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Old 12-05-2017, 03:53 PM   #41
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We never saved separate money for our child' education ... figured it was all just part of the big family money pot, and it would cost what it cost. When working I fully maxed out whatever tax-advantaged accounts I was able to ... but never bothered with trying to do any kind of tax-advantaged college funding.

We moved to Florida right before our child's senior year of high school, so what with her high grades/scores she qualified for the highest level of the State of Florida's Bright Futures scholarship available to all Florida residents, at different funding levels depending on one's grades. The Bright Futures program was one of (not the only) factors in choosing Pensacola area as our retirement destination.

Although she could have gotten into some more prestigious and/or larger Universities, she chose to attend the well regarded and modestly priced University of West Florida (another factor in choosing Pensacola to move to) where she also copped an additional academic scholarship from the school so she actually made money while doing her undergraduate. One plus to going to that school is that it's easier to stand out in a small pond. We never had to fool with the FAFSA or playing the scholarship game. She was able to live at home during her undergraduate & we funded her books and misc fees not covered by scholarships. I never took any educational deductions on my taxes and she never took any student loans.

We did have a goodly pot of money put back for her college from downsizing our house, so that was the backup plan had scholarships not come forth. We never had to use it.

She left this year for a highly competitive 4 year graduate program at Baylor where she has a full tuition waiver and a 20 hour a week job as a Research Assistant. Most in her cohort came from the Ivy League or other top-flight private Universities.

So, yeah ... I highly recommend good grades, scholarships, planning to retire near a modestly priced State University, and children living at home during their undergraduate as a college funding mechanism .. if one can manage to pull that off.

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... In our case we'd have 3 kids over 9 years. ...
Being of relatively modest means, had we more than one child to get launched in life I probably wouldn't have retired at 49.
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Old 12-05-2017, 03:59 PM   #42
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* Not all - in fact it seems not many - schools are need blind. I am currently thinking hard about this. If my kid is a great candidate for admission I may actually be hurting his chances: If we qualify for a lot of financial aid, that means that to the school my kid is not as much of a revenue generator. At some point, at most schools, that comes into the equation, and I'm worried it could turn a potential acceptance into a potential rejection. I would appreciate input on this.
Following up on this point.

I called the four schools that my son is considering. All four of them said that the admissions office has absolutely no information on the financial aid status of any applicant and so financial aid status has no impact on admissions results.

That being said, I now wonder if the financial aid offers are impacted by how much a school wants a particular student. I have to believe that they are.
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Old 12-05-2017, 08:27 PM   #43
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....
I called the four schools that my son is considering. All four of them said that the admissions office has absolutely no information on the financial aid status of any applicant and so financial aid status has no impact on admissions results.
.....
What the universities are telling you is a technicality. The essays and other information provided on a college application can give a very good indication of the socio-economic background of an applicant even without FAFSA or CSS information. The common refrain I hear from some folks I know that serve on admissions committees is "perhaps what this student needs is to just be given a chance."
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Old 12-06-2017, 12:37 AM   #44
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Following up on this point.

I called the four schools that my son is considering. All four of them said that the admissions office has absolutely no information on the financial aid status of any applicant and so financial aid status has no impact on admissions results.

That being said, I now wonder if the financial aid offers are impacted by how much a school wants a particular student. I have to believe that they are.

From some of the reporting and reading I have done the Ivy schools kinda collude and their offers are similar to a student... IOW, nobody is so far out of line that one school stands out...


Also, some schools do not have a lot of leeway on who they choose... Texas public schools have to accept students that graduate in the top 10%... University of Texas has 75% of their students automatically accepted because of this... but they have been able to lower it to 6% now since they would have more students automatically accepted if not...

https://admissions.utexas.edu/apply/decisions
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Old 12-06-2017, 12:03 PM   #45
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@DrBrisket interesting. I am thinking through what a FA office would think of me and my son based on what they could find out from the application and essay and publicly available data. I am a millionaire next door early FIREee type so I have high assets but low income so the public picture on me is a decidedly mixed bag. In general I think FAFSA schools will be more accessible than CSS/profile schools for my kids because of this.

