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Tools Available to Help MI Families Afford College

December 12, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. - It's a time of big decisions for college-bound seniors, and it can be a stressful one as families need to figure out how they'll pay for higher education.

Many families don't bother to apply for federal aid, assuming they won't qualify, but Patrick O'Connor, director of college counseling at Roeper School, says that's a mistake. O'Connor says families need to take the time to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and let the experts assess what their contribution would be.

"The only way they can do that is if the parents actually begin the process of applying for aid by signing up for the FAFSA."

The Michigan College Access Network has set up a free portal at michigancap.org where families can estimate college costs, get information about scholarships and deadlines, and receive assistance with forms such as the FAFSA.

In addition to those resources, O'Connor says, it's critical that families take an active role in the financial aid process. He urges them to be vocal when it comes to explaining their particular financial situation beyond what might fit on a standard form.

"Pick up the phone and talk to the financial aid office. These officers are intelligent, caring people, and they want to do everything they possibly can to help your child's college dreams come true."

Experts say families should also explore the possibility of completing some courses at a community college, which offers big savings and - in many cases - transferable credits.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI