of coming out ahead.

With line-by-line strategies on filling out each aid form to your best advantage, short- and long-term ways to lower college costs, and the most costly mistakes parents and students make when applying for aid, this book is loaded with information to help you pay for college without going broke. I don’t know if my parents bought this book back when they were filling out financial aid forms for me, but I know one thing. I’ll be referencing Paying for College Without Going Broke 20?? Edition someday.

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