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Answers to Your College Questions

How do I know what my family can afford to pay for college?

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Figuring out what you can afford to pay for college is the first step in helping your child attend college without having to take on excessive student loans or burdening your family with unreasonable debt.

The best way to start thinking about college costs and affordability is to assess what you can afford by looking at such factors as tax credits, cash flow, any savings available beyond an emergency fund, and reasonable parent borrowing.

A helpful tool you can use to assess these factors is the College Affordability Calculator™, available as part of the Financial Fit Program on College Countdown. The College Affordability Calculator is a confidential, 10-item questionnaire that evaluates your family’s finances and determines how much money you can actually afford to pay for college per year—your affordability threshold.

Once you’ve established your affordability threshold, you can then start searching for colleges that will be your best financial fits.

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Frank Palmasani is a Chicago area high school guidance counselor and former college director of admissions, and creator of Financial Fit. In 1985, Palmasani began delivering seminars on the college financial aid and planning process, and estimates that he has reached more than 200,000 people through his talks. He is a member of NACAC, IACAC, and the College Board. Palmasani has been featured in the Boston Herald, the Chicago Tribune, Yahoo! Finance, WGN-TV, WTTW-TV, CBS’s Monsters and Money in the Morning, and is the author of the forthcoming book Right College, Right Price (Sourcebooks, January 2013).

Palmasani is the founder of Financial Fit, which you can find in the College Countdown bookstore.