From today’s NYTimes: Timely advice on paying for college:
THIS week, members of the (college) Class of 2011 are coming down to the wire in deciding which colleges they will attend and, more often than not, their choice is influenced by which offers the most generous financial aid package.
Most students and their parents have until Tuesday to decide. In the precious few hours that remain, as they try to decipher the fine print, they can be forgiven if the whole process reminds them of buying a car from a slick salesman.
The car salesman would undoubtedly start the negotiations by quoting the sticker price, and he would quickly cloud the whole deal with an intricate verbal fandango about loans. He may eventually lower the price a bit, though that would probably take the form of free car mats.
It is remarkably similar with colleges. They have an advertised price for tuition. The award letter that students received this month lists what the school will do to knock down the price. It can do that with scholarships or grants, but more than likely it will quickly get you to think about loans. More: The ABC’s of Calculating Financial Aid