Does Saving for College Hurt Financial Aid Eligibility?

saving for college

Does Saving for College Hurt Financial Aid Eligibility?

Published October 25, 2019 | Last Updated February 25th, 2024 at 10:57 am

saving for college

Sometimes the best source of advice and information comes from readers’ comments, which are always so valuable to review.

Saving for College…Yay or Nay?

In his article titled Why It Makes Sense To Save For College Now., Ron Lieber, a personal finance writer for the New York Times, attempts to debunk the myth that if a family doesn’t save for college, they are in a better position to receive financial aid.

This is a completely unfounded myth because financial aid offered by the federal government is based heavily on a family’s income, not savings.

Private colleges do scrutinize parents’ assets more closely, but it’s more likely that additional aid will be offered in the form of loans rather than grants or scholarships.

Mr. Lieber’s message missed the mark when he writes “not saving also puts your family at risk of picking the college that is the best financial choice and not the one that has the best shot at helping your child thrive.”

Why are these two factors mutually exclusive?

With college costs where they are, why can’t students find a college that is a fit both academically and financially?

And as readers pointed out, if a student has to pick one factor over the other, finding a school that is a financial fit may be more important in the long run.

Readers Comment on Saving for College

Katrox from Minneapolis wrote:

With all due respect Ron, this piece contributes to the problem of student loan debt, not the solution. The solution is to stop talking about sending children to expensive private colleges if parents CANNOT PAY FOR THEM IN FULL. This is not revolutionary, but somehow it has gotten lost in the conversation about college education in this country.

Let me suggest some solutions: When your neighbor says, “Oh, where is that [State] school on the US News ranking?” You say “We don’t care”. Instead of spending summers at language camps or church charity projects for Fancy College essay fodder, teen gets summer jobs and saves most of the money, because State schools are not free. When it’s time to tour colleges, you say, “Sweetheart, there are only 2 schools we can afford, and they’re nearby. Let’s go check them out!” No applying to 10 schools, most of which are too expensive.

Once accepted to State school, child chooses practical course of study. Then, child has smart idea: apply to be RA, get accepted, one year of tuition paid for! And great experience. Graduate in 4 years, NOT 5. He’s learned resourcefulness and applies to grad schools that pay stipend for Masters program. Graduates in 2 years. Two months later, after a brief stint at Trader Joe’s, he gets his first professional job. Yay! He can afford great apartment because HE HAS NO STUDENT LOAN DEBT.

That’s our son, and we did it together. He’s off getting the UHaul right now, and moves out today.

Madeline Conant from theMidwest:

First of all, get over the idea that your child is going to get financial aid. The first shock is going to be finding out how much you are expected to pay. The second shock is sitting down with your kid and explaining why they can’t go to the private college they have their heart set on, because they (and you) don’t want $200,000 in debt when they graduate.

For middle class families, financial aid is a myth.

Roberto from New Jersey:
I am disgusted by the colleges and the financial aid scam. My child had 2100 SAT’s and a 4.0 with a good amount of extracurricular activity. Every financial aid “award package” included the maximum Federal student loan for freshman and for good measure they told me I could take out parent PLUS loans.

B.H. Blacksburg, VA:

“…I think many families make the choice to avoid financial sacrifice–to avoid living a simpler, less expensive life–while sending their kids to college. In our case, we don’t go on vacations, we consider every expense carefully, and we haven’t renovated any part of our aging house. My daughter got lots of grant aid from her college, and that, together with our up-front payments from minimal savings and yearly salary, means that she (and we) will graduate loan free. Did she go to the school that gave her the most aid? Yes. Was that a bad decision? No. It gives her tremendous freedom.

So, now that you’ve read what some other parents have to say about the matter. What are your thoughts?

And if you are interested in the various options for saving for college that are available to parents and relatives, check here and here.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Common Data Set Ultimate Guide: Use It to Find the Right College

What I Would Have Done Differently When I Was Applying to College

How to Earn College Credits in High School




In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

Dear Roadie: Should I Get A Second Job So My Daughter Can Graduate Debt-Free?


Dear Roadie: Should I Get A Second Job So My Daughter Can Graduate Debt-Free?

Dear Roadie, I am flabbergasted at the cost of college today. My daughter is a stellar student, and the last...

Dear Roadie: Do Parents Need to Become College Admission Experts? I’m So Lost


Dear Roadie: Do Parents Need to Become College Admission Experts? I’m So Lost

Dear Roadie,  I’m the mother of a 10th-grader, and I’m realizing I need a crash course in college admissions. I...

Dear Roadie, My Son Returned From Orientation Hating the College He Chose. What Now?


Dear Roadie, My Son Returned From Orientation Hating the College He Chose. What Now?

Dear Roadie, I’m a bit freaked out. My son returned from his two-day college orientation and said he hated everything:...

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.


Explore R2C Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.


Get coaching on admissions and college financing.


Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.