#089 How the CSS Profile Could Impact What You Pay for College with Beatrice Schultz Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins  01:05

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA may be familiar to your family, the lesser known CSS profile is required by about 300 colleges and universities for your team to qualify for financial aid from the school and your student may very well be applying to one of these schools requiring it for 25 years, my friend, Beatrice Schultz has been working with families to design college financial plans that help minimize out of pocket expenses, maximize aid eligibility, and navigate the paying for the college process. She’s going to give you much of the same information and tips she provides to the families she works with. To be certain your family doesn’t miss out on financial aid, including my favorite free money. I’m Lisa, Mark Roberts, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. Beatrice, welcome back to the podcast.


Beatrice Schultz  02:18

Thanks for having me, Lisa. Great to be here.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:21

I love hanging out with my friends. I mean, we just talked for how long catching up longer than we’re going to even record this, which is so funny part. So you were back on back, I think at the end of 2022, along with another friend of ours, Beth Walker, where we were talking about recession proofing the college bound journey, and advice that the two of you have working on the financial side. That was a fantastic podcast. If anybody missed it, we’re going to link to it in the show notes to be sure they get it. But this time, we’re going to be super specific with financial aid and talk about this CSS profile. So how many schools is about 300? Right? Did I get that right at the intro?


Beatrice Schultz  03:09

Yeah, I’ve heard 250 to 300. But more and more schools are signing up. So it probably is closer to 300. Now schools that use this extra application for financial aid that is specifically designed for institutional aid, not government aid. The FAFSA is designed for all the governments to be to be able to offer their state grants and federal grants and schools use it for institutional aid also, but the CSS Profile is only for institutional aid, meaning extra money beyond what the government will offer for families and financial aid.


Lisa Marker Robbins  03:43

And so let’s go back for a sec. So on the money that the government offers, the most common would be the federal student loan that students have can get any student can get regardless of income, right?


Beatrice Schultz  03:58

Yeah. So the federal student aid would include Pell Grants, which are true grants, and that’s going to be for families that qualify based on lower income and assets. Then the next would be student loans, which will be loans that are in the name of the student, and based on how their financial information there may be interest for you while they’re in college loans or interest bearing loans. Every student who completes the fastboot qualifies for those loans. It also qualifies for families for parent loans for undergraduate students, so those are PLUS loans. And the FAFSA information is pulled by the states. So many states have state grant programs, usually not extra loan programs or grant programs based in California, the Cal Grant program, which so all of that information is key to be pulled from the fastball.


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:53

Okay. And I do want to say our friend Beth Walker was on about a month before This episode. So at the end of August, the August 29 episode with bath really talked about the upcoming changes to the faster that we’re not going to take time for today. But that’s episode 85. And it came out on August 29 2023. So that money that you just talked about, and Beth talks about qualifying for that money and her episode that is given by the federal government. So the money that the schools who say, yep, fill out the CSS Profile, the money that’s going to qualify you for comes directly from the school.


Beatrice Schultz  05:36

Yeah, and when we say directly from schools, it’s Brennan’s going down it, it truly is people don’t people, alumni, companies donating to the school and creating scholarships and grants to help kids fund this. Originally, it was traditionally a private school, meaning that so when you need to, it’s going to cost more. So there’s it’s, there’s a higher income level to where you may get some need based financial aid. But today, public schools use the CSS Profile. So just to collect more information to make sure the appropriate students are getting the aid that they may qualify for the CSS Profile is many more questions than the fastener does.


Lisa Marker Robbins  06:19

So I will link in the show notes to the list of schools. So you know, would you advise that you don’t, you can ignore that list of schools during the college bound process until it’s a senior year when you’re getting ready to go, or should families familiarize themselves in the sophomore or junior year, if they’re going to be applying to a CSS school,


Beatrice Schultz  06:43

I think it’s really important. The, well, there’s a critical time point, which is the January of your sophomore year in high school. And that’s going to be the year that’ll be the first year that’s going to count for income and assets for qualifying for law, this financial aid. So every family should know if any school they’re considering is asking for the CSS Profile. The reason is, they’re going to be asking for more information. So there can be strategies around income and assets that you might be able to make your application look more preferred. As an example, the CSS Profile is going to ask about home equity. So if you’re like, wow, that’s where everything is in our family, I need to be prepared that it’s possible that the school is going to perhaps count home equity in their formula, we may not get as much financial aid, so doesn’t mean we’re not going to apply. But we can’t call that a financially safe option. And the other part is if you have two families, a divorced family, and then you’ll have two households that both have to report for the CSS Profile. So some of the schools that only consider the primary family which now we’re no longer calling that custodial family for the faster we’re calling it the parent that supports most financially, if it matters that both parents are going to impact the financial aid formula, some families choose to even screen or definitely consider that those schools asked for more information may may definitely make it may not become a financially safe school, there is opportunity for professional judgment. So I don’t like people to take the school off the list, but I want them to recognize it as not being financially safe. Wow, it’s


