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Anyone have any luck getting schools to look at most recent year instead of 2 years ago?

mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,328 Senior Member
My son will be applying to school next year for a fall 2019 start. This means that he will use our 2017 tax info for determining financial aid. That's unfortunate for us because our income is rather inconsistent from year-to-year and 2017 was an uncharacteristically high year for us. I've filled out an NPC with 2017 and projected 2018 numbers, and there's about an 18K difference in our EFC. (That was for MIT, a CSS Profile school -- all the schools we'd be looking for need-based aid from will be Profile schools.) By the time we hit financial aid application deadlines, we will have 2018 taxes done as well. I'm sure this varies on a case by case basis, but will schools typically consider 2018 income information if it differs significantly from 2017? (And yes, I do put away extra money for college when we have a strong year, but we also have some deferred maintenance on our house to deal with.)

In the past, 2018 would have been the tax year to be considered for 2019-20 financial aid, and I know they changed that to make it less of a rush to get taxes done before finaid deadlines (which in general, I really do appreciate) but in cases where there is a significant difference, I hope schools will still consider the newer information as well.

Replies to: Anyone have any luck getting schools to look at most recent year instead of 2 years ago?

  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 68,543 Senior Member
    edited May 13
    Your 2018 income will be considered for the 2020-2021 academic year. It’s highly unlikely the school will use 2018 income when determining aid for the 2019-2020 school year. It’s now prior prior tax year that is used.

    The only exception MIGHT be if this is a one time bump in your income but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case for you. Your situation is that 2017 happened to be a good year. That could very well happen again.

    You can contact the colleges and see if they would consider this a special circumstances consideration. If so, you will need to find out what the school wants for documentation.
  • brantlybrantly Registered User Posts: 2,670 Senior Member
    You will have to ask for a "professional judgment." That's the exact phrase you have to use. This is what I'd do. I'd call the FA office of EACH college he's applying to. For financial aid, it's OK if a parent calls. Explain the situation VERY succinctly. Ask what their procedure is for requesting professional judgment. Specifically, what you want to know is if you can submit supporting documentation with the CSS, or if you have to appeal after the initial FA determination based on 2017 income and then appeal.

    There is space on the CSS application where you can explain special circumstances. Whatever their response to your question, you should provide and explanation. The question is whether you send the supporting docs with the application or with an appeal.
  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,328 Senior Member
    @thumper1 it was our experience with our oldest, that his school was somewhat reluctant to increase our financial aid after freshman year if our income fell. For that reason, I'm concerned about our youngest's first year financial aid being based on an anomalous year (well higher than any of the prior 10 years, and unlikely to happen again, for reasons we can explain to the respective financial aid offices).

    @brantly thanks for the correct language to use when asking for a review, and for the advice to ask up front, rather than waiting for a package and then appealing it.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Super Moderator Posts: 21,751 Super Moderator
    If this truly is a one time increase in income, I think that you should show tax years 2016, 2017 and 2018 especially if your income from 2018 is more aligned with your 2016 income. This way you are helping the school put your income in to perspective as you explain this one-time increase.
  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,328 Senior Member
    Thanks @Sybbie. Will certainly offer them past tax years for whatever years they would like. :)
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 68,543 Senior Member
    it was our experience with our oldest, that his school was somewhat reluctant to increase our financial aid after freshman year if our income fell

    Did you oldest go to a college that meets full need for all? If not, there would be no expectation that your aid would increase if your income lowers in subsequent years.
  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,328 Senior Member
    Did you oldest go to a college that meets full need for all?

    Yes. And they make a promise of similar aid every year if things remain the same, but it's trickier when they don't. They definitely seemed a little more generous the first year. After that they still came through in subsequent years, but I we had to appeal their initial determinations.
  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,328 Senior Member
    Anyone with any "war stories" in either direction (either the school agreed to adjust based on newer information, or they declined to do so)?
  • pauler80020pauler80020 Registered User Posts: 105 Junior Member
    My DD asked FA about this before she committed to her college. There was a weird upward blip in our income in the year that was being used. FA gave her a "request for review form." We filled it out and sent that, a letter, and tax forms showing that the more recent year was a lower income. The college is a meets full need school. They bumped up her grant by $5K/year. Later we figured out that they had actually changed the income number in the FAFSA to match the more recent, lower-income year. So, in our experience, they *can* adjust based on a more recent year. Of course, that doesn't mean that they will.
    Also, I disagree with the poster who said parents should be calling FA. All of the correspondence we have had with them has been from DD, with me as ghost writer. We have had nothing but pleasant interactions with this. I have heard a very different story from parents who called and got mad at FA -- they not only got nothing but it was not a pleasant conversation at all.
  • brantlybrantly Registered User Posts: 2,670 Senior Member
    I think I was that poster who said it's OK if parents call FA office. Obviously the parent should be pleasant, polite, and deferential.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 68,543 Senior Member
    edited May 14
    @pauler80020

    Like @brantly...you asked the school to look at your income situation. The school made a decision based on the information you provided to them. This IS Professional Judgement...and it can be made based on documentation families provide.

    Schools do not just adjust income on the FAFSA or Profile because they “want to give you more money”.there has to be a good reason, and sufficient documentation of a one time increased blip. Or something like unreimbursed medical expenses.

    This OP has fluctuating income because of the nature of the self employed status. This increase one year is not really a one time event. I’m guessing they hope it will happen again. And it might!

  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,328 Senior Member
    The income blip was something that will, unfortunately, not be repeatable.

    Obviously, whoever speaks to FA should be pleasant and polite. I have handled finaid discussions for my older two, and will do so for this son as well (unless he cares to take it on, in which case, more power to him).
  • lyndonwslyndonws Registered User Posts: 15 Junior Member
    edited May 17
    At least when it comes to Federal Student Aid, you can ask your Financial Aid Office for a Special Circumstance Appeal (they may have a slightly different name for it). You must explain and document your circumstance. Fluxing income may not be enough, since through the college years you would be asking them to 'cherry-pick' the lows, and ignore the highs. It's really up to your FA Office and their professional judgement.
    Post edited by skieurope on
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