How Do Families Handle “Unmet” Need?

How Families Handle Unmet Need

BIG Ideas:

  • The total cost of college is often underestimated, leaving families with unmet financial needs.
  • Credit cards and some federal parent loans (like Parent PLUS loans) can be an expensive way to fill the gap that can be left after accounting for financial aid, scholarships, grants and other sources of aid.
  • Private loans, which in some cases offer lower rates, may help students and parents bridge the financial gap.

We all know that the goal of attending college is for students to gain knowledge and skills to build brighter futures. What may not be as clear, though, is how much that education is going to cost you.

Sure you may know the fees involved and the financial aid you have been awarded, but do you know the difference between the two? That’s money you need to come up with to make that education possible!

College costs are often underestimated or unclear, making it difficult for families and students to understand the true cost. So, It’s no wonder that some students still have unmet needs after accounting for grants, scholarships, and other sources of aid. Some of those students may have dropped out of school, or turned to high-interest-rate credit cards, which can put their finances and futures at risk.

So, how can you manage that unmet need and give your student the education and bright future they deserve? You can start by doing a little homework.

1. Determine if college is a good investment

When you experience sticker shock from looking at college costs, you may be wondering: Is a college degree even worth the investment? It’s an important question to ask. Here are some ways to help you figure it out:

  • Calculate how much your child will earn after graduation. Check out the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, a helpful resource that shows earning information by school and program. Typically, you’ll find that the field of study has more influence on future earnings than the prestige of the school.
  • Complete the FAFSA. To help with college costs, you can apply for federal aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will determine your eligibility for aid from the government and individual schools.
  • Once you’ve completed the FAFSA, you’ll have an idea of what your “unmet need” may be. At that point, you may want to look at ways to reduce college costs.

2. Review financial aid offers closely

Financial aid offers can be confusing. Make sure to pay attention to the following:

  • If grant money is front-loaded in the first year of college, you may have a larger bill in future years.
  • Confusion between money that needs to be or doesn’t need to be repaid (such as loans vs. grants/scholarships).
  • Possible tuition increases, which often come as a surprise to students and families.
  • When all costs to attend are not included in the total. The most overlooked costs are travel, books, and living expenses.

Step 3: Make good financial choices to bridge the gap

Looking for smart ways to pay for college expenses? We’ve got you covered. From savings to scholarship and grants, check out our 7 Smart ways to Pay for College Expenses!

Brazos is here to help you manage college costs

For more than 40 years, Brazos Higher Education has been helping make education more affordable for students and parents. As a Texas non-profit, we can offer you savings on a wide range of private student loans. Contact us today!