@TexasProud, funny you should mention automatic admissions there. My Dad grew up in a small town there and got accepted to a Texas public university but they said "Don't waste our time or your parents' money by coming." He got offended, got the "top freshman" academic award, went on to another Texas medical school and became a doctor.

Anyway, my son isn't applying to any Ivy League or similar caliber schools nor any in-state public schools. But he is applying to schools where his grades and test scores put him in the upper half or even upper quartile. He goes to a well-respected IB high school and he also provides "geographic diversity" to his target schools. So I like his chances for admissions to at least some of his target schools.
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Old 12-06-2017, 12:18 PM   #46
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If your millionaire status involves a non-qualified account (a taxable account), then all that money will be earmarked by colleges for them. If one has to fill out a FAFSA or CSS/profile, then that money will need to be revealed.

If your million(s) is in IRAs or 401(k) or 403(b), then it is off-the-record, but the FAFSA will note your retirement account contributions that you make to reduce your annual income and colleges will assume you can stop those and just give the contributions to them instead.

In other words, they can see some folks who have money, but try to get financial aid. In such cases, they may just offer loans to cover expenses which to me is not really financial aid.
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Old 12-06-2017, 01:34 PM   #47
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I don't want to make this thread just about me and my kids' situation, but just to respond to LOL!s comments:

Without getting into details to protect my privacy, I am planning to qualify for the zero EFC rule on the FAFSA. Qualifying for zero EFC short circuits most of the FAFSA data collection, including information about assets, including taxable accounts.

I don't know much about CSS/profile except that it is much more invasive in terms of data collection and includes things that FAFSA excludes. If I have to fill out the CSS/profile, I think they will be able to understand my situation much better and so I expect less financial aid.

Obviously the net cost of the various schools that my son gets accepted to will be an input to his decision. Currently his projected top six include five FAFSA schools and one CSS/profile school.

I am retired so no longer make retirement account contributions.

I know the FA people are smart, and maybe or even probably they can deduce or infer that I can/would/will pay some amount towards my kids' college. I am just trying to play the game as best I can given my understanding of the rules and staying within my ethical boundaries. It will be interesting to see what happens.
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Old 12-06-2017, 01:36 PM   #48
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I say go for it and am curious how it all turns out. And it was obvious you were going for the low-income thing.
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Old 12-06-2017, 03:00 PM   #49
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I know the FA people are smart, and maybe or even probably they can deduce or infer that I can/would/will pay some amount towards my kids' college. I am just trying to play the game as best I can given my understanding of the rules and staying within my ethical boundaries. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Our kids received grants and from what I read on Forbes others with exempt assets, like businesses and retirement plans, but low taxable income do as well.

From Forbes:

"The Fafsa business loophole. Fafsa, the only aid formula used by most public colleges and many of the less-selective private ones, does not count the value of a small business. “Small” means one with fewer than 100 employees. Mom’s and Pop’s little software firm could be worth $20 million and it won’t show up."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/baldwin.../#742f1bb332b5
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Old 12-23-2017, 01:49 PM   #50
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I'm already on this thread, but 43210 wanted me to explain a little bit what I'm planning here. See http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...ml#post1984358 for context.

My plan is pretty basic. I have a junior and a sophomore in high school who are both college-bound. They are aiming at what I might call second-tier schools - good schools, but not Ivy League and not the level just below Ivy League. You might not recognize the name, but for the degrees they want the schools have good reputations and programs and placement numbers.

I have saved 4 years of public university tuition/room/board/books/fees/travel for each of my three kids (I have a 22 year old who has finished about 2 years of college but is working now and deciding whether to go back and for what). These savings are in a combination of 529's and ESA's.

Like every other parent out there, I'd like to see my kids get the most financial aid and scholarships they can get so the money I have saved will get them across the finish line. I think there is a decent chance that they will get scholarships from the schools since they are not applying to reach schools; they are applying to schools where their grades and test scores will put them in the top quartile of the student body at those universities.

