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  • Writer's pictureBeth & Tim Manners

FAFSA: Flaws in Financial-Aid Formula?

The New York Times: "Now that the latest FAFSA is out — it became available on Oct. 1 — millions of families are plugging in their numbers. The form is the first step to unlocking any potential federal financial aid, including grants, loans and work-study jobs, as well as aid from states and some colleges. But it also generates their expected family contribution, or E.F.C. — a number that can easily be misleading. It’s often higher than many households can afford ... The gap has grown wider not just because of the exponential rise in college prices, but also because of the E.F.C. formula itself."

"The formula, which stretches across 36 pages, often assumes families have far more income available to pay for college than they actually do, financial aid experts said, particularly in high-cost areas. The reason lies in its basic assumptions: that a family of four, for example, can subsist on less than $30,000, no matter where they live ... unless a student attends a college that promises to meet 100 percent of his or her need — and the vast majority do not — students and their families will probably pay more than what the FAFSA estimates."

"The formula also considers parents’ and students’ assets — and some allowances have actually become less generous over the years. Retirement savings and home equity are excluded from the federal formula, but the amount of other savings that parents can shield has plummeted over the past decade."

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