Who should complete the FAFSA? What about parents of newborns?

Augustana College (Illinois)

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Most of the financial aid and college counselors write about the need for all college students/college student families to complete the FAFSA for three very basic reasons:

  1. There is no way of knowing whether you qualify for financial aid without completing it.
  2. Many non need-based scholarships still want a FAFSA completed.
  3. Even if you/your student don’t qualify for much financial aid, the FAFSA is required for any work-study programs.

What about anyone else?

Kent Barnds, Vice President of Admissions at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, tweeted this in early February:

Great idea — even though the admissions staff isn’t in charge of financial aid, they must have to deal with questions about the required forms. I responded to Kent’s tweet, suggesting (as I’ve written here) that you can only learn how to do it by completing the form. Kent agreed and gave another great reason:

Ah, yes, the shocking Expected Family Contribution.
As Kim Clark wrote for US News Education, in 3 Ways the Government Over Estimates Your Ability to Pay for College: “Parents who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, are often shocked by how much the federal government thinks they can afford to pay for college when they receive their official “Expected Family Contribution,” or EFC.  [Hat tip to Grace Nunez at the Cost of College blog.] It’s certainly worth reading the explanations, but here are the basic reasons:
  1. Outdated budget estimates.
  2. No regional adjustments.
  3. Unrealistic family spending assumptions.

These policies mean the EFC is “at best, a very harsh assessment of families’ ability to pay,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org. At worst, he says, it is “somewhat unrealistic…and archaic.”

So:  shocking, unrealistic, archaic. Who else should we invite to share this experience?
Writing for The Quick and the Ed blog last fall, Rachel Fishman suggested that parents of newborns should complete the FAFSA. See And Baby Makes EFC.
Since EFC is calculated mostly using adjusted gross income, marital status, family size, and number of family members in college—information that is often gleaned from a tax return—any person who files a tax return with a child dependent listed should get an EFC estimate.
Rachel urged parents to understand how college is financed, recommending self-advocacy, and also made the point that early awareness helps to set the expectation:
A policy like this would be the government’s way of saying to families, it’s not a question of if your child is going to college, it’s when, and here’s a tool to get you there.
I doubt my nieces and nephews with preschool children would want to complete a college financial aid form while they’re still concerned with potty-training.
However, when a friend recently wrote to say she is worried about being able to pay for college for her children, now middle-schoolers, I thought about that article and whether it would be helpful to know more now about what the colleges will expect you to contribute then.
I’d rather be shocked ahead of time know now. What about you?
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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Who should complete the FAFSA? What about parents of newborns?

  1. Pingback: Student Employment » Blog Archive » UCLA

  2. Pingback: Our long and winding road of financial aid deadlines: FAFSA, Profile, 1040 | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  3. Pingback: Is financial aid worth the hassle? | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

  4. Pingback: Three Quick Tips for College Financial Aid | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

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