Fill out the FAFSA for college aid, no matter your income or savings


 Q. I think we earn too much money for our kids to receive financial aid from their colleges. We have a high school junior, a freshman and a 10-year-old. How can we best position our money so they get some aid, or is income going to disqualify us? Should we complete the FAFSA?

A. No matter what your income or assets are, you should always fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

You have nothing to lose.

Need-based financial aid is determined by one of two methods that take into account a family’s income and assets, said Martin Nielsen of Premier College Funding in Somerville.

The two methods are the federal method and the institutional method. The federal method is applied through completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, and the institutional method is by completing the CSS Profile.

“All accredited colleges and universities require that you complete the FAFSA each year the student is in college,” Neilsen said. “Approximately 400, mostly private, schools require the CSS Profile as well.”

He said completing the forms allows you to determine your our Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, which will ultimately determine the amount of need-based aid that your student is eligible to receive.

The other primary component of the aid formula is the school’s Cost of Attendance. If a particular school has a very high cost of attendance, your student may still qualify for need-based aid even if you have a relatively high EFC based on your income and assets, he said.

“It is sometimes possible to also reduce your EFC through strategic planning, such as re-titling certain assets,” he said. “Not all assets are included in the financial aid calculation, so it is important to follow directions carefully when reporting your assets on the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile.”

Additionally, he said, your students are likely to qualify for more aid during the years in which you have more than one student attending college.

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This story was first posted in November 2014. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.