Financial Questions

Parents wait for answers on college aid

By: Stacey Gorski
   While the time for waiting to hear from college admission offices regarding applications is close to an end, some South Brunswick High School seniors and their parents are still waiting for the final important piece of the puzzle — financial aid.
   "I have been doing all that — getting information and paperwork — since last summer," said Beverly Marsh, whose son, Jesse Fyffe, has chosen to attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology next year. The tuition is $3,079 per semester for an in-state student.
   For Ms. Marsh, the financial situation was complicated by a divorce and the fact that Jesse’s father is on permanent disability. She knew she needed to start the financial aid process as soon as possible.
   Last November, she attended a one-day workshop at Marlboro High School to find out what would be involved in getting the money Jesse would need.
   "I came home with arm loads of information and paper work," she said.
   The official start of the process was in applying for federal student aid.
   "I filled out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is the big federal one, and sent it in a while ago. They give you a code, and you send that to the individual schools," Ms. Marsh said.
   The FAFSA, an 11-step application that can be done on the Web, asks students’ financial and personal status. If the student is a dependent, then the parents’ finances, including income and last year’s tax information, must also be provided.
   Applicants supply a list of schools to which they are applying, and then the federal application is processed and the information is sent directly to colleges. The schools apply the financial information to their own formulas and determine a student’s financial aid package.
   "It is really up to the school. Hopefully, NJIT will give some combination of grants and loans, hopefully enough that we won’t have to take out more loans," Ms. Marsh said.
   Ms. Marsh said Jesse keeps receiving mail from other colleges he has been accepted to — such as Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University.
   "They keep saying he’s eligible for this grant and that one, but he has already decided he’s not going to those places. We just have to wait until NJIT makes its decisions," Ms. Marsh said.
   In the process of making decisions, NJIT has requested up to date financial documents.
   "I had to send them my income tax statement for this year," she said.
   Ms. Marsh claims she is nervous, but she is trying not to feel too stressed about it.
   "There’s a lot of money out there to help. There are all kinds of local and federal grants and scholarships. We’ll manage," she said.
   For other families, the financial situation has been eased by very long-term planning or by the student choosing to attend a school that costs less.
   For Shawna Koci, a senior at South Brunswick who is planning to attend Mercer County Community College before transferring her credits to Rider University, her family has been planning for her college education since the day she was born.
   "When Shawna and Erin, our other daughter, were born, my parents and my brother got them each an account and started buying stock," Wayne Koci, Shawna’s dad said.
   He said they started by buying stocks in products Shawna was using such as Disney and Sea World operator Anheuser Busch. As Shawna got older, she started choosing some of the stocks, again, on the basis of products she liked such as Pepsi and TriCon Global, the group that runs KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
   "Now, she has about $8,000 in stocks. I’d love to give it to her as a present, but it is going to go toward her education," Mr. Koci said.
   Shawna is attending Mercer because she is not sure what she wants to major in, but she is sure she does not like the size of Rutgers University — the school which most easily takes transfer credits from Mercer County College.
   "It costs about 5 percent more to attend Mercer when you don’t live in the county, but that does not wind up being all that much more," Mr. Koci said.
   The tuition at Mercer for Shawna will be about $1,264 per semester if she takes four courses worth 3 credits each — the average load for a full-time Mercer student.
   When she does decide on a major, then she will transfer to Rider. Mr. Koci said that the sooner she is ready to make the transfer, the better.
   "We have the money set aside, and it should make a good dent in the cost. I just want her to be sure of where she is headed before we spend the money," he said.