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Financial Aid

Here’s what other families are asking about financial aid

Father and teenage daughter looking at a tablet seated on a couchWe’re in the beginning of financial aid season, so we’ve received numerous questions from families trying to complete the required financial aid applications. If you’re about to start the financial aid process, you may want to watch our FAFSA® and/or CSS ProfileTM webinars, both of which provide instructions and tips on applying for financial aid. Below, we’ve included some of our most popular questions, with detailed answers. Reviewing this list may help clear up any confusion as you file your own applications. And remember, you can contact us with your own questions: call us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or email us at collegeplanning@mefa.org.

Q: How does the process work if we have twins?

A: If you have more than one child attending college next year, you’ll need to fill out two of every financial aid application required. However the FAFSA does provide some assistance – once you complete the first FAFSA, you’ll have the opportunity to copy the parent information into a new FAFSA, saving you time on the second application.

Q: How does everything work if we’re divorced?

A: Families with divorced parents will need to select a custodial parent, defined as the parent with whom the student has lived the most over the past year. That parent, along with the parent’s current spouse (if there is one) and the student will complete the financial aid applications. If a CSS Profile is required, the college may ask the noncustodial parent (and that parent’s current spouse) to submit a separate Profile. Check with each school to find out what’s needed.

Q: What if the noncustodial parent is required to submit a CSS Profile, and we can’t get in touch with that parent?

A: If the student has no contact with the noncustodial parent, or doesn’t know the parent’s whereabouts, the student can appeal to have the noncustodial parent’s Profile requirement waived. The student should contact each college requiring the application to find out the appeal process.

Q: What if a parent’s marital status has changed since 2016?

A: The financial aid applications require you to report your income from 2016 and your current marital status. If you got divorced or married after 2016, your income picture likely looks remarkably different today, considering your marital status change. If you were married in 2016 but aren’t now, only report your 2016 income on the FAFSA. If you filed married filing jointly in 2016, do your best to separate out your information on your tax return, and only report those figures. The college may ask for a copy of your tax return later on, and also a line-by-line separation of your income from your former spouse’s. If you weren’t married to your current spouse in 2016 and now are, you’ll need to supply your current spouse’s 2016 income and tax return.

Q: Do we report disability income on the financial aid applications?

A: If your disability income is untaxed, you don’t report it on the FAFSA, but you do report it on the CSS Proflie.

Q: How do I list more than 10 colleges on the FAFSA?

A: The FAFSA only provides room to list up to 10 colleges. If the student is applying to more than 10 schools, submit the FAFSA with 10 schools listed. Wait to receive an email that the FAFSA has been processed (this usually takes about 3 days) and then log back into the FAFSA, delete the first 10 schools, add the additional colleges, and resubmit the application.

Q: The student’s grandparents have a 529 college savings account for the student – do we need to report the value?

A: If anyone besides the custodial parent(s) owns a 529 account for the student, including a grandparent, aunt/uncle, or noncustodial parent, do not report the value as a parent or student asset on the financial aid applications. However, when funds from that account are used to pay for the student’s college expenses, the student will need to report that contribution as untaxed income in the year it is withdrawn and used.

Q: Can I report my debt on the financial aid applications?

A: On the FAFSA, you will take into consideration your debt on your investments, businesses, and farms when you report the net worth of those assets. You will not report any other debt. On the CSS Profile, you will have the opportunity to list all of your current debt.





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