Are you wondering how to get financial aid if your parents make too much? If this question plagues you, you’re not alone.
“It’s definitely something we hear a lot,” said Jill Desjean, a policy analyst for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “A lot of people make an assumption that [their family earns] too much to apply for financial aid.”
But even if you think your family won’t qualify for financial aid, Desjean said to go ahead and apply. “You can be pleasantly surprised,” she said. Here’s why.
How family income affects your financial aid
Sure, income is considered when the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) pumps out your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the cost of college. After all, you supply your parents’ tax returns when submitting your FAFSA.
But you might be surprised to learn that no income cutoff determines your eligibility for aid, said Desjean.
A family with a household income of hundreds of thousands of dollars, for example, could be helped by other factors in the FAFSA formula, including school cost and the number of siblings also attending school.
If you still think your parents are rolling in too much dough, consider using either the FAFSA4caster or your school’s net price calculator.
You can find the latter by Googling, “[school name] net price calculator.” All colleges and universities are required by the federal government to host the calculator on their websites.
With either tool, you’ll punch in basic information about your family’s finances and immediately see how much aid you might be eligible to receive for your cost of attendance.
How to get financial aid if your parents make too much
If you’ve already learned that your folks are too well off to help you get financial aid, Desjean recommends talking about your situation with your school’s financial aid office. You’ll want to confirm, for example, that the office used accurate information to arrive at your EFC.
“Before that conversation with the financial aid office, I always encourage families to sit back and think about what special circumstances their family might be experiencing that might make them look wealthier on a piece of a paper with a limited number of questions,” Desjean said.
For example, your family might have considerable medical expenses that absorb much of its income and savings.
“That’s not something that there’s a page for on the FAFSA,” Desjean said. “But it certainly is relevant to the family’s ability to pay for college.”
If this is the case for your family, you could seek a professional judgment, also known as an appeal, to your school for more aid. You’ll be required to submit evidence proving your case to be a worthy one.
Even if your family doesn’t have exceptional circumstances, there are plenty of other ways to receive money for college.
You can focus on opportunities that offer awards based on merit, not because of financial aid. Private scholarships and even some state grants might be available because of your academic achievements, no matter your family’s income.
How to pay for college when your family’s wealth isn’t helping
Are you still wondering how to get financial aid if your parents make too much? Maybe that’s because you’re a dependent student who isn’t receiving financial support from your well-off family. Consider that there are plenty of ways to pay for college without parental support.
You can start by taking ownership of the financial aid process and filling out the FAFSA yourself with the appropriate information. Make sure you stay on top of all essential FAFSA deadlines.
If you still have a tuition shortfall after seeking scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid, here’s a piece of good news.
“All is not lost if you don’t qualify for financial aid from the school,” Desjean said. “It’s important that families go out and look at other financing options.”
Your school’s financial aid office should again be your first stop. The representatives there can tell you about tuition payment plans, for instance, that allow you to pay your school dues in smaller installments.
There’s also the possibility of finding a job on or off campus. Heck, you could even start a side hustle to help pay for the cost of college.
Finally, you or your parents could consider borrowing money. Ensure you study up on the differences between federal and private student loans.
For example, loans from the federal government come with added protections, including the ability to alter your repayment plan. Private loans, meanwhile, could be cheaper to repay if your creditworthy parent is a cosigner.
When shopping around, compare all sorts of lenders — including the federal government, your school, banks, and credit unions — to find the best loan for you and your family.
Remember: You have options when it comes to paying for college, even if you feel like your family’s income is a deterrent when it comes to financial aid.
Keep the lines of communication open with your chosen school’s financial aid office, and approach the problem collaboratively to find the best solution for your situation.
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