Depending on your family’s income and the cost of the school you are attending, you might not be able to qualify for federal and institutional aid. There’s a really good discussion of this over at the TaxProf Blog. Savings count against what you qualify for, unfortunately, and the schools and government will expect you to put up a large portion of what you have available.
If this is the case, consider a more moderately priced school, and apply for merit-based aid through private organizations. Even if you don’t qualify for federal aid, your state government may have a grant program – and at the very least, they offer public four-year universities that can provide a great education value.
If you’re looking at a public college, look at statistics like how many professors they have per student and whether or not most classes are taught by assistants. Many state schools have a few departments that are particularly well-known and selective so its possible to get the prestige of a private school with the cost of a public one. Considered against the interest you might end up paying on a student loan, you’ll be glad you saved that $100,000.
Some politicians in Washington D.C. are looking at the various issues involved with federal financial aid. The primary focus over the last few weeks has been toward increasing grants and reducing student loan interest rates. If college tuition remains an important issue to voters, its possible that we could see more reforms targeting the FAFSA system.