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College bills coming due? Here are some smart tips before you pay

Erin Arvedlund, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Home and Consumer News

With the cost of college rising each year, we did the math to see if it's possible for students to pay their own way through school.

In Pennsylvania, the worst state for affordability, students have to work 120 hours a week to cover in-state tuition and housing, according to price data from College Tuition Compare and labor/wage data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Granted, price data aren't perfect: a recent University of Pennsylvania study found that many colleges' net price calculators don't correlate with the true cost of a university degree.

That said, how can you negotiate your kid's college bill down and pay what you can afford?

First, you can appeal your kid's financial aid award letter.

"For some families, a change in financial status may have occurred since the submission of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid form and may not reflect your current income," notes Fred Amrein, founder of PayForED.com, a Newtown Square consulting and software firm that helps parents and students maximize financial aid and minimize college costs. He's even put together a sample "Financial Aid Appeal letter" as a guide.

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Second, here's a list of tuition bill items to review before you pay:

--Room size: Prices can vary depending on room selection with a single room being the most expensive.

--Meal plan: College freshmen may not have a choice in the meal plan. If you think the meal plan is too much, ask if it can be downsized.

--Health insurance: This is a fee sometimes listed on the bill that can usually be waived with proof of your child's health insurance.

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