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Changes to the U.S. financial aid system

I can give you 6 clear, articulate insights on how President Obama’s September 13, 2015 changes to the U.S. financial aid system will impact families.

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My areas of expertise

I am a full-time author, academic strategist, podcaster, and speaker. I help parents set their kids up to succeed brilliantly in college, graduate debt-free, and move directly into careers they excel at and love.

I am the author of LAUNCH: How To Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward.

You can see its 5-star reviews and “Look Inside” it on Amazon for free by going to:

Formerly, I spent over 20 years helping students successfully apply to highly competitive law, medical, business, and graduate schools. I still do that from my site at

TV and Radio

I am a professional public speaker and so make a sparkling, attention-getting guest for TV, radio, and podcast interviews.

I write and speak on these topics:

  • Education
  • Debt Free College
  • Scholarships
  • High School Dual Enrollment
  • CLEP and DSST
  • Application Essays
  • Career
  • College Prep
  • Community Service
  • Christian faith
  • Employment After College
  • Financial Aid
  • Parenting
  • Parenting 20-somethings
  • Productivity for College Students
  • Student Loan Debt
  • College Internships
  • Highly Competitive Law, Medical, Business, and Graduate School Admissions

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Permission for one time rights is granted. You may use all or part of the article or just a small quote. Please properly credit Jeannie Burlowski and mention in your article.

January 2019

Joni’s parents knew two things: they didn’t want her drowning in student loan debt after college, and they didn’t want her to spend her 20’s in a low-paying job that she despised. Determined to head off this nightmare scenario, Joni’s mom signed up for a live class taught by author Jeannie Burlowski, whose book LAUNCH: How To Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward was released in January of 2017.

“That one class,” Joni’s mom says, “made all the difference in the world for our family.”

Today Joni holds a bachelors degree from Carroll University that she achieved with only minimal debt. The best part of her story, though? Following her Carroll University graduation at age 20, Joni headed straight to California for a dream job with Disney.

“Earning a bachelors degree with minimal debt by age 20 is actually not that difficult,” Burlowski says. “The key is that parents need to sit up, pay attention, and jump on multiple strategies early on that will allow their kids to succeed brilliantly in college, graduate completely debt-free, and move directly into careers they excel at and love.”

Burlowski stresses that the key is to start strategizing early, even if you can’t save a dime.

“The worst thing parents can do is wait until January of their kid’s junior year of high school to think about these things,” Burlowski says. “By that time more than 75% of the best, cleverest ways for students to get college paid for are gone — and you can’t ever get them back. I want parents of 6th and 7th graders reading my book and attending my live events.”

Strategies for Parents

Here’s a small sample of strategies Burlowski recommends to parents:

Sign up for the free college savings program available at
. You’re going to buy necessities like groceries and drug store items anyway, right? Sign up for a free account at, register your grocery and drug store loyalty cards there, and without doing another thing a percentage of every dollar you spend at these stores will be funneled into a special account that you’ll be able to use for any student’s college savings, current college-related expenses, or payment of Sallie Mae® student loans. Over 21,000 grocery and drug stores participate, and no credit card is required. Grandparents and other relatives can do this too.

As early as possible, ask close relatives to reconsider gift giving. Grandma might decide to give her grandson a brightly wrapped package with a letter inside for each holiday and birthday. In the letter she tells him how much she loves him, what admirable good character she sees in him, how much potential she sees in him, how proud she is of what he’s accomplished the previous year, how excited she is to see him have a successful future, and that she has made a contribution to a fund where she’s saving for his college education. Any amount will help. To protect the child’s later eligibility for financial aid, Grandma should save this money in a 529 plan that she owns, with the child named as beneficiary.

Parents, be certain you are providing for your own retirement every single month. Financial planners are adamant on this point. If worse comes to absolutely worse you can borrow money to pay for college. You cannot borrow money to pay for retirement.

Work with your 6th grader to do a focused summer community service experience, and then have him write about that experience in a scholarship application before he starts 8th grade.
Are you stunned that there are college scholarships that are awarded to 8th graders? Brace yourself; there are even scholarships that are awarded to students younger than that.

Have your middle schooler start taking CLEP tests. Starting when your child is in 8th grade, go online to and view a list of every CLEP test available to students. Students who successfully pass CLEP tests earn real college credit for what they know – regardless of their age. Every single time your child finishes a middle school or high school class on one of these subjects, have him take the corresponding CLEP test and earn real, transferable college credit for what he’s learned. Not sure he knows enough to pass a CLEP test on the subject? Have him take a free CLEP practice test at, and then if extra help is needed get free CLEP prep at

Strongly consider community college. “I’ve spent 20 years helping students get into medical school through my work at,” Burlowski says. “Contrary to what people tell you, students who attend community college aren’t disadvantaged professionally in any way later on. If parents haven’t planned ahead of time how to pay for college, their kids can live at home under parental rules, attend community college for 4 semesters, work feverishly and save money, and then enroll in an expensive private university as a college junior.

Don’t jump to the conclusion that your local state university is your bargain choice. Use to check each school’s four-year graduation rate. If it takes six whole years for many students to graduate because classes there are crowded and hard to get into, that’s no bargain. Years five and six won’t be covered by financial aid, and so tuition bills are more likely to go on credit cards. “There are 3000 private colleges that may end up to be far better bargains,” Burlowski says. “I talk about those colleges to anyone who will listen.”

Fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible after October 1, every year that you’ll have a child in college the following fall. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you earn too much to get free money financial aid for college. You can make over $200,000 per year and still get free money. Put your kid in the front of the line to be considered for 9 separate federal student-aid programs, over 600 state aid programs, and most of the college-based (institutional) aid available in the United States by filling out the FAFSA form.

Always leave certain information off of the FAFSA form. For the question that asks: “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments, including real estate,” do not list the value of any (parent or child) retirement plans, pensions, annuities, or insurance policies (including whole-life insurance policies that may have cash value), and do not list the value of the home you live in. Many families leave thousands of dollars in financial aid on the table year after year because they include the value of these items when they answer that question. And if your family owns a rental property, lake cabin, or second home, don’t enter its market value. Instead, start with the property’s “quick-sale value.” (According to the IRS, “quick-sale value” equals 80% of the property’s fair market value, or what it could sell for quickly.) Then subtract any debt owed on it. That is the true value of this property for financial aid calculation purposes.


Hi, I’m Jeannie Burlowski

My background as an academic strategist allows me to help parents of kids ages 12–26 set those kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to jump directly into careers they excel at and love.

I do this primarily through my book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love AfterwardLAUNCH provides parents clear, step-by-step instructions for this journey.

Regular readers of my free weekly email newsletter get additional help from me. Gentle reminding about what to do when, and first access to my live and online classes, strategy updates, new podcast episodes, TRIBE membership, and in-person events.

My team and I are creating a debt-free college revolution. We hope you’ll join us.

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