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Pay Less for College: The Must-Have Guide to Affording Your Degree Review by Heidi Mosher

Elizabeth Walter and Debra Thro
College Admissions HQ

Pay Less for College: The Must-Have Guide to Affording Your Degree by Elizabeth Walter and Debra Thro is a book offering families realistic expectations of college costs and ways to afford college degrees successfully. The introduction states, "Paying for College Shouldn't Be Harder than Going to College." Pay Less for College is a 179-page softcover book with eight chapters, five appendices, and a twelve-page financial aid glossary. At the time of review, it is available on Amazon for $16.99, with a Kindle edition available for $9.99. The chapter titles include:

  • What You'll Pay for College
  • What is Financial Aid?
  • The Truth About Financial Aid Packages
  • How to Reduce Your Net Price
  • Calculating Your 4-Year Price Tag
  • Additional Ways to Shave College Costs
  • The Family Conversation About Money
  • Changes to the FAFSA and Financial Aid

Appendices include:

  • Links, Resources, and Worksheets
  • Guide to the FAFSA
  • Guide to the CSS Profile
  • Guide to the EFC
  • Guide to Financial Aid When Parents Are Divorced, Separated, Unmarried, or Remarried

How many acronyms like FAFSA, CSS, SAR, EFC, and COA are decipherable at a moment's notice? For parents of teens considering college, these acronyms will need deciphering as they will soon become household terms throughout the college admissions process. Pay Less for College not only explains these acronyms—and more—but also helps readers understand their importance. For example, Pay Less for College walks readers through filling out each of the six sections of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) An entire appendix on the FAFSA tells who, how, and when students need to fill out the FAFSA. In addition, it includes a detailed list of required financial information from the student and parents to complete the form. The FAFSA section even includes other essential things, like just how much time to set aside to complete the form. Similarly, an entire appendix on the CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile) explains which colleges require it, how to access it, what items students need to complete it, and offers detailed instructions on filling out the sixteen sections of the CSS Profile.

Families with high schoolers, or even those about to enter high school, will especially appreciate Chapter 6, which provides practical ideas for getting ahead in college while still in high school. Likewise, mothers and fathers will appreciate Pay Less for College. Through this guide, teens determined to tackle college will gain a realistic picture of the college price tag. Similarly, teens undecided about whether to pursue college will appreciate this book as a tool for considering whether college and the cost are obtainable. Finally, the wisdom in this book will encourage every reader because the book delivers careful plans for what the title promises, Pay Less for College.

I reviewed the 2022 edition, which offers exclamation point icons for forecasted changes to the financial aid system throughout the book. Parents using this book to research college finances for younger high schoolers will appreciate these "heads-ups."  

I was pleased with the organization of this guide. The authors laid out the content in an attractive and logical way. The glossary of financial aid terms is beneficial. Tables, links, resources, and examples work together to educate parents and high schoolers thoroughly and clearly.

Remember those acronyms mentioned earlier? FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS (College Scholarship Service Profile) were previously defined, but here are the others mentioned in this review: 

  • SAR stands for Student Aid Report
  • EFC means Expected Family Contribution
  • COA stands for Cost of Attendance

Though I attended college and have recently been through a round of the college admissions process with one child, the only acronym I could remember was FAFSA—until I picked up this book. I wish I had owned this guide to educate myself on the financial aid process before college visits with my oldest child. Thankfully, Elizabeth Walter and Debra Thro have taken the time to expertly help families navigate well what can be a daunting process. They are two mothers with young adults who have been through the process themselves. The authors are both credentialed as American School Counselor Association Certified Admissions Specialists. Homeschool parents, who have dedicated their lives to assuring an excellent education for their children, must also act as guidance counselors when those children approach higher education. Pay Less for College feels like a helpful friend, one with experience and extensive knowledge, walking alongside, taking the overwhelm out of an important part of life. A small investment in this book will prepare parents of teens to navigate the college years and enable parents to keep their young adults on the wise and responsible course initiated with home education.

-Product review by Heidi Mosher, The Old Schoolhouse® June 2022