If there is money left over when they all three have degrees, I'll either split it amongst them or save it for potential grandkids' college expenses. If I run short, I'll either go back to work, have them take out loans for their last year or so, or figure out something else.

I have been FIREd for about 2 years now and have a Roth pipeline in progress that is - at least currently - fully funded for the next five years or so, but I'd like to keep feeding it each year as much as possible. Many people Roth convert up to a certain limit; for me I plan to convert this year and next year up to the FAFSA zero EFC limit.

The reason for this year and next year is that those are the two years that will count for my younger two kids' freshman years. I don't have much to back it up, but I like to think that the schools anchor their financial aid packages a little bit to what they offer the freshman year (so they at least minimize the chances of being accused of bait-and-switch).

Another reason is that there is a small chance that I will get outside income and gifts in the next few years that I can use to support myself in the case where my Roth pipeline may get a little starved of funding.

Another option, if my Roth pipeline gets starved of funding, is to bail on the zero EFC limit of $25K and Roth convert up to the higher FAFSA no asset AGI of $50K.

Fortunately for me, the numbers all sort of line up with regards to the zero EFC limit ($25K), what I need to live on (also about $25K), and the funding of my Roth pipeline (also about $25K, obviously).

As I noted in my reply in the other thread, five of the six schools that my junior is looking at are FAFSA schools; one is a CSS profile school. My sophomore wants to go to school in Germany, so I'm not even sure yet how that works. But basically IF my junior likes the CSS profile school AND IF he gets accepted there AND IF he doesn't get accepted to any of the FAFSA schools that he likes better AND IF it turns out to be more expensive AND IF he decides to go there, well, that's a lot of if's but we'll figure it out. While I want to provide him (and the other two) with a college education, he decided last year to use part of his college funding to go to a fairly pricey private high school. It's been a good decision, but one condition of that decision was that his college funding might run out for his junior or senior year of college. So I have that flexibility point as well.

Hope that helps explain. 43210 or others, if you have questions let me know.
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Old 12-23-2017, 06:08 PM   #51
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What the universities are telling you is a technicality. The essays and other information provided on a college application can give a very good indication of the socio-economic background of an applicant even without FAFSA or CSS information. The common refrain I hear from some folks I know that serve on admissions committees is "perhaps what this student needs is to just be given a chance."
Most public colleges and a number of highly selective colleges are need blind: Students are admitted or denied without their need for financial aid entering into the picture. At the public schools, it is often the case that they don't provide enough financial aid. At private colleges, it varies from the incredibly generous schools like Harvard, to NYU, which is need-blind but which rarely provides adequate financial aid.

Many, many other private colleges are need-aware. They consider how much aid you look to need before they make an admissions decision. If you look like you need a lot of aid, they may seriously look at how much they want you before deciding on whether to admit you.
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Old 12-24-2017, 06:45 AM   #52
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Thanks again SecondCor521.

One thing I was wondering is that if one converts $X from Trad to Roth, and one also withdraws $X from Roth (same net result as as directly withdrawing $X from Trad, but avoiding 10% penalty), then I believe FAFSA counts this as $2X "income", which is obviously unfair. Also requesting "human intervention" may not help and could backfire. (Perhaps you are Roth converting while spending down taxable, but this double counting is something to watch out for (if I'm not mistaken).)

We have almost everything in Trad space (very little taxable or Roth), so what we need for spending will generally come out as withdrawals from Trad and be taxable income, but more to the point would be FAFSA "income". Without surprise large expense, (which could blowout the FAFSA calculation) we'd normally stay easily below the (Simplified Needs Test) $50k limit, though probably not the (Zero EFC) $25k limit.

We'll need to control "realized" income level, almost all withdrawals from Trad, for 9(?) FAFSA/CSS years, all post-retirement. (We avoid 10% penalty by using 457 account, and probably 403b with age 55 rule.) That will severely limit our ability to Roth convert during those years, but that's okay, I think we can stay in low tax brackets (e.g. 12%) for life anyway.

