A Day in the Life of a College Coach: Working for your Employees

In today's post, guest blogger Alex Bickford, Senior Manager of College Finance at College Coach and former financial aid officer at at Southern New Hampshire University, discusses a recent experience in which his financial aid expertise helped the employee of a corporate client to gain access to thousands of dollars of financial assistance.

When I'm asked what I do for a living, I begin by explaining the process of college finance. People often ask next if all you have to do is fill out the FASFA and see what you qualify for, and maybe, if your kid is really smart, he might get a scholarship. You can't change your financial aid eligibility, right?

College finance is much more involved than many people assume.

Decisions families make every day, even with the assistance of financial professionals, can dramatically affect financial aid eligibility in ways totally unknown to families, their accountants, and financial planners.

The unique expertise of College Coach's team of educators, and their background as former college aid officers, can provide parents with the assistance they need to develop an effective college finance strategy that maximizes financial aid opportunities.

One employee's story

I recently spoke with an employee of a College Coach client whose son who is hoping to attend college in the fall of 2013.  She originally contacted us with concerns about how an account in her son's name might impact her financial aid eligibility.  Through her employer-sponsored personalized counseling session, I was able to ascertain much more relevant information about the family's financial circumstances. For instance, I learned that she currently earns a modest salary working part-time, and her husband receives a special kind of disability pay due to an injury that occurred while in the line of duty as a police officer.

Though this family was working with a tax accountant, the accountant was unfamiliar with student aid policies (as the vast majority of accountants and financial planners are), and was making tax decisions for this family that could actually hurt them in the financial aid calculations. One simple detail in this family's tax return documents could make all the difference in whether college would be affordable for their son.

As a former financial aid officer, I am uniquely familiar with the intricacies of the federal need analysis formula. I developed a customized financial aid application strategy that will likely qualify this family for thousands of dollars of federal and state governmental grants, as well as institutional assistance, making the dream of college for their son a reality for this family. Without expert guidance, this family would have qualified for minimal need-based financial aid, but not an amount that would make affording college possible.

If this mother's employer did not have a relationship with College Coach, she would have likely never learned of this strategy and may have lost out on thousands of dollars a year in financial aid, or even worse, may not have been able to send her son to college at all.  Needless to say, this family was very grateful to mom's employer for providing them with the College Coach assistance that will help to make their son's dream of college attendance come true.

Written by: Shannon Vasconcelos

About the Author

Shannon works with Bright Horizons Education & College Advising corporate clients to deliver college financing workshops and provide personalized counseling to employees. She has over 10 years of experience in student financial assistance, at Boston University and Tufts University, and has also served as an active member of MASFAA’s Early Awareness and Outreach Committee, as a trainer for DOE’s National Training for Counselors and Mentors, and as a volunteer for FAFSA Day Massachusetts.