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:26

just yeah, I mean, it’s just being a wise consumer and having your eyes wide open. You know, because we’ve had on previous episodes are where we’ve really looked at, like the elements that go into building a healthy college list. And having a budget established to your point, even really, by the sophomore year. And if you’re listening to this, and you have a junior or a senior, you really need to get your your budget in mind now, but having your budget in mind. So there’s the budget part, you know, you’re talking about financially Safe Schools, which I would say you’re saying like, well, that’s a school that it looks like you would qualify for NIF aid for it to be in your budget is not going to go over budget, you know, and then there’s looking at the school as far as an academic fit, can you get in? So those are the two those are two really important things. Can we afford it? Can we get in the focus of my work being? Do they do I have identified the right major and do they have that major? Are they reputable for that major? And then what I would say is the least important one, which is that social fit, right? It doesn’t feel like home to me. And I think that a lot of families lead with that, where these other three areas are vitally important. And so I like


Beatrice Schultz  09:50

I definitely think that third pillar is the financial pillar and unfortunately, sometimes academically safe school OLS as an example, which may be out of state public schools, sometimes will be not financially safe, especially not for the level of education for some families, if they’re hoping for need based financial aid. As an example, that might be a case where you’re like, Okay, it’s safe that you will get into the school. But let’s be careful, because that’s not financially safe, because there will be no financial aid there. So now you’re going to be paying $50,000 For that education. And your budget is only 45. So let’s make sure we’re making the right choice.


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:31

I love that. So the federal The FAFSA is going to just look at income really. CSS profile, you’ve mentioned that they’re going to take a deeper look. So I’m guessing it takes longer to complete,


Beatrice Schultz  10:45

right? It does take longer to complete. And there’s many questions that are in smart questions. So if you if you say, yes, there’s gonna be another 10 questions that might show up. So things that are reported, and especially because Beth talked about the simplification of the FAFSA, so the FAFSA Now will only need a tax return, they aren’t even going to ask you for information such as what would be on your W two. So the CSS Profile is going to say, how much are you contributing to your 401k? They’re going to ask these types of questions they’re going to ask information about what do you have for untaxed income that’s not showing up on your tax return, they’re going to ask for tax returns for your business. If you have if you’re if you have a corporation that you’re running, or any kind of business sole prop business, that now the sole profit will be on your original tax return. But any type of corporate or LLC would be the details would not be on your tax return. And there’s also a paragraph which is very valuable, which is called the special circumstances where in that paragraph, you can explain if there’s any financial information you’ve shared, perhaps because it was two years old, because if when you lost him, you follow the tax return, that today is different. And that is a very important paragraph that the fast doesn’t allow. So I believe, as an example, let’s say you today are divorced. But when you filed your tax return, you had to file a joint tax return two years ago, because as parents who were married, so that’s can be very difficult to navigate with a traditional pass. But process, the CSS Profile allows you to explain that and enter the information. It’s not pulling financial information from the IRS website.


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:32

I mean, that that part of it’s kind of like, feeling wise might make people feel better, because when you’re just uploading a tax return, it’s like you want to go Yeah, yeah. But in and then the CSS profiles, like, Okay, explain that. I mean, I’ve heard other examples of things that might need to be explained, would be like, a financial what looks like a financial windfall. But it could be what a rollover that you took that on, if they’re on paper, but it actually rolled somewhere else, what are some other like circumstance, it


Beatrice Schultz  13:06

could also be a bonus, perhaps you lost your job, and you got a severance check. And since then, you’ve been unemployed. I mean, there’s the numbers can be so off, or you just had a big year, because you’ve had a severance check, then you got and you use that money to pay for your eldest child to go to college. So there’s nothing else. And now you’re so income changes is a big factor. Family size might be a you’re allowed to now say grandma and grandpa moved in, and we’re, we’re paying 1000 $2,000 a month to help them be in long term care. I mean, those types of extra expenses or income, there’s a specific line in the CSS Profile about medical expenses, which you so that’s not even a special circumstances paragraph. So you could say we’ve had an expensive medical, we’ve expensive medical expenses that make a difference for our family. And that’s why it looks like we have more disposable income than we can you also get to report if you’re paying for tuition for private high school and other colleges, which now the fast was They still ask if you have more than one child in college, but we’re assuming most experts are assuming with the FAFSA, there’s going to have to be a professional judgment to go and say, hey, it’s really expensive for my family. I’m paying for two now, which is one of the changes that’s happening with the fastball that the CSS Profile is still collecting that information. And we’ve seen historically most colleges take that into account when they’re offering financial aid.


