MIKE’S MEMOS

The One Place To Get Insider Strategies On College Admissions, Saving Money On Tuition & Much, Much More

The Pros and Cons of Parent Plus Loans

The Pros and Cons of Parent Plus Loans

Federal Direct PLUS Loans, commonly referred to as Parent PLUS Loans (PPL’s), are uncollateralized loans made by the U.S. Education Department (ED) to the parents of  dependent students to help pay for college. PPL’s are a type of Federal loan intended for parents,...

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The Financial Impact of College Closures

The Financial Impact of College Closures

After working hard to qualify for admission, high school seniors look forward to their college years with high hopes. But what happens to their hopes if they enroll in a college that closes its doors soon after they matriculate? Some students may choose to attend an...

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The Impact of the FAFSA Fiasco on Students

The Impact of the FAFSA Fiasco on Students

Due to the disastrous rollout of the new FAFSA, most new and continuing students still don’t know how much college will cost them next year. This makes it even harder than usual for high school seniors to decide where, or if, to enroll by the pending deadlines. FAFSA...

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The New FAFSA Continues to Vex Students

The New FAFSA Continues to Vex Students

Remember Murphy's Law?  It’s the adage that "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time."  The development and rollout of the “Better FAFSA” by the U.S. Education Department (ED) is a prime example of Murphy’s Law in action. In a normal...

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Thirty Million Borrowers Set for Debt Relief

Thirty Million Borrowers Set for Debt Relief

On April 8, President Biden released the details of his new student loan debt forgiveness plan. The plan would reduce payments for 26 million borrowers and erase all debt for four million more. Ten million of these borrowers will receive debt relief of over $5,000...

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Crunch Time for the FAFSA Rollout

Crunch Time for the FAFSA Rollout

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the means by which students obtain their fair share of the billions of dollars in Federal, state, and college financial aid to help defray the cost of college. The problems affecting the current admissions cycle...

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Consider Best Value Colleges

Consider Best Value Colleges

The annual ranking of Best Colleges published by U.S. New & World Report (U.S. News) receives plenty of press coverage when it’s released in September. Perhaps as a result, the U.S. News rankings are relied upon by many students and parents in their search for the...

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Biden Cancels $1.2 Billion More in Student Debt

Biden Cancels $1.2 Billion More in Student Debt

Since 2021, the Biden administration has forgiven $138 billion in student loans for 3.9 million borrowers. The Administration announced on February 21 that another category of borrowers would have their loans forgiven by the end of the month. This $1.2 billion tranche...

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The Test-Optional Movement May Be Waning

The Test-Optional Movement May Be Waning

Colleges never favored using standardized test scores as the primary criterion in admissions. They did considered them useful as the only means of comparing applicants on an apples-to-apples basis. In the early aughts, however, a movement emerged to make test scores...

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Distance Education Lowers the Cost of a College Degree

Distance Education Lowers the Cost of a College Degree

The  traditional image of college education features students in a classroom with a professor lecturing them. But lately, more and more students are opting to take college classes online rather than in classrooms. Students engage with their coursework, classmates, and...

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Impact of the New FAFSA on the Net Price of College

Impact of the New FAFSA on the Net Price of College

The student financial aid system has always been complex. With this year’s new FAFSA and its inept rollout by the U.S. Education Department (ED), it will be even more baffling for all parties — students, parents, guidance counselors, Federal and state agency staffers,...

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Education Department To Correct New FAFSA

Education Department To Correct New FAFSA

As noted in a recent post, the U.S. Education Department (ED) announced in December that the revised FAFSA would be initially released as a “soft launch” on January 1 and that it would only perform a data store-and-forward operation for data processing by the ED at...

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College Savings and Divorce Planning

College Savings and Divorce Planning

There can be issues with college savings that the spouses had initiated together even in amicable divorces, Divorce attorneys are legal experts but not financial aid experts. They may not be aware of all of the consequences of divorce on a child’s eligibility for...

