Category Archives: FAFSA

What to Expect in the 2020-2021 FAFSA

Last month– as it does every May– the Department of Education released its Needs Methodology for the coming FAFSA. The Higher Education Act of 1965 requires that the Income Protection Allowance, Adjusted Net Worth of a Business or Farm, the Education Savings and Asset Protection Allowance, and the Assessment Schedules and Rates be updated annually for inflation.

Three of the four items received modest increases. For example, the Income Protection Allowance for a family of four with two college students went from $25,400 to $26,080. Meanwhile, the dependent student Income Protection Allowance went from $6,660 to $6,840.

Once again, the outlier is the Asset Protection Allowance, which took another whack. Whereas last year’s formula gave a married couple with the oldest partner age 50 an Asset Protection Allowance of $12,500, this year that same couple would only get only a little more than half that amount, $6,300.

Why does this happen? Here’s an explanation of how the APA is calculated. Interestingly, the Higher Education Act requires that the Consumer Price Index be the inflation measure for every category other than the Asset Protection Allowance; in the case of the APA, it requires inflation to be calculated at 6%.

Here are some takeaways from all of this:

  • The typical family will see their EFC increase by about $350 based on the changes to the APA.
  • A student earning the average college student hourly pay of $13.32 could work a little over 500 hours without it impacting their EFC. While 500 hours may seem like a lot, a student who works 10 hours per week during the school year and 30 hours per week for two months of summer will work around 540 hours.

And one last reminder: If you haven’t yet completed the FAFSA for the 2019-2020 school year, you have until 11:59pm Central time on June 30 to do so.

Co-Signing Student Loans

If you’re among the 2/3 of families that will borrow to pay for college, you may be looking at private student loans as one of your options. Unlike federal direct student loans, private student loans typically require a co-signer. It’s vital that parents and others asked to co-sign understand what they are actually doing when co-signing a student loan. Continue reading Co-Signing Student Loans

FAFSA Verification

Every year, about 1/3 of FAFSAs filed are selected for validation, which could be described as FAFSA’s version of an audit. Some FAFSAs are chosen at random for verification, whereas some schools– especially those funding need-based aid out of an endowment– will verify every application. Because verification goes through the school, it’s not unusual for students to first learn about their verification status when they receive an acceptance and financial aid award. Being selected for verification does not typically mean that you’ve done anything wrong, just that you need to provide additional information. Continue reading FAFSA Verification

College Prep by Grade

I gave a financial aid talk to college and career center volunteers at our high school recently. One question stood out: “This is a lot of information to absorb at once. Can you break it down into some specific suggestions by grade?” Two ideas are important here: College planning is a process that should start well before senior year, and there are things that can be done at any point to make things go more smoothly when the time comes to start applying. So here goes. Continue reading College Prep by Grade

Why File the FAFSA?

Every year, a large percentage of the eligible population fails to file a FAFSA: the Department of Education estimates 40% of high school seniors do not file it and 25% of college students do not renew their FAFSA. And yet, there are plenty of compelling reasons to do so. The obvious one is access to financial aid. Here are some other reasons: Continue reading Why File the FAFSA?

Special Circumstances

Special circumstances refers to anything in the applicant’s financial situation that is not reflected on the FAFSA or CSS Profile. The Profile has an actual space for applicants to detail special circumstances. For FAFSA schools, applicants may have to appeal their aid award and go through the Professional Judgment (PJ) process. If this might apply to you, you should understand the decision-making criteria and process so that special circumstances you’re detailing are in fact special circumstances in the financial aid world. Continue reading Special Circumstances

FAFSA for Divorced Parents

This is a big topic so for today I’m going to focus on general rules. Keep in mind the FAFSA rules are different from the CSS Profile rules; below is FAFSA only.

The custodial parent for the FAFSA can be different than the custodial parent in the divorce decree and/or different from who claims the student as a dependent on their tax return. The FAFSA defines the custodial parent as “The parent that you lived with most Continue reading FAFSA for Divorced Parents