Financial Aid

Facts about the Student Aid Index (SAI)

Learn about the SAI, a calculated amount reflecting the family's financial strength and their ability to pay for college.
Woman using laptop to learn about  Student Aid Index

What is the purpose of listing all of that income and asset information on the FAFSA®? The income and asset information, along with the household size and number in college, is used to determine the family's Student Aid Index or SAI. What exactly is the SAI? The SAI is a calculated amount reflecting the family's financial strength and their ability to pay for college. The SAI is calculated by imputing each family's FAFSA information into a standard formula. Colleges and universities use each student's SAI to determine the student's financial aid eligibility and then create a financial aid offer.

A few details about the SAI that are important to know:

  • The same formula is used for all families applying for federal financial aid
  • The SAI is not the amount a family will pay for college, and it is not the amount of financial aid a student will receive
  • Colleges subtract each student's SAI from the college's total cost, and then fill in all or part of the remaining difference (called the financial need or eligibility) with financial aid
  • The SAI makes no assumptions about how a family will pay for educational expenses
  • The SAI formula does not take into account a family's personal debt (i.e. credit cards, car loans, personal debt)
  • An SAI can be as low as -1,500
  • If a student has already filed a FAFSA, the SAI will be listed on the upper right-hand corner of the FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS). Students just beginning the college search process who would like an SAI estimate can use MEFA's SAI Calculator. This is just an estimate but can help in planning for college expenses.

Why does this matter to you?

The SAI is not the amount that a student will receive in financial aid, but rather the figure that the college will use to determine federal financial aid eligibility and create a financial aid offer that assists in meeting one year of college costs. Understanding your SAI can help you in understanding your entire financial aid offer. If you have questions about how your SAI was calculated or if you feel that your SAI is not an accurate portrayal of your family's financial circumstances, contact the financial aid office to get clarification.

Use MEFA's SAI Calculator