college

6 questions to boost college financial aid

The complexity of paying for college
The complexity of paying for college

Paying for college isn't as simple as it used to be. To meet myriad costs from tuition and student fees to room and board, college-bound freshmen and their families increasingly have turned to financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships and loan products that have become complex in recent years.

Between the 2006-2007 and 2010-2011 academic years, the percentage of students receiving some form of financial aid at four-year colleges grew from 75 percent to 85 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But while parents and students may think an offer of financial aid is the ticket to higher education, experts caution that such letters often can be confusing and misleading.

"It's really a case of buyer beware for both parents and students," says Andy Lockwood, a Plainview, N.Y., college finance consultant.

At the end of the day, colleges are businesses, whether they're public or private, for profit or not. "They want to get you to come for the most money they can get out of you," Lockwood says.

But the key to keeping your education costs down is to do your homework after receiving the financial aid offer letter and not get carried away by the acceptance letter. Asking these six questions can help.

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