The FAFSA Conundrum.

Every college recommends that you fill out a FAFSA form ‘just in case’ you may qualify for some money.  Apparently the government gives out BILLIONS in grants and scholarships, etc.

We filled out the FAFSA in January before we finalized our taxes.  I must have been feeling pretty sleepy when I was filling in the numbers, because FAFSA sent us this e-mail:

Eligibility Information

Estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC)= 000500 (this should have been my first clue that something was wrong)

Based on the eligibility criteria you may be eligible for the following:

Pell Grant Estimate – $5,195.00
Direct Stafford Loan Estimate – $5,500.00

Could it be that we actually qualify for a pell grant???

It wasn’t until I was reading Sarah’s post on her FAFSA experience that I remembered I had to update our tax numbers on our FAFSA form.

Here is our new eligibility:

Eligibility Information

Estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC)= 047576

Based on the eligibility criteria you may be eligible for the following:

Direct Stafford Loan Estimate – $5,500.00

Does the government think we can afford $47,576 a year???????  Holy moly.

We will not be taking the Stafford loan.  We will try to cover college costs on our own.  And, thankfully, her tuition is no where near $48,000.

It does make me curious.  I wonder what formula they use to determine the EFC?  Anyone know?


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  1. If I remeber correctly it says directly under the EFC that the number is NOT what you are expected to pay. (?)

  2. We don’t do the FAFSA anymore, as we prefer to keep our info private. Our 6th child (our youngest) is in college now and we knew some years ago from doing the FAFSA that our expected contribution was higher than our private college total costs. But, they have an online calculator (or just google fafsa calculator and make sure you click on the gov’t website)
    I haven’t used this for years, but I used to play around with it and put in all types of incomes and family sizes just to see what we could get if we had a lower income or different circumstances. Because seriously, sometimes it seems you might get ahead more if you made less! I got the idea that we would get more if we were divorced! But, like I said, it has been years (over 5 at least) since I played around with this. Today criteria might differ.

    • Oh, I see that link I posted says it expired…just googled fafsa calculator and use the gov’t website, not any other affiliations. It is called “FAFSA7caster”

  3. I remember when I was headed to university and I applied for loans. I was denied because my parents made wayyyyy too much money. mhm. right.

    Would your application have gone any differently if your daughter had waited a year after high school before starting college? I haven’t started to fill in our forms yet (waiting for the official documents from the College) but I ‘hear’ that if you wait a year between HS and C your status changes. Perhaps this is just a Canadian thing…or perhaps I am delusion…or perhaps a combination of each.

    Anyways, congrats on being so rich :-)

  4. I don’t think we are going to even apply. We have thought about separating him from us though. He will be working almost 36 a week at his job and living outside our home. In one year, he can completely break away from us and get at least a pell grant. No loans though. Not sure if that works anymore. If not, we will work it out somehow. State schools for sure and a stint at junior college could keep it low enough for us.

  5. I don’t know what formula they use to calculate the EFC, but they always said that we could contribute enormous amounts to our sons’ education that seemed crazy to us also. We always assumed because we lived conservatively and had little debt, they assumed we had a lot of extra disposable income. But who knows?

    • It’s a good thing that we are putting money away. I didn’t think we would qualify for anything, but I was quite surprised to see how much they ‘think’ we should be able to contribute! :)!

  6. I don’t know how they figure the aid however one thing that helped us do 3 DD’s debt free was we did a monthy payment plan with the school. I don’t know if all schools do this or not. They figure the monthly cost per year then you start paying in May before they start school in Aug. It’s a WHOPPER of a monthly payment but no intrest

    • I believe JMU has a payment plan for a small fee. We will hopefully have saved enough to pay twice a year. No loans for us, at least for now.

  7. Sharon, hubs and I made less than 50,000 last year and had one child deduction and one in school and we did not qualify for a pell grant for our daughter. With the money you and your husband make and I don’t know by any means but I assume it is more than us you will be asked to pay almost all of the tuition. That is why scholarships and saving are so important and going to and in Sate college if possible. If your children are as hard a workers as you and your husband they will figure it out. Take a deep breath.

    • I had a feeling it was wrong as hubby makes a decent salary. But I find it absurd that the formula ‘thinks’ we can contribute that much! We will pay out of pocket for tuition and room and board (and eat beans and rice for 5 years…:)!) My daughter already has plans on applying to be an RA which will save $5000 a year starting in her sophomore year.

  8. Congratulations!
    We are ONLY expected to contribute $42,803. You must be SUPER RICH! lolz

    Here’s what I know……
    “Assets” meaning Savings count against the parents of a dependent student 5.64% when calculating what you are expected to contribute. Assets in the student’s name count 20% against the expected contribution. % of pure income count at a higher rate for both.
    However they “protect” up to $50K of your assets from counting against you for aid awards.

    Retirement savings in IRAs and 401Ks aren’t counted against you but investments and capital gains(stock or house sales)are.

    While it’s wise to move your money around and/or pay down debts or pre-pay on your mortgage with your assets, don’t lie to the feds about what you have and/or make.

    • It’s funny, really, cause when I originally filled out the FAFSA I put in too many numbers. It looked like my husband’s yearly salary was in the millions! It was only after I put in his real salary that we no longer got aid. Very strange. We would never lie about our income, Sluggy, and I doubt we would even move money around. It just seems like their calculator is broken.

  9. It takes in to consideration income, family size and savings. You can Google it and find the Federal Government paperwork to compute it by hand but you’d probably go crazy trying to complete it!

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