Friday, January 9, 2009

Money Doesn't Grow On Trees

January 10, 2009 - I remember growing up listening to my father tell me, “Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!” And I don’t mean just once. I heard it the year my birthday wish list included a new state of the art Atari system. I heard it when he bought me a beat-up, lime green "farm truck" for $500 to drive when I was in high school. And I heard it when I signed up for summer wrestling camps. Like every kid that grows up, I’ve learned once again Dad was right – in most cases, money just doesn’t grow on trees.

Except seemingly this time of year when students across the U.S. are searching for scholarships, grants and loans. Welcome to the college financial aid season - a time of gathering financials, hunting for records, filling in forms, and hopefully, in the end, getting help paying for college. I never said it would be easy as tugging on a low branch, but the results of managing this process correctly can be very rewarding... almost, like money off a mythical tree.

At ConnectEDU, we’re making sure our families are well-versed and prepared for the opportunities that may be available to them through the financial aid application process. In addition to colleges attracting students with scholarships, the federal government makes funds available using a needs analysis. But one of the biggest challenges is identifying who needs help. Did you know that 20% of those students eligible for financial aid – don’t receive it because they simply don’t apply or don’t know about the process? This does not take into consideration the countless mistakes (like up to 43% of all applications) that families make on their first try. We’re bringing families the technology to reduce or eliminate these mistakes, at no cost to them.

We feel one of, perhaps in this economy, the most important steps in the going to college process is maximizing financial aid. The first thing that families must do to secure any available grants (free money) or loans (borrowed money) is to file a FAFSA – the free application for federal student aid. This allows the government an opportunity to evaluate how much a family can afford to pay and (the EFC or estimated family contribution) how much need must be met.

We also tell our families there is no better time to file a FAFSA and get the process started than now. Because many schools and to some extent the federal government determine their allocations on a first-come, first-serve basis, being early and having the FAFSA completed correctly is IMPORTANT! The best bet is to not procrastinate.

Don’t just take our word for it, read about what others like us are recommending:

We’ve made sure that our technologies are designed to empower families with the resources and information they need to make good financial decisions. We provide the tools, technology and timetables to help them succeed in the process and most importantly to find those money trees – they’re out there, my dad wasn't right about everything!

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