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Ask the Experts: Federal Student Aid

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, October 14, 2013

Question By when should I file my FAFSA? How can I find out how much aid would I be able to receive? What is the basic thing that determines the amount of my aid, Like any special circumstances, job, etc? - Jamie

AnswerFile the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 of the year in which to intend to enroll in college. You should receive aid awards around the same time as admission offers, usually in March and the first week of April, unless you have applied under a rolling admission, Early Action, or Early Decision plan, through which you would hear about aid and admission earlier. The most important determinants of your aid package are: your and your parents' income, savings, and household expenses, and the total cost associated with attending a particular college.

 

Question Can a work study award be increased to decrease the amount of loans required, or is there a limit on the number of hours that a student can participate in FWS? - Elise

 

AnswerIn general, most FWS awards will generate approximately 15 hours of work a week while classes are in session, more if on-break. Some schools will increase the FWS amount to reduce a loan, but you must appeal and request the increase/decrease in writing. There is no regulatory maximum on FWS hours worked; however, you cannot arbitrarily work beyond your FWS allocation. Schools set your work hours.

 

Question I have received my EFC after filing the FAFSA. Can the college or university you are planning on attending exceed that amount, or must you pay that amount regardless? Thanks - Cara

 

AnswerYour EFC is a formula-driven determination of what your Expected Family Contribution should be toward your college education. A college or university may ask you to pay all or none of it, but you will be unlikely to receive need-based financial aid that goes beyond your financial need to then relieve you and your parents of your EFC.

That is, need-based financial aid is driven by this formula: Total Cost of the College minus your EFC equals your financial need. A college will then give you a financial aid package that may or may not cover all of your financial need, and may include more or less loan versus grant money. A college may award you merit-based (or non-need-based) financial assistance that goes beyond your financial need, or, in fact, is not related to your financial need. Thus, you may end up paying less than your EFC for college.

 

Question We submitted the FAFSA form and came back with a number on our Student Aid Report, saying that our family contribution was X, let's say $20,000.  My family will have two children in college next year, so is that $20,000 divided by two ($10,000 per child for school) or is it $20,000 for each child? - Christie

AnswerYour family size and the number of dependent children attending college or career school are taken into consideration by the federal EFC formula. Your EFC, for federal aid purposes will be reduced by half, per child. Go to www.studentaid.ed.gov/pubs to obtain a detailed worksheet to see exactly how the EFC Formula works.

 

Question My question is in regard to the FAFSA. My quandary is that although I live on modest means, my house equity is substantial. That's because I live in an area where housing prices have skyrocketed lately (the SF Bay area). I've been told that when filling out the FAFSA I can use a national average figure (or some such) for my home value. Is that true, and, if so, how can I find out what that figure would be? Thanks. - Cynthia

AnswerThe good news is that the value of your home is NOT considered when applying for FAFSA federal assistance. However, you may be required to report home equity via other forms, but not the FAFSA.

 

Question If I have two kids in college and both colleges have a policy of meeting a students financial needs based on the EFC, how does the amount of financial aid get coordinated/divided between both schools? - Tom

 

AnswerThe aid is not coordinated between schools. The FAFSA EFC will automatically calculate that there are two in college. Each college will electronically receive your data information and will offer you aid based on their unique formula.

 

Question I recently filled out a worksheet that estimated the family contribution amount. It came out what seemed to me to be extremely high. Is there a percent of net or gross income that they expect you to be able to pay? The estimate that the worksheet provided came out to be about 30% of our net income. Does that sound accurate? - Andrew

AnswerIt's not quite that simple. In general, an EFC is a result of an analysis of a variety of financial components. Such things as current cash, savings, and checking accounts are considered. Also the net worth of a parent's investments, including real estate (but not a parent's home), is factored in. Adjusted gross income is just one piece of the puzzle. Last, but not least, the age of the parents is part of the equation.

 

Question hello i just to know how to be able to apply for fed. grants to finish paying off my school. how do i go about doing that? - javier

 

AnswerSpend some time on the studentaid.ed.gov site to explore your opportunities for taking out new loans, consolidating loans, or applying for need-based aid (in the form of grants, which you don't need to pay back, subsidized loans, and work study). If you are applying for new financial aid in conjunction with pursuing current/future studies, you'll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (fafsa.ed.gov).

 

Question how can find pell grants online. I'm a struggling high school student that badly wants to go to college to become an nurse. - Kimberly

 

AnswerIf you go to this Web site — www.ed.gov/finaid — you will learn all about the method for applying for financial aid from all government sources. You will also be able to download the FAFSA forms which are required to complete to be considered for scholarships and low interest loans. You even will learn about special financial aid incentives for students who enter nursing careers. Do not despair and do not give up on your dream because of the costs of education. There are the means to attend a nursing program if you and your family follow the instructions on the forms.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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