Lisa Marker Robbins  14:35

So these colleges I mean, they’re really just i You said it earlier, they’re trying to be more fair. Really the look, take a deep dive on your family’s finances, to be sure that the people who should be getting free money, so grants and accessible loans from the institutions lounge are going to have to be repaid. But they don’t necessarily offer them to everybody that they’re getting able to take advantage of this.


Beatrice Schultz  15:08

And remember, most states in the US once your incomes over most states and federally once your incomes over 100,000. Well, actually federally, once your incomes over 60,000, you wouldn’t get any federal aid like the Pell Grant in many states up to 100, maybe 110,000 income, you won’t get any free money from the States with this is a lot of Americans are below 100,000, though, that so there’s a lot of money that’s there for the passport with the government. But the CSS Profile formula, if you’re spending $80,000, to send your child to school, you can be with with one student in school, you can make over $250,000, which is a huge salary. But two, you can qualify for some need based financial aid, it’s only going to bring your cost of college from 80 down to 70. But if you have two kids in college, it might bring that $80,000 College down to 50. So I say that to say many families are like, I’m not even going to apply, I’m not going to qualify for any need based financial aid. And like, oh, no, there’s there is money out there. And certainly there’s families that have income and assets that they will not qualify for need based, but some colleges look at it also. And they’ll you can look at the website to find out but they consider it for merit aid. Also, some private scholarships actually asked for the CSS Profile, because they want to use that information to determine whether you qualify for a private Scholarship, which might have a combination of need and merit.


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:38

So it’s really wise your advice to everybody is fill it out. I mean, as you as you said that about, you could make 300,000, which is a very high income. And still in some scenarios, depending on the details of your application, and that school, qualify for some need based aid. And somebody might be thinking well $10,000 to somebody making 300,000 Like, but take the free money, you know, whether it’s a vacation or a project for your home, or you’re investing in in your retirement, like take the free money or leaving money on the table.


Beatrice Schultz  17:16

Oh, interesting how we all we get so caught up with this college being so expensive that we’re like, what’s the difference of 1000 bucks $5,000. And then on the next turn, we’re going out of our way to save a penny on gas, you know, so there’s certain things that we think we can control because we see two gas stations, and we’re like, I can go to that gas station that’s less expensive. We often can be overwhelmed by the cost of college that we don’t even want to manage it down to that level. But you want to give yourself grace. Yes, $1,000 makes a difference. Nobody makes so much money. I shouldn’t say that. But most people notice $10,000. So $1,000 a month, right? So in many families, it makes a huge difference. So it is a time to have a real consciousness about these 1000 here 1000 There, it’s a huge amount of money. And if you think about kids working, they might only make a couple 1000 In the summer, it’s a difference between, you know, it’s for kids $1,000 is so much but they can’t even fathom 80,000 50,000 30,000 That they don’t even appreciate the number. So I think yes, everybody should get it should should make sure they recognize any way that they can reduce the cost college.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:37

I love your analogy of the gas station. That is so true. It’s like it just feels like it’s so big. Why try? You mentioned you know, so we’re just talking about everybody should apply. Let’s talk for a second then I’ve got another question for you. But let’s talk for a sec about when do you apply for this? Do you apply every year like the FASFA so give us just the down and dirty details about when does this open for application because Beth had just educated us on normally the FAFSA is available and on October 1, and this year, the government saying it will not be available until December 1. So what what’s the timeline on the CSS?


Beatrice Schultz  19:22

So the CSS Profile becomes available on October 1. So I reckon mend October 1 families with seniors that are going to be going to college next year, get on the website, you can start filling it in you can save it you can go back to it just get a feeling and take a look at the guidelines of all the information you’re going to need to have to share the when so the one thing for the CSS Profile. The fastball rules for when they’re due, which tend to be for many public schools in March, but many private schools might want them in January February. The private many schools with a CSS Profile actually have deadlines. The earliest you see might be October 15, November 1 November 15. Commonly, that’s if you’re applying early action or early decision in the school. This is the rule that I tell my client, my clients, my friends, this is the trip to know, assume the financial aid is due. When your application is due, check the school to make sure which schools, they never require the financial information before the application is due. They could be due the same day, sometimes the financials do one or two weeks later. So when you think of an example of applying early action or early decision, and some of the many schools who have an early action or early decision option, absolutely require the financial aid through the CSS Profile, because they want to help the kids to make a decision. And the families so they’re offering financial aid offers with that early decision or early action offer. For sure. With early decision, nobody’s going to want to accept the decision, which says I’m thankful price with not without giving them financial aid. So with every school first you take a look at that link that Lisa shared to say which of my schools need the CSS Profile, then you go into those websites and double check the deadlines. But if you’re thinking early action or early decision, many of those schools are going to be November 1 or November 15. deadlines.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:24

