Each year incoming freshman beginning the college journey are greeted with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form makes or breaks the student’s ability to pay for their college career. No pressure, right? Filling out FAFSA can be pretty scary for a new college student.
College costs money and without grants and student loans, you’re not going to get very far. There are scholarships, part-time jobs, student credit cards, and of course parents, but what if you don’t have any of that?
The FAFSA is the government’s way of controlling who gets financial aid for their college and who doesn’t. Fair enough, the government should control who’s getting the aid, and it should be based on merit and need, I completely agree.
However, the government also bases this decision by how well off your parents are. This is known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is based on how much your parents make along with their assets. If your parents don’t make a lot of money, you’re likely to get more money from the government. On the other hand, if your parents make oodles of money, you most certainly will not get any government help. In my college experience, I was the latter.
Is the FAFSA and EFC Fair?
Considering that a person is 18 when they go to college, or soon after, they’re no longer under the supervision of their parents or legal guardians. Therefore, those guardians don’t have any obligation to pay for their child’s college tuition. So why does the government base how much you get, off how much your parents make?
There is the argument that parents do typically pay for the son or daughters college expenses as illustrated by this statistic by Reuters:
“Parents paid 45 percent of the total costs of college in the 2008/09 academic year using income, savings and borrowing.”
Even so, I don’t agree with limiting the potential of kids who’s parents make a certain amount of money or have a certain amount of wealth and don’t decide to pay for their child’s college. Having had a personal experience with this, it was frustrating on my end, because I still had to pay for a considerable amount of my college without any help from grants or other forms of financial aid. I’m not saying that I am any more deserving than any other potential college student, however I’m wondering about the merits of the system and if it’s doing America’s soon to be college students justice.
Filling out FAFSA reminds me of something.
When I read about the EFC it reminds me of a company called ENRON, ever heard of em? ENRON failed because they based their current level of income off future earnings. The EFC is much the same. The government is projecting that you will be able to pay for your college from your parents wallet. This projection is often untrue and thus these students have to work harder or go belly up much like ENRON.
Actually The Rich Kids Get Some Help… The Scraps From the Table
Recently the government has changed its tune on the EFC kind of. The quote below is from the FAFSA student handbook.
Although students whose parents refuse support are not eligible for a dependency override, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) granted that such students may receive unsubsidized Stafford loans only.
This illustrates that the rich babies are able to get unsubsidized loans, but are still not in the running for the good ones like the Perkins loans, Pell grant, or subsidized Stafford loans. Basically they’ve given these kids a few table scraps and that’s about it.
To add to this post, I wanted to share feedback from the readers on experiences with Filling out FAFSA.
Wiseguy wrote in on applying for FAFSA:
Like several people here, my parents are middle class but actively chose not to contribute to my tuition. The FAFSA calculates your family’s wealth with the assumption that said financial resource will be tapped. Due to my family’s comfortable status, I didn’t qualify for any aid whatsoever. Thus, I was left to pay $32,000 annually out of my own pocket, even though I had only earned a few hundred dollars in my life at that point! Thankfully, I had about $14,000 in academic scholarships, but it still came up well short.
So what do you think? Should the FAFSA have the EFC as part of the criteria? Are rich kids at a disadvantage if their parents decide not to pay for their college or should they simply stop complaining?
This was a guest post from Ryan.