Kate is Clueless: College Financial Aid

With a sophomore in high school (and three more in the following four years), I am suddenly obsessed with the issue of college and how to pay for it.  It seems like the more research I do, the more complicated it gets.  And it also seems like our military lifestyle might have made things more complicated than it is for some of our non-military peers.

My primary concern is the financial aid form.  In the last twenty-some years, we’ve picked up two houses that used-to-be-ours but are now rentals.  It seems like these will count against us significantly in the financial aid process, as we have to claim the net value (potential sales price minus mortgages.)  The good news is that you can use a low, sell-this-house-now price, and so we honestly don’t have a ton of money in these houses.  But still…

I’ve asked around, and friends have other questions:  How will it affect our aid if we’re living somewhere that has terrible public schools and we therefore think that private schools are necessary?  What happens if the service member separates from the military while our child is in school, and our finances change dramatically?  Will a bonus payment ruin the chances that my child will get any need-based financial aid that year?

And then there is the whole GI Bill thing:  because of the way it works, it can be tricky to know when or if it makes sense for your child to use the GI Bill benefits.  And if you have more than one child, or Mom or Dad could also benefit from the GI Bill, how do you choose which person gets the most from it?

And so, I ask my readers to contribute to the conversation.  Anything you know about the military and the financial aid/college money situation, please share.  We all appreciate your insights, experience, and even additional questions!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • phillip hollins

    Hey I just learned the greatest thing for college Kate. Get your into bowling. A bunch of schools have scholarships for bowling. I was watching Fort Sam Houston vs. Nebraska in the NCAA Championship game. Yes not too many people think of that. If not look at other lessor known scholarship sports programs. Good luck.

    • Kate

      Thanks, Phillip…that is a great tip. I have one daughter who is a fencer, which also falls on that “small sport” list. I had no idea that bowling was a NCAA sport!

      I also had a friend who paid for college by participating in (and winning) bowling tournaments. It seemed crazy, but it worked for him.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • MtnGoatJoe1

    Those houses are an investment. It might be time to cash one in. But seriously, you’ll just have to fill out the FAFSA and see what happens. The reality is that Americans are not supporting higher education like they used to.

    Good luck!

  • Lori D.

    With scholarships, aid, & work-study programs it should still be possible to help all of your kids get a college education. Is that really what they all want? Maybe one or more will chose a vocational or trade school instead & then maybe college later. Maybe one or more will chose the military & earn their own GI Bill assistance. Not all scholarships are based on sports or academic ability either. Some are based at least partly on financial need. Also, check with veterans service organizations such as the VFW & American Legion & their auxiliary units. They often have scholarships available. Stay calm & start talking with your kids about their after high school plans.