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Using a CollegeSure CD to Save for College

Using a CollegeSure CD to Save for College

According to the College Tuition and Fees price index maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of tuition was 1,490% higher in 2023 than it was in1977. Between 1977 and 2023, tuition — the largest component in the cost of attending college —...

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Guard Against Student Aid Scams

Guard Against Student Aid Scams

One reason for the establishment of the U.S. Education Department (ED) in 1979 was to assist students in paying for a post-secondary education. Like corporations that market to consumers, the ED conducts much of its business with its student-consumers over the...

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The “Non-Launch” of the 2024–25 FAFSA

The “Non-Launch” of the 2024–25 FAFSA

The 2024–25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available through a soft launch by the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office of the U.S. Education Department (ED). It is online at Studentaid.gov and Fafsa.gov. The FSA released the following announcement...

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CLEP Exams Help Non-Traditional Students Earn a Degree

CLEP Exams Help Non-Traditional Students Earn a Degree

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) may be the best deal in American post-secondary education. Non-traditional students such as those who didn’t go on to college directly after high school and now work full-time can earn college credits without taking college...

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Trouble Ahead — The New FAFSA’s Impact on Student Aid

Trouble Ahead — The New FAFSA’s Impact on Student Aid

Submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an essential step for all students seeking Federal, state, institutional, and private financial aid. To improve the financial aid process, the FAFSA Simplification Act was enacted by Congress on...

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Use the CSS Profile for Aid From Top Colleges

Use the CSS Profile for Aid From Top Colleges

Most families welcome any type of external financial aid that can help them afford college. Although they may not accept all aid offered to them, they prefer a wide array of choices. The FAFSA process is the best way to obtain aid from Federal and state governments,...

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Testamentary Trusts: Not Just for the Wealthy

Testamentary Trusts: Not Just for the Wealthy

When grandparents do estate planning, they often want to provide for their grandchildren’s education. They seek to ensure that assets put aside for grandchildren are used to cover the costs of college and nothing else. Toward this end, they should consider adding a...

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The Federal Work-Study Program

The Federal Work-Study Program

The Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program provides a way for students to earn money for their education by working at a part-time job while in a college or career school. There are about 3,400 schools participating in the program, which is managed by the Student Aid Office...

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Saving For College with UTMA/UGMA’s

Saving For College with UTMA/UGMA’s

The Uniform Transfers To Minors Act (UTMA) and the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) are two laws that, combined, give us the term “UTMA/UGMA”, perhaps the most indecorous acronym in college financial planning.  Yet UTMA/UGMA’s are a useful tool for those seeking to...

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Crummey Trusts Are Useful in Reducing Taxes

Crummey Trusts Are Useful in Reducing Taxes

A Crummey Trust is one of several methods of accumulating assets for a child’s education. It’s most helpful in cases in which the value of the assets is large and the complete distribution of them to a child before age 21 is undesirable. Crummey Trusts offer an...

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Coverdell Education Savings Accounts

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts

A Coverdell Education Savings Account (CESA) is a trust or custodial account set up to pay the college expenses of a designated beneficiary without ever incurring a tax liability on the earnings in the account. CESA’s involve two parties: a custodian, who manages the...

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The CSS Profile Can Increase Financial Aid

The CSS Profile Can Increase Financial Aid

In addition to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), some college-bound students complete another application called the College Scholarship Service Profile (the Profile). The Profile is required by 240 colleges and a number of private scholarship...

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The AP Program’s Impact On Secondary Education

The AP Program’s Impact On Secondary Education

Experts in higher education have long criticized the Advanced Placement (AP) program, but few have been as scathing as John Tierney, a professor at Boston College. In an article in Atlantic Magazine, he said, “Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work,...

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Court Strikes Down Use of Race in Admissions

Court Strikes Down Use of Race in Admissions

In two recent cases, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by all five conservative justices, held that race-based affirmative action violates the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. According to the majority...

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Biden’s New Plan for Student Loan Forgiveness

Biden’s New Plan for Student Loan Forgiveness

President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan, as announced last August, was set to cancel $10,000 in Federal student debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income per year. Pell Grant recipients would have gotten an...

