Most people believe that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the most important part of the financial aid process. This prompts many to mistakenly ask, “How much will I get from FAFSA”? Many people also believe that the Federal Government provides the financial aid award.
Attention Class of 2017 Parents!
Indeed, without the timely submission of a FAFSA, there will be no financial aid. However, there are three other elements of the application process which are of the utmost importance in determining the financial aid your student receives.
Here are 3 important questions to ask during the financial aid application process:
- What is the most important document in the Financial Aid application process? The document that is the most essential is the Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is formed from the FAFSA, by the US Department of Education.
The most important number on the SAR is the Expected Family Contribution (or EFC), which is found at the top of the SAR. This EFC is the number (in dollars) that is the Department of Education’s estimate of what parents are expected to pay for college. In reality, however, it will NOT BE. Most colleges and universities in NO WAY rely on the EFC to determine what parents will pay. They do use the EFC to determine how much need-based Federal and State Aid that will be received.
In that way, the EFC is most important for lower income families (with incomes below approximately $46,000 per year). However, the EFC is irrelevant for most families whose students are NOT Pell Grant eligible.
- How do colleges and universities determine if they will award additional grants and scholarships if they are not looking at the EFC? The determination is made according to the laws of the state (in the case of state aid) and by the financial aid rules or policies of private colleges and universities. Incidentally, a University’s upper management, not its financial aid director, sets the policies that determine how institutional awards are given out to families. This is the reason why appeals for more financial aid are only actionable by the Financial Aid Office if something is wrong on the original SAR.
For example, in California, major grants such as university grants and Cal Grants are quite need-based, and are not available in a significant way above income levels of $55,000 for Cal State University and $75,000 for University of California. Other out-of-state public colleges and universities do have aid which meets all or most of the family’s unmet need based on the EFC, but most do not.
- Where else can significant college institutional funding come from? The answer? The student’s unweighted GPA and SAT/ACT scores, which brings us back to an important truth: because the EFC indicates to the college that they cannot award Federal or State Aid to a student –
Students must earn institutional (college or university) grants and scholarships to help their parents pay for college.
The EFC on the SAR should be read and known, but may not be truly relevant. Because of this, in the meetings and sessions of our program at West Angeles Church, we are helping our parents to determine what college will cost, before and after the financial award is generated. This is an important step in choosing and affordable college.
Feel free to join us in these sessions!
Please call the West Angeles Education Enrichment Program at West Angeles Church of God In Christ for more information. 323-733-8300 ext. 2629.
Deacon John Wilson is Director of West Angeles Church of God In Christ’s Education and Enrichment Ministry (EEM). EEM is provided in accordance with the Urban Initiatives of the Church Of God In Christ (COGIC) International, through the leadership of Presiding Bishop, Charles E. Blake, Sr. To find out more about the various programs and services provided, please click HERE.
Our thanks to Discover Student Loans for use of the cool infographic. West Angeles Church of God In Christ is not an agent of Discover Student Loans; nor is the use of this infographic an endorsement of Discover Student Loans.
NEXT: Can I estimate what I will owe for college for my youth?