According to Kalman Chany, author of Paying for College Without Going Broke, using an accountant to do your college financial plan can actually cost you thousands of dollars in potential financial aid. Here are 5 questions to ask before you make a decision to retain anyone as your college funding adviser:
1. Should I increase my retirement contributions to lower my adjusted gross income during my child’s college years?
If the accountant says yes to this question, you definitely have the wrong person to do your college funding plan. Every adviser should know that both retirement contributions must be added back into income to calculate your Expected Family Contribution.
2. Should I put my 529 assets in the grandparent’s name to avoid assessment?
If they answer yes to this question, run for the hills. Money coming from the grandparent-owned 529 to to pay for college is considered untaxed income to the child and can cause an astronomical increase in your Expected Family Contribution.
3. Can I transfer my child’s assets to a younger sibling to lower my EFC?
If they answer yes to this question, they don’t know about the institutional methodology which will assess all sibling assets.
4. What are the forgiveness provisions on my child’s government loan?
If they don’t know these provisions, it’s time to find another adviser.
5. Can a 529 plan be owned by child?
If they say no, it is because they don’t understand that a 529 is always considered a parent asset, even if owned by the student.
Finally, if anyone promises to increase your scholarships, you should also move on. Though a good adviser can offer you many good tips on increasing the size of your scholarships , no one can guarantee a higher scholarship.