How is eligibility for need-based aid determined?
Two major formulas are used to determine eligibility:
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Parents' wages/income + Student's
- Demonstrated Need = Cost of Attendance - EFC
Data on the FAFSA
determines the EFC. To estimate your EFC, try the
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculator.
You must meet the following criteria to be considered for federal
and some state financial aid:
- you are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money
on a federal student grant and
- you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes; and
- Show youâ€™re qualified to obtain a college or career school education by:
- having a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent such as a General
Educational Development (GED) certificate;
- completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under
state law (orâ€”if state law does not require a homeschooled student to obtain
a completion credentialâ€”completing a high school education in a homeschool
setting that qualifies as an exemption from compulsory attendance requirements
under state law); or
- enrolling in an eligible career pathway program and meeting one of the
"ability-to-benefit" alternatives described below.
In addition to completing the FAFSA, students applying to one of the
approximately 400 colleges and universities in the U. S. that also use the
College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile should also file that form. The
CSS Profile is used by these colleges and universities to identify students
who may need financial aid that is not identified by the FAFSA. For information
about the CSS Profile, go to CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE and submit a completed Profile.
receive institutional and other need-based aid, be sure to check the specific
requirements of the institution or program.
Kathy Ruby is the director
of financial aid at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She says some
people incorrectly assume that they make too much money to qualify for financial
"They should go through the process to see if they will qualify.
They might be eligible," she says.
Another common myth, Ruby says, is
that if you save money, you will be penalized and won't receive any financial
aid. Families with savings might receive less need-based aid, but most federal
aid is calculated based on income and not assets, she says.
for college is a good thing, and it gives you many more options," she says.
Kahlhamer agrees. The University of North Dakota aviation student says that
is his main piece of advice for high school students planning to attend college.
-- and don't spend money on stupid things," he says.