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Dollars for College: a student financial aid toolkit

America’s Promise Alliance, The Citi Foundation, and uAspire present a valuable guide that best reflects a common theme from their respective missions: accessible higher education. The opportunities and quality of life that college offers cannot be denied, though the cost can be prohibitive and the process can be daunting. That’s why the Dollars for College Financial Planning Toolkit helps students and families best understand all the available resources that can make higher education affordable.

Dollars for College offers the information students need in the form of a timeline. Completing the steps at each stage is only half the work; what makes this toolkit valuable is how a student can build on his or her complete understanding of the financial aid process and therefore make more informed decisions throughout.

Pre-High School

Before delving into the procedures of payment, this chapter explains how a college education is a personal investment in many ways including: financial security, intellectual growth, stronger community, and better health.

9th through 12th Grades

  • Here are some highlighted chapters and subsections collected from the high school years.
  • Financial Fit provides information about a variety of ways to calculate the cost of college that is tailored to an individual’s need, circumstances, scholarship prospects, etc.
  • Basics of Borrowing Money helps identify what is intimidating to students about loans and debt, but also transitions into the multitude of possibilities when it comes to scholarships.
  • Building Your Support Team emphasizes the importance of enlisting help from those around you. A college counselor, parents or relatives, the financial aid office, are just a few of the various resources for college bound students.
  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) section clarifies the purpose and extensive criteria for receiving federal aid. This toolkit also includes an action plan for successfully collecting the appropriate documents and completing the paperwork while meeting the deadlines.
  • The Award Letter Analysis identifies the kinds of grants that contribute to student aid, such as, federal grants, institutional grants, federal loans, and work-study aid.
  • Bridging Your Financial Gap offers supplemental savings and aid ideas after receiving an initial financial aid statement.

The College Years

Once enrolled, there are many more steps to consider. This chapter outlines tuition plans, the stipulations of a Master Promissory Note, and Stafford Loan Entrance Counseling, as well as post college obligations such as the difference between loan repayment plans.

Parents & Caregivers

It cannot be overlooked that each stage in the college payment process is best done and understood with the help of parents and caregivers.  This chapter speaks directly to those who want to assist a student with either the process or payment or both. Some of the big ideas include:

  • The impact of long-term college savings beginning in childhood
  • 529 Plans
  • Loans designed for parents


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