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he average CPA in public prac-
tice in Connecticut is in his or
her 50s.* This means that, for
most of us, paying for college for our
kids is a present (or recent) reality
one that most of us would likely just as
soon forget.
You've got a lot of clients who feel the
same way. And if they are like most of
the parents I meet when presenting at
college funding nights at high schools
around the state, this summarizes their
financial situation:
They haven't saved nearly enough
money if they were able to save
at all.
The financial aid system is a mystery
to them (far more complex than the
1040 they ask you to do!).
They (and their children) are facing
going incredibly over their heads
into debt.
Like you, your clients want their chil-
dren's lives to be at least as good as (if
not better than) their own lives. Having
a college degree seems to be the mini-
mum price of admission to that life, but
when that ticket can cost $250,000,
most people need an objective hand to
guide them.
Need-Based Aid Is Not Enough
Most of us have had some experience
filling out financial aid forms for col-
lege. The Free Application for Federal
Student Aid (a.k.a. FAFSA), a creation
of the Federal Department of Educa-
tion, is filed online about one year in
advance of the college student's fresh-
man year, and then annually to deter-
mine aid for the following year.
On that form, parents' and children's
eligible income and assets are listed
(or matched with recent 1040 filings),
with the end product being a figure
called the "expected family contribu-
tion," or EFC.
This number is supposed to represent
what that family can contribute out of
said income and assets for the year,
with some form of financial aid (grants,
loans, work-study, etc.) from the col-
lege, state, or federal government
there to make up the difference.
Except that it no longer works out that
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*Stats on average age provided by direct request
from Connecticut Society of CPAs.
**Stats on meeting need come from research
on website, and the stats on
that site come from the National Association of
College Admissions Counselors.
Should It Be Part of Your Practice?
By John F. Pearson, CPA, CASL
College Funding Advice