How is eligibility for need-based aid determined?
Two major formulas are used to determine eligibility:
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Parents'
wages/income + Student's wages/income
- Demonstrated Need = Cost of Attendance - EFC
Data on the FAFSA determines the EFC. To estimate your EFC, try
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
You must meet the following criteria, to be considered for federal and some
state financial aid (there may be other requirements as well):
- Complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Be enrolled at least half-time or accepted for enrollment in an
eligible program and working toward a certificate or degree
- Have a high school diploma or General Education Development
(GED) certificate, or pass a test approved by the U.S. Department
- Make satisfactory academic progress
- Register with the Selective Service, if required (males
- Not be in default for any previously received federal student
- Not have a conviction for the sale or possession of illegal
drugs while receiving federal aid
To receive institutional and other need-based aid, be sure to
check the specific requirements of the institution or program.
Kathy Ruby is the director of financial aid at St. Olaf College
in Northfield, Minnesota. She says some people incorrectly assume
that they make too much money to qualify for financial aid.
"They should go through the process to see if they will qualify.
They might be eligible," she says.
Another common myth, Ruby says, is that if you save money, you
will be penalized and won't receive any financial aid. Families
with savings might receive less need-based aid, since most federal
aid is calculated based on income and assets, but "Saving for
college is a good thing, and it gives you many more options," she
Max Kahlhamer agrees. The University of North Dakota aviation
student says that is his main piece of advice for high school
students planning to attend college.
"Save - and don't spend money on stupid things," he says.