Financial Aid Q & A: Special Situations

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, April 08, 2014

These questions and answers from students in particular circumstances may provide helpful financial aid information for your own situation.


I live on a small family farm. Our gross income is about $90,000. However, after all the bills are paid we are left with a very small amount. How does this affect my financial aid applications? I will be paying for everything myself.
Your FAFSA information will be carefully reviewed and it must include financial information from both you and your parents. When you are looking into your final college choices, be certain that your school's financial aid officer has a complete understanding of your family's total financial situation. You will very likely need to consider the Stafford Loan and other self-help options to help defray college costs.

Note: You do not have to include the value of a family farm that you (your spouse and/or your parents) live on. Also, a small business with not more than 100 full-time or full-time-equivalent employees (or any part of such a small business) that is owned and controlled by the family is excluded from assets on the FAFSA.

Job loss

What can a family do if a job loss occurs?
Aid eligibility is based on the previous year's income. In that way, the family's income can be verified with a tax return. But the previous year's income may not accurately reflect the current situation, particularly if a parent lost a job or retired. In these instances, the projected income for the coming year can be used instead. Families should discuss the situation directly with the student financial aid office and be prepared to provide appropriate documentation.

I was recently laid off and am now on public assistance. Are there any programs for a student in my position?
Yes, depending on when you plan to attend school. If you have already filed the FAFSA application and your income status has changed, notify the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and it can assist you in making the changes necessary to be considered for additional student aid due to changed financial status.

Finding funds

With recently bankrupted parents and little current income, what is the route I should take in securing a financial plan for college that involves minimal or no out-of-pocket expenses?
Based on your current financial situation, you will probably be eligible for maximum financial aid for college. Your parents may not be eligible for the parent PLUS loan, which would be additional to your basic Stafford Loan limit but is limited to the annual cost of education (the "budget") minus other financial assistance. You also need to look for private scholarships, but please keep in mind that unfortunate financial circumstances do not necessarily mean you will get enough student financial aid to pay for your entire education. You should shop around and see what school is most affordable. Try both private and public colleges.

I have filled out the FAFSA, but my parents' tax preparer told my parents that we shouldn't expect any financial help. I need help paying for college, and I'm afraid of taking out a loan. What can I do?
Filing the FAFSA begins your consideration for federal student aid. You should follow through with your state's requirements for grant aid as well. Be sure that you have applied for what is available. Also say in close touch with the school of your choice to be certain you are considered for any institutional monies. Although loans are not preferred, they are taken out by most students and families out of necessity and can make your higher education a reality.

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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