In an opinion piece published in the March 21 edition of the New York Times, attorney Steve Cohen suggests a quick way to cut college costs would be for Congress to reduce by 75 percent the “estimated family contribution,” or EFC, for middle class families with children headed to college or university.
I believe Mr. Cohen is mistaken and submitted to the Times a letter in rebuttal:
I must respectfully disagree with a basic premise in Mr. Cohen’s Op-Ed article in today’s New York Times.
It is folly for a family to spend time and money filing many college applications and only begin a conversation as to whether they can afford the school after an acceptance letter arrives in the mailbox.
To cut college costs, a more pro-active approach to college admission and financing is necessary. Families should have in-person ( or electronic) conversations with financial aid staff to get an estimate of Expected Family Contribution. At the same time they should also get an estimate of what the family can expect in federal, state and school funding. There are many colleges and universities meeting with parents and students in the evening or on the week-end to provide early estimates of financial costs and expected funds.
Some schools may be eliminated after this information is calculated. Other schools may stay on the college list as a result of the information.
Given the political climate in Washington, does anyone really believe, as Mr. Cohen suggests, that Congress and the President will act quickly to reduce the EFC by 75%?
The best way for families to control college costs is to take control, by getting good information early in the application cycle, of their ability to afford, or not afford, each of the schools on their college list.