Help with financial aid!
February 4, 2009 5:14 PM   Subscribe

College financial aid question - Here is a question about the best way for my wife and I to fill out the FAFSA...

Here's the background - 2nd marriage for both my wife(widow) and I(divorced). In Sept '09 my stepson will be going into his last year of college and my stepdaughter into her 2nd year of college. I have a son in HS who is my full financial responsibility. We married at the end of '07 and filled out our taxes married filing separately, thinking this would work out better for financial aid. My wife listed her income on the FAFSA and they arrived at her EFC (Expected family contribution). However, the college asked for my income, added that in, and reduced the financial aid package to almost nothing. We appealed to the financial aid office(begged really) of my daughter's school and they revised the aid up a little.
My question is how should we fill out the financial aid info to maximize the aid package? Is there a website or book with this information? We don't want to do anything dishonest but all we hear about is people who make more than us working the system to get great aid packages. Also, would married filing jointly matter? Filing married separately is costly.
Thanks for your help!!!
posted by mikedelic to Education (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i don't know anything about your specific situation, but i can tell you this: i applied for fafsa and got denied for having made too much money. the amount of money i made in that calendar year was $22,000.
posted by groovinkim at 5:17 PM on February 4, 2009

Couple points here:

The big mistake my mom could have made would be getting married:
As a middle schooler, I did the Fin. Aid research and instructed my mom and de facto stepdad to not get married. I got a $160k education and came out only $10k under, and neither of them paid a penny (in fact, one semester, the school paid my mom). I pulled a lot of tricks to make this happen. Maybe I worked the system, but I had to research, understand, and execute for that to work. It did not hurt that I had a high school counselor sensitive to my cause or that my mom had a very low-income position.

The youngster should look for scholarships, you don't need to be a rockstar to get them, you just need a little elbow grease.

You should make sure that the FAFSA reflects that the household already has 2 kids in college (this helps your EFC).

If your household has recently experienced an issue (layoff, serious injury, other mitigating circumstance) that can be fodder for a letter that might increase the Fin. Aid or shift some of the aid from loan to grant (an important but less talked-about facet of this discussion).

I don't know anything about your situation (details wise) but if you have any additional details that might help me point out a loophole for you, you can MeFi mail me.

It can be a crap shoot, good luck!
posted by milqman at 5:40 PM on February 4, 2009

I'm not sure what groovinkim is talking about. You can't really get "denied" by the FAFSA. They determine your EFC, which determines what kind of loan/grant packages you qualify for from the federal government, then the schools use it to determine what kind of aid they offer you.
I made more than $22k last year and was not "denied" for anything by the FAFSA, in fact, my EFC was pretty low.

If you file together, they should be taking into account your kids collectively, not just your child, but I am not an admissions/financial aid counselor. I would suggest having your kids talk to their respective high school college counselor and college financial aid counselors for specific advice.
posted by fructose at 6:02 PM on February 4, 2009

Groovinkim - "denied"? My first year in grad school I made more than 22k and had a low EFC.

What I would do is test out all the different possibilities and see what the EFCs end up being. You may want to talk to the financial aid office at the university as well.
posted by k8t at 9:37 AM on February 5, 2009

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