Despite the plethora of information available online about tuition costs and other subjects weighing heavily on the minds of college-bound students and their families, there are still a great many misconceptions swirling around the issues of saving for college and securing financial aid.
One of the most common misconceptions is that putting money into a 529 plan or some other type of college-savings vehicle undermines a student's chances of securing financial aid, Heywood said.
In determining eligibility for financial aid, schools tend to give the same weight to assets in parent-owned 529 plans that they do to assets held in other types of parental accounts, Heywood said. In fact, experts say current income is generally a much bigger factor in determining financial aid awards than parental assets.
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"One thing I wish parents would understand is that the formula used to assess ability to pay for educational expenses is based almost entirely on income," said Myra Smith, executive director of financial aid services at the College Board.
Many parents make the mistake of assuming their children will get academic or athletic scholarships, and thus feel they don't need to save for college, Smith said. Often, scholarships don't cover the full cost of college, and the assumption that children will qualify for scholarships can be a dangerous one.
"While there are a lot of scholarships out there, they very seldom pay the whole bill, plus the student has to be eligible," Smith said. "Whether it is a football or academic scholarship, parents need to know the eligibility criteria."