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Student Loan Repayment Pause Ends in August

Student Loan Repayment Pause Ends in August

Millions of Americans lost their jobs after the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. For many, this disrupted their ability to repay their Federal student loans, so repayments were suspended in March 2020. They were originally set to resume in September 2020, but the...

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Financial Safety Schools Belong On College Lists

Financial Safety Schools Belong On College Lists

A high school student’s College List is the set of institutions to which they’ll apply in senior year. They are colleges that that students determine are exceptionally well suited to their needs, goals, financial circumstances, talents, and preferences. A strong...

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Farm Families Harmed by New FAFSA Rules

Farm Families Harmed by New FAFSA Rules

Nearly 18 million college students receive some type of Federal financial aid every year. Due to pending FAFSA rules changes, the percentage of these students who are from farm families can be expected to drop significantly. The new rules will take effect this...

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The 2024-25 FAFSA Roadmap

The 2024-25 FAFSA Roadmap

The 2024–25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) integrates major changes in the way students will apply for Federal student aid. According to the U.S. Education Department (ED), these changes will help students by enabling a better and simpler FAFSA...

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FAFSA Delay Will Cause Problems 

Three years ago, Congress enacted long-overdue reforms in the passage of the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020, which substantially improves Federal student aid process. Among the many changes in the Act are a reduction in the number of questions from 108 to 36, the...

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Understanding a College’s Cost of Attendance

Understanding a College’s Cost of Attendance

Students and families should analyze the cost of attending a particular college. Cost of Attendance (COA) is the term used for the total of the direct and indirect costs of one academic year of undergraduate study at a college. It’s the maximum amount that a...

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Appealing Financial Aid Awards – Part 1

Appealing Financial Aid Awards – Part 1

At this time of year, many students are concerned about how they can select the best college for them from among the colleges that have accepted them. Before making that choice, students should ensure that they have received the best possible financial aid offer from...

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The U.S. Military Pays College Costs

The U.S. Military Pays College Costs

High school seniors seek ways to avoid the college debt burden that has proven such a hardship for millions of their predecessors. In a recent post, we reviewed six strategies for obtaining a college education at an expense level so moderate that incurring student...

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Gifts, Endowments, and Financial Aid

Gifts, Endowments, and Financial Aid

Attending a college that receives major gifts from deep-pocketed benefactors and possesses a multi-billion dollar endowment has advantages. Among these is the possibility that some of that money will trickle down to students as financial aid. As preoccupied as seniors...

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New 529 Account Rollovers to Roth IRA’s

New 529 Account Rollovers to Roth IRA’s

Congress recently passed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package that made substantial changes to retirement and tax rules. These have been referred to as Secure Act 2.0 because they extend the retirement provisions of the original Secure Act of 2019. One of the...

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FAFSA Rules Regarding Parents

FAFSA Rules Regarding Parents

Every year, parents of enrolled and prospective college students should complete their part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for financial aid from the Federal government, their state, and the student’s college. Over 13 million students file the...

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Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Student loan balances have spiked in the last few years. The average balance increased from $29,000 in fourth quarter 2016 to more than $36,000 in fourth quarter 2021. To reduce this burden, President Biden announced the Student Loan Forgiveness Plan (the Plan) in...

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College Net Price Calculators

College Net Price Calculators

College is expensive. Fortunately, most students pay less than a college’s published price by taking advantage of the financial aid that’s available to them. Rather than looking at published prices when researching colleges, students should focus on net price — the...

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Get Ready for the Digital PSAT and SAT

Get Ready for the Digital PSAT and SAT

The PSAT and SAT will soon be taken exclusively by computer. This is a welcome change because it affirms the continuing relevance and usefulness of standardized tests in a digital, post-pandemic, test optional era.  There is likely to be a significant increase in...

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Inflation and 529 Plans

Inflation and 529 Plans

College remains the highest savings priority of parents of college-bound children. Over 75% of parents in this group, when surveyed by The College Investor (TCI), indicated that they’re currently saving for college. TCI found that over 80% of parents are concerned...

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