July 31, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm doing my FAFSA for the 2012-13 school year. Because I'm 25, I'm considered independent. I'm working part-time as a tutor at a small private school, but some months my parents and grandparents give me more money than I end up making. How should this be reflected on the FAFSA? There seems to only be a form for my income. Any other tips are appreciated.
posted by dkleinst to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Is this a "here's a check for $5,000" sort of situation or a "here's twenty bucks" sort of situation?
posted by griphus at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2012

Just answer the questions on the form. Since you are over 25, the FAFSA does not factor in your parent's income. You will get an award based on what the FAFSA folks think that *you* can contribute to your education, but you can always decline part of an award if you think it's too much, based on what you know your family will contribute. But basically, just answer the questions that they are asking.
posted by donajo at 8:55 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

but some months my parents and grandparents give me more money than I end up making.


Seriously, you should consider it a gift, and not record it. I mean, you don't report the money they give you on your taxes, do you?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:59 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

You actually are supposed to report that money on the FAFSA. Specifically, item 44. j. of the FAFSA asks you to declare, "Money received, or paid on your behalf (e.g., bills), not reported elsewhere on this form."

I know that at the school where I work if your file is pulled for verification, the FA office is going to want to know how you pay your bills. If your salary or stipend is clearly not enough to support you, they'll want documentation on how you're getting by. Parental or domestic partner support will then be figured into your adjusted gross income. You can do some quick and dirty calculations on the FAFSA 4Caster to see how reporting that money will affect your award eligibility. The 4Caster doesn't have an option as described above, but you can add the estimated worth of that money to your net worth.

You can always take your chances with not reporting the money (and I'm pretty sure you'll not be alone if you choose not to report), and see what happens. There's no penalty to not reporting the money on the initial submission of the FAFSA data, because everyone can make a mistake or overlook an item. However, if you're chosen for verification and your school specifically asks about money received or bills paid on your behalf, then definitely disclose it.
posted by kellyk801 at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to work in a financial aid office. This kind of situation happens all the time.

It's unclear from your question to what degree you are being supported by your family.

If you don't put the money down, and are selected for verification, they will tell you to make a detailed list of all $ you received.

Instead of doing this and going through the MESS and HASSLE that can be verification, the "unofficial" suggestion, was to put down an amount of $ received that was high enough to account for the financial help you need (as determined by your reported income) but low enough to not affect any potential aid you could get. At my school this amount was in the area of $4500. If you are making enough money to pay your rent and bills, and the gifts are more along the lines of "grocery" money, I would put something small - like $900 received from family for personal expenses.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 10:15 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

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