But I want to avoid the 47% FAFSA "tax" from realizing too much income (actually it's worse, since if we have to withdraw $10k to cover an unexpected $5.3k expense that's like a 88.7% tax on that $5.3k, or even worse considering other taxes) so I'm trying to figure how to ensure we don't have that type of bad year. It seems we'd need a taxable account buffer (Roth is no good, as withdrawals count for FAFSA) for unexpected expenses, (or maybe a source of reasonable loans), but the taxable account hurts as FAFSA assets.

I'm wondering if in the last few (3ish?) years of working I should build up taxable, even though I have enough tax-sheltered space 401/403/457/IRA/HSA, to consume most of my modest income. It's counterintuitive to me to forgo the opportunity of tax-sheltering, but I'm wondering if I should to some extent.
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Old 12-24-2017, 07:13 AM   #53
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Can you ask? Sure, you can ask anything. But I wouldn't. I think you risk looking like a special snowflake when you aren't. The financial aid office people are, I'm sure, very very tired of hearing why people are special cases and deserve a break. Some undoubtedly do, but it's far fewer than those who think they do.

That being said, it is commonly stated that if you have a significant event - like a primary breadwinner job loss - that happens after the N-2 year tax return, you should let them know, be prepared to document, and they will adjust. But just asking for N-1 because it works better for you probably won't fly.

On Roth conversions, yes, they count as income and yes, you can ask for an adjustment. In my notes I have the following quote. I don't know where I quoted it from - undoubtedly somewhere on the web that seemed trustworthy to me:

"If the family converts a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, they should appeal to the college financial aid administrator to get the conversion disregarded as income, assuming that the full amount of the distribution was rolled over into the Roth IRA. The U.S. Department of Education issued guidance in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-99-10 to encourage college financial aid administrators to make such an adjustment."
I found a link to that letter
https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/doc0530_bodyoftext.htm

I really don't want to plan to rely on this, e.g. see this experience.
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I asked my FAO about a Roth conversion, and she told me that she would adjust for it. She lied. I challenged her, but she wouldn't back-down. I got slammed pretty hard that year, so I didn't do Roth conversions after that, until I was "out of the woods" FAFSA-wise.
I'd much rather try to understand some complex mechanical formula, and plan accordingly, than deal with unpredictable "human intervention" that could badly throw a spanner in the works.
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Kids in college after retirement (lower income version)
Old 12-24-2017, 08:01 AM   #54
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Kids in college after retirement (lower income version)

Iíve got a young, bright, female colleague that has a $1,400 a month student loan payment (University of Delaware graduate). Not long ago she told me ďRay It is killing meĒ. She was out of state so it was pretty expensive. Every time I see her I am reminded of the long term impact of school choices. As I see it there are 3 tiers of schools

The Ivy League
*********************
The well known/respected private or public (I.e. Carnegie Mellon, William and Mary)
Speciality schools (I.e. the Colorado School oh Mining).
*********************
Everyone else

Assuming you are middle class and your child didnít get a huge scholarship.
If you are fortunate enough to get accepted into an Ivy League school and are majoring in a career where excellent job prospects would fund any debt ..you go.

Well name well respected.- This is where it gets tricky.
We actually live pretty close to Villanova which is ranked one of the best business schools in the country. Itís $68,000 annual estimated cost to attend means a quarter of a million dollar investment over the 4 years. I work with a number Villanova grads, all of them bright, all of them with a student debt load. Sitting next to them are (in State) Penn State graduates who paid roughly half of what Villanova grads paid for their four years. The thing is Penn State along with the University of Pittsburgh and Temple are the most expensive State affiliated schools in the country. Great names and with about half the cost of Villanova a real value. DD went to a satellite campus of Pitt, loved it and it was $7k less than the main campus. Her college grades meant she could go anywhere. She landed a great job and has no student debt to struggle with.

Economy Mode - Up the road from me is Penn State Brandywine with tuition of about 12 grand a year. Some of my sons attend there live at home and perhaps have a small part time job.

In the end it is all about value and choices - two kids sitting side by side doing the same work.. one with $150k of debt and the other with none.