Yeah, I mean, the earliest college application deadline in the US is October 15th. There are schools that have rolling, there aren’t a ton of schools that are October 15. But they’re trying to remember that


Beatrice Schultz  21:35

I feel like there’s one. Like, I know, that surprised me. When I saw it. There was one that had like, typically I think November 1 and November.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:44

I can think of like off the top of my head, I think like University of South Carolina, Clemson University, our Georgia Tech’s early action for Georgia students. So check, always check your deadlines, but I love that you don’t even really have to check the deadline for the CSS Profile. If you just assume it’s the same day in you’re prepared. Is there anything that family should do ahead of I mean, this is okay, we’re going to drop this. This is August that we’re recording, but it’s going to become available on September 26. This episode, but before they sit down, is there anything that you encourage them to gather up to make it easier?


Beatrice Schultz  22:24

Yeah, what’s gonna happen is when you file the CSS Pro, so it’s it’s one, it’s one form CSS profile, you list the colleges, and some colleges will ask some extra questions. Also, if you win the call the colleges before you even accepted, the students accepted, are sometimes going to ask you to actually upload some of the financial information. So you absolutely need your tax returns W tos. And when I say tax returns, you need to have your tax returns for your personal as well as any business tax returns. And W twos if you have homework and 1099 is if that’s how you’re paid. Those are the key income ones. And then you do need to know what all your assets are. So I recommend pulling all the statements as of September 30. And you’re ready to go.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:10

Now, if a family has a sophomore or junior, you know, you had said like if you’re even thinking about these schools, and this is why I tried to encourage people, like start thinking about the schools earlier, right? Start thinking about what might be on the list? Do you have any advice to families with sophomores and juniors? Or maybe their oldest is a senior but you know, it’s common that somebody has another kid two or three years later that gotta also have a freshman or a sophomore? What did I really


Beatrice Schultz  23:43

I really recommend using the net price calculators on the college websites? And sometimes they actually use the College Board CSS profile for you to answer the question. So the concept of a net price calculator, every college has one, some are a little out of date. Some are a little archaic, but but you can go to any college type in net price calculator, Stanford University. And then it’ll allow you to go through the calculator to set an expectation of what you expect for financial aid. It’ll also ask questions similar to the CSS Profile. So you’re prepared to be like, Oh, I’m gonna have to answer that question. I got to think about it. So that’s what I recommend doing. If you’ve got freshmen and juniors or anyone before you’re ready to file just go into every school and do them and I actually recommend doing the net price calculator saving it as a PDF, because sometimes we’ll use those Net Price Calculator reports to help with our appeal if the college doesn’t offer as much as their calculator had said,


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:41

Oh, there’s another episode appealing. If the net price calculator doesn’t look that up. Okay, well, we’ll have to do that one in the future for sure. Like the FASFA? Do you have to submit the CSS Profile every year that your students in class College or is this a once and done in their senior year of high school.


Beatrice Schultz  25:04

Most colleges require that it’s done every year. If a con if a student does not qualify for any financial aid and they end up paying full price, for example, it’s a college that only offers need based aid and they don’t qualify for any need based aid, then oftentimes, client students will not apply. But if you even got a penny of financial aid, likely you’re going to have to do it every year. And unfortunately, unlike the FASFA, that saves your answers. You’re starting from scratch every year. So it’s not it’s it’s cumbersome. You got to set aside a nice Saturday or a rainy Saturday to do it.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:38

Well, so great advice, everybody, October 1, it becomes available if you have a senior they haven’t submitted before your students college application deadlines. And Beatrice if families want to connect with you, I know you’ve got a great monthly newsletter, you work with families privately, where’s the best place for them to find you, which we’ll also put it in the show notes. But


Beatrice Schultz  26:03

yes, so go to my website, west face college planning.com, you can sign up for the newsletter. And you can also take a look at a lot of blogs that I have on the website. I’ve got some guest logs from Lisa’s on my site too. So we’ve had some nice cross pollination station. But that’s the best way to go and anyone’s Welcome to to get my newsletter and or connect with me on Facebook Westfield college planning.com Wonderful. Thanks, Beatrice. Thanks so much, Lisa, what a treat.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:37

I’m all about being in line for free money, especially when it comes from paying for college. So for your college bound challenge this week, in addition to checking out the list of the 300 or so schools that use the CSS Profile, which remember I’m linking to in the show notes. I like what Beatrice suggested for all families, regardless of what grade your student is in right now. Head to the CSS Profile, create an account, and then look through the questions to get you thinking about how colleges will evaluate your application for financial aid. And because every family should be at the front of the line for scholarships, grants, and low interest loans, share this episode with a friend who’s also sending their teen to college in the near future. Thank you for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast, where I help your family move from overwhelmed or confused to motivated, clear and confident about your teens future