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Braun pledges to hold the line on Flossmoor village spending next year

No matter how much you save, it seems you always come up short when calculating the cost of your child’s college expenses.

Homewood-Flossmoor High School counselors share as much information as possible with families to help them estimate what a college education will cost and learn about the many ways available to finance it.

The major piece of the puzzle is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as FAFSA. Families will begin filing the FAFSA on Jan. 1. The form is used by students applying for federal student financial aid such as grants, loans and work-study. Colleges also use the FAFSA to determine what scholarships or financial aid a student may be eligible for.

One of the major hang-ups of the FAFSA is the start of filing on Jan. 1. Employers don’t make the W-2 form available until after Jan. 1 and that forces families to scramble to get the FAFSA form completed in a short timeframe because late filers may be shortchanged.

The form can be filed using income estimates and the applicant can later adjust the numbers for accuracy, according to Sallie Mae, the federal loan provider. Filing with an estimate puts the student in the queue. Waiting too long could mean the financial aid pot is empty by the time a late-filer’s application is reviewed.

For the Class of 2017 the FAFSA filing will open Oct. 1, according to Brad Kain, a college counselor at H-F. This should make it easier for families because they will use income information from their 2015 tax returns. H-F is trying to stay as current as possible on the changes, Kain added.

“The colleges are still trying to figure out what this is going to mean for their (admissions) offices and primarily what it’s going to mean to their financial aid offices,” Kain explained. “They’re going to have to run letters earlier, financial packages and all those things.”

H-F regularly hosts programs on college costs “to get the different myths out of the mind about ‘I can’t afford a private versus public college,’” he added.

H-F also hosts a representative of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission every Wednesday from late January through February who helps families with applications and general information on eligibility requirements.

“Bring your tax information and we will walk you through that process, especially parents who haven’t been through it before, who are nervous or just don’t know about the process. That (ISAC) person will take as much time as they need with them. It’s a really good opportunity and a partnership that we’ve built with them. It’s free and run through the state,” Kain said.

H-F students can use estimates of tuition, fees and room and board for 2015-16: $25,000 at Western Illinois University; $30,300 at the University of Illinois; $36,800 at DePaul University; $27,900 at the University of Iowa; $37,000 at the University of Cincinnati; and $44,000 at Michigan State University.

The numbers are high but with grants and other assistance, college representatives say the cost can be manageable.

Bonnie Cawley, a recruiter for Michigan State University, said merit-based scholarships are available to students admitted to the MSU Honors College based on a student’s grade point average, ACT/SAT scores and class rank. Other specialty scholarships, such as the Alumni Distinguished Scholarship, are available to top out-of-state students.

H-F college counselor Kevin Coy said the vast majority of H-F students select a four-year college, but for some a junior college is a good fit and can reduce expenses. Prairie State College (PSC) tuition is $143 per credit hour, or approximately $1,720 per semester.

PSC points to the success of Homewood resident Hannah Grace Bohlen who had earned 15 college credits through high school Advanced Placement courses. She completed her associate’s degree in summer 2015 after three semesters at PSC and transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

 

 

 

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