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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Good, as well as Alarming, Changes to Financial Aid Eligibility for the HS Classes of 2023 and beyond


Recent Changes have BIG Impacts for families with younger children!

At the very end of 2020, as part of the COVID 19 relief bill, a number of changes to the FAFSA form and the formula used to calculate need based financial aid eligibility were made. These will go into effect in 2022, when families start to file the FAFSA for the 2023/2024 school year. All current sophomores/10th grade students and younger will be affected.

Some of these are quite beneficial. The number of questions was cut from 108 to 40. A smaller amount of both parent and student income will be assessed as part of the family's resources to pay for college. The COA or cost of attendance for one year of college will be required to be posted on each college's website. That has not been the case so finding the total costs at most colleges has been quite difficult if not impossible.Veterans' education benefits and workers' compensation will no longer be counted as income.

Additionally, the elusive and confusing EFC (expected family contribution) will be renamed and called the Student Aid Index (SAI). Since the actual out of pocket cost of college is typically more than the EFC, changing this misleading name should help end that confusion. Unfortunately, because of the many factors each college considers when creating aid packages, the SAI will not give a family clarity about their expected out of pocket costs any more than the EFC did.

The portion of a student's income which will not be assessed will be increased to $9,410 for dependent students and $14,630 for independent students. This significant increase is designed to encourage students to work both during the school year as well as the summer and semester breaks. The qualification to be considered an independent student is also being slightly expanded to include students who are legitimately unable to contact a parent and/or those for whom contacting a parent would pose a risk.

Financial aid officers, starting with the 2023/2024 school year will be able to make adjustments related to costs incurred because of natural disasters, national emergencies, recession, economic downturn, and significant business losses. This should bring some extra assistance to families who need it. They are also going to be unable to have a policy of denying all aid appeals.

Unfortunately, not all the changes are good. At the moment, and until these changes take effect, the parent portion of a family's EFC is divided between the college student children in the family (parents in college aren't included). That means that a family with two kids in college would have the parent contribution split 50/50 between the two children. If the parent contribution is $20,000, $10,000 would be included for student one and $10,000 for student two. The student contribution of each student would make up the rest of their EFC. Once the changes are implemented in 2022, that will no longer happen. The parent portion will NOT be divided. In this example, it would look like this:

NOW: Parent contribution $20,000

Student 1's EFC = 1/2($20,000) + student 1's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

Student 2's EFC = 1/2($20,000) + student 2's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

AFTER October 1, 2022: Parent contribution $20,000

Student 1's EFC = $20,000 + student 1's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

Student 2's EFC = $20,000 + student 2's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

This means that the family's out of pocket costs will literally double and the eligibility for need based aid will not be increased, despite the fact that two of the children will be concurrently in college.

This is a HUGE problem that seriously adversely impacts families with multiple children in college. PLEASE reach out to your senators and representative and ASK FOR A CORRECTION! 

While you're at it, as that the APA, the Asset Protection Allowance be restored. In 2011, a two parent family with the older parent at age 50 would have had $48,800 of their assessed assets not considered in the EFC calculation. This allowance has been steadily decreasing. At the moment, this same couple only has a $7,000 allowance. 

Barring a legislative change, this change will make college financially out of reach for many families, forcing them to choose which of their children to send to college. Strategically, students will need to use AP and CLEP and dual enrollment strategies to lower their college costs and apply to colleges where they will receive massive scholarships. Students should also plan to work, since their income allowance was increased. Those three strategies, well applied, will help families make college educations possible for multiple children.

For more information on Katherine's College Success Program, please visit Celtic College Consultants' website. To schedule a consultation with Katherine to explore how to best implement her College Success Program strategies in your family, click here. Her 2015 - 2020 College Success Program graduates were offered, on average, over $235,000 each in merit scholarships and were accepted by multiple great fit colleges and universities.

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