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Home » Federal Aid

Income Adjustments & Your College Financial Aid

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In my last blog we discussed the components of the Cost of Attendance (COA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Financial aid offices subtract the amount families are expected to contribute toward the student’s education from the calculated COA for their school. The result is the amount of need the student has and this is the financial aid ceiling for that student – in most circumstances.

COA is what the college has determined is your annual cost to go to college. It is based on data obtained through the SEARS survey or other statistical analysis completed by the college. Most financial aid offices realize that the figures included in the formula are low for many areas in relationship to their cost of living, but it is a standard for everyone. The COA budget cannot be changed because you pay a high rent for your apartment or have a lot of credit card debt, but there are a couple of reasons you could request an adjustment to your calculated need.

First, if there has been a significant change in household income.  Maybe mom lost her job or dad was furloughed for 15% of his income. Financial aid need is based on actual income from the prior year, but ask the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend what the procedure is for an income adjustment.  Each college financial aid office has a procedure for looking at this on a case by case basis. If you get a special circumstance approved by college A, and then decide to attend college B, you will have to request another special circumstance.

You may also ask for special consideration if the family received income from a one-time payout or has had unusual medical bills, child care expenses. If your family has unusual special circumstances ask the specialists at the college you plan to attend what you might do to have someone consider a change to your calculated need.

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