My daughter has sent in her FAFSA application for student aid. How can our family manage college costs so she doesn't graduate and have to pay back a huge debt? -- Debt Avoidance


You have left financial aid planning to a rather late date. Ideally, families should begin thinking of ways to pay for college before their children even go to elementary school, and hopefully have been able to set aside some money for college.

By sending in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), your daughter has taken an important step in getting the money needed to pay for college. Soon she will receive information on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to her education. The schools to which she has applied will consider your EFC together with the cost of attendance to determine how much financial aid they can offer you.

This aid comes in the form of education grants, student loans, work-study stipends and college scholarships. If your child does not receive sufficient financial aid, it is time to talk to financial aid officers at the colleges to see how the difference between the aid your child needs and what the colleges afforded her can be met. Financial aid officers do want to find ways for students to attend their colleges. It may even be possible to negotiate a more favorable financial aid package. If it is necessary for you or your daughter to borrow money to pay for college, you need to know exactly what the monthly payments will be to see if they are affordable.

Before your family receives the EFC, you should go online to learn as much as you can about all the ways to pay for college. Many websites have solid information that may help you find additional ways to fund her education. Two helpful websites are: www.finaid.org and www.collegeboard.org.