Iím semi retired Iíll be back to 3 days a week after the holidays. My son is a freshmen at Penn State. I just think it is a real value... Choose wisely it doesnít matter who takes on the debt...it is all about value.
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Old 12-24-2017, 12:06 PM   #55
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@43210, yes, I am living on cash and taxable currently and simply Roth converting to add to the end of my pipeline, which already has 5-7 years of expenses in it depending on how much I spend over the next several years.

One thing to point out is that auto zero EFC means exactly that. They don't care about my AGI or my assets or anything else - my EFC is $0. It takes a little bit of thinking to realize that going this route means I don't have to worry about my son getting a summer job, or spending down his savings on a car, or writing a letter to a (potentially fickle as you point out) FAO to point out that I'm spending some of my money on private high school for his younger sibling, or trying to get all three of my kids to go to college in the same calendar years, or...or...or. I just fill out the first page or two of the FAFSA and I'm done.

Now I imagine this can backfire in any one of a zillion ways, but given my options I think it is the best for me and my kids.

Just because of my situation, I did save up several years of income in my taxable account as you're considering. It wasn't specifically a plan to do it that way, but it looks like it might work out.

@rayinpenn, excellent points. CSM is one of my son's targeted schools; the rest are in that ballpark. In my case, my oldest son chose to go to a cheaper school (free due to a scholarship) over a more expensive school ($30K per year out of state private university) which I thought was a better fit for him. I wonder about that sometimes and so my focus with my remaining two (and the oldest as well for where he may finish) is all about "fit", which is a nebulous quantity but still very important to me. So consider the price tag, yes, but only after you know you'll be able to be successful and be reasonably happy where you're going, IMHO. (And I mean this not to contradict your post but to augment it with something you likely were assuming.)
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Old 12-24-2017, 02:57 PM   #56
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Roth IRAs are not counted among parental assets on the FAFSA and if you withdraw contributions, they won’t be counted as income either. A parent-owned Roth IRA and withdrawal of only contributions will have zero effect on financial aid eligibility. If earnings are withdrawn, however, they will be reported as parent income and probably have a minor effect.
If you haven't pulled from your Roth yet, or much, your contributions will come out first and have no impact on the EFC.

EDIT: I was surprised by the above, which is why I posted. But it appears to be incorrect. Could have been right at one point... I'm not sure how the EFC formulas have changed over time.
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Old 12-24-2017, 03:20 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by (1st link below?)
Roth IRAs are not counted among parental assets on the FAFSA and if you withdraw contributions, they wonít be counted as income either. A parent-owned Roth IRA and withdrawal of only contributions will have zero effect on financial aid eligibility. If earnings are withdrawn, however, they will be reported as parent income and probably have a minor effect.
If you haven't pulled from your Roth yet, or much, your contributions will come out first and have no impact on the EFC.
I was surprised by this comment, so I did a google search and came up with...
It looks like that comes from this
https://www.moneycrashers.com/roth-i...ngs-education/
but it is contradicted by this
https://www.edvisors.com/education-t...ings/roth-ira/
and this
https://www.bogleheads.org/forum/vie...8cd92#p2310542
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Old 12-24-2017, 03:35 PM   #58
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You're right
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Although a return of contributions from a Roth IRA is excluded from income and, so, avoids income tax, it may have a harsh impact on eligibility for need-based financial aid. A tax-free return of contributions is reported as untaxed income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other financial aid application forms (such as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form). Untaxed income is added to AGI to yield total income. As much as half of total income will increase the expected family contribution (EFC).
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Old 12-24-2017, 04:29 PM   #59
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For financial aid purposes, ignore whether income is taxable or non-taxable. Income is income UNLESS it is specifically excluded. Child support received? Non-taxable but definitely income? Untaxed portion of capital gains? Very definitely income. Value of housing allowance provided to clergy? Income. Value of food stamps? Not income.
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Old 12-24-2017, 07:01 PM   #60
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"Very definitely" are things on a tax form, whether it ends up being taxed or not. Less definitely if you have to be creative to figure that some weird thing is income, and isn't in a database somewhere.
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