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college countdown: your college success starts here



Why Sourcebooks EDU?

For more than a decade, Sourcebooks has quietly built one of the most successful college-bound trade publishing programs in North America, including the #1 bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges, Gary Gruber’s highly successful SAT and ACT test prep books, and Harlan Cohen’s New York Times bestselling off-to-college book, The Naked Roommate.

As we’ve gotten to know the educators using them with students, we’re told our books allow them to expand their reach and effectiveness. After all, what educator couldn’t use an extra set of hands, another expert in the room with them?

As the student-to-educator ratio continues to grow and the cost of college education rises exponentially, we started talking about how to more directly tailor our experts and their tools to the educators, parents, and students in real need of help.

And so we created Sourcebooks EDU.


Shifting the Discussion on Financing College Costs

A new report shows that six in 10 American families rule out some colleges based on their sticker price, despite the fact that their net price, or the actual cost after grants, scholarships, and other tuition discounts are factored in, is often much lower, according to the American Enterprise Institute.

With filings for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) set to begin on January 1, students and parents need to dramatically shift their focus from figuring out how to finance college after a school has been selected to considering affordability first.

The AEI report closely matches the message that I have delivered to more than 200,000 parents, guidance counselors, and students in the Chicagoland area:

  • Sticker price is not net price
  • Not learning net price until March or April of senior year perpetuates the problem of excessive student debt
  • Net price calculators can be effectively used in a planning phase to start the college exploration and selection process
  • Categorizing colleges that will likely offer net price variety is the key to maximizing these net price calculators

Beginning your college search based on preferences, such as size, location, majors, and academic profile, too often leads to exploring schools in a financial vacuum, without really considering whether schools are affordable.

In the Financial Fit College Search program, families start by having that very important financial conversation, to determine what exactly is affordable.  Parents need to know how to assess affordability and be willing to communicate that figure to their children.  Parents and students need to get on the same page—pursuing colleges whose net prices match that personal affordability threshold.

The AEI report suggests three corrective measures to address this issue:

  • Generate net prices for the schools that students list on financial aid forms
  • Enlist guidance counselors to marshal relevant data
  • Encourage web developers to create online tools that help compare net prices across institutions

I have attempted to accomplish all of this and more with two websites, managingcollegecost.com and myfinancialfit.com. Managingcollegecost.com is a free educational website that features 30 videos, as well as timely articles and important links, all designed to help improve college financial literacy. Myfinancialfit.com is a subscription-based software program that helps families find affordable college options.

If we truly want our young people to experience a life after college that is not marred by excessive student debt payments, then we must make this principle of affordability paramount. It should be at the center of the conversations that we, as parents, have with our children about college, and at the center of the college counseling presentations and services that we, as counselors, offer to students.

Frank Palmasani
Counselor, Hinsdale South High School
Founder, managingcollegecost.com and myfinancialfit.com

Understand Your Financial Aid Award Letters

By: Frank Palmasani

Frank Palmasani has been dedicated to helping families find great and affordable college options for more than 30 years, as a college director of admissions and currently, as a high school guidance counselor.

It’s that time of the year when seniors and their parents will start to receive official award letters from the colleges to which they applied for admission and financial aid. Sadly and unfortunately, some families are astounded when they examine their award letters and calculate the official net price of each school.

Yesterday, I received one of the many calls I get from parents during this time of the year. Their child applied to three very similar colleges. The family received the award letter from each of these similar colleges, and none of the options were affordable. The parent’s reaction was quite typical: “My son has worked so hard in high school, has done really well, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help him.”


Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources to Rapidly Expanding Education Portfolio

Media Contact
: Liz Kelsch
Asst. Publicity Manager
December 5, 2011
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Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources to Rapidly Expanding Education Portfolio
Financial Fit Revolutionizes the College Search Process by Addressing Affordability First

(Naperville, IL)—Dec. 5, 2011 - Student debt has surpassed credit card debt for the first time in U.S. history, and the amount of outstanding student loans is expected to exceed $1 trillion in 2011. College seniors graduated with an average of $25,250 in student loans in 2010, up 5 percent from the previous year, according to The Project on Student Debt.

Every year, thousands of college-bound students and parents face the complexity and anxiety associated with filing for and receiving their college financial aid packages, as well as making decisions that will affect them financially for years to come. In fact, financial aid was cited as the most challenging aspect of the college process, according to a recent survey of guidance counselors.

In a process fraught with myths and misinformation, families often find out at the last minute that the colleges of their choice come with unexpectedly high financial burdens.


An Empty Blog...A New Beginning

 Everything must have a beginning, and that’s what this “empty” blog is…the beginning of College Countdown, our newest project, and we’d really love for you to be a part of it.

During our most recent visit to NACAC, we surveyed more than 400 counselors about their experiences with the college application process. This survey gave us some amazing insight and really inspired us.

We are designing College Countdown to provide you with the information and tools that you need to encourage and empower your students toward a successful path to college. College Countdown will include:

  • A free timeline and planner that students can use to stay organized.
  • Interactive products to help prepare for the ACT/STAT tests, find the right college, and figure out how to pay for it.
  • Videos and books from our industry experts that will create a more positive college experience for your students, their parents, and of course, you. 

And this is only the beginning!