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Question about two in college for one year

THeMoMoTHeMoMo Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
Any input would be appreciated. Our oldest is a Sophomore at a private college (FAFSA and Profile) and our middle child is a Junior in high school so it's time to start the whole thing over again. I'm running the net cost calculators at every prospective school twice, once with a sibling in college and once without.

My question is when our high-schooler receives her acceptances next year and we're trying to compare FA offers, is there any way to know what the offers will look like the following year when she's the only one in college? Will the FA offices run the numbers again with only her being enrolled? I'd hate to get a nasty surprise her Sophomore year.
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Replies to: Question about two in college for one year

  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 76,029 Senior Member
    Your second kid WILL be applying for need based aid again when her older sibling is no longer in college. Actually...kids apply for need based aid annually. So, yes, the college is likely to recalculate her need based aid once the sibling graduates. Does your first kiddo get need based aid?

    What is your family contribution NOW with one student in college?

    If you are running the net price calculators with TWO in college...and also with ONE in college....you should be seeing a very significant drop in need based financial aid when you run the NPC with only ONE in college. Is that what you are seeing?

    But the reality is...you really have no way of knowing your second kiddo’s need based or merit financial aid until you know what colleges she is accepted to. Colleges have varying ways to calculate need based aid, and award merit aid. Your HS sophomore won’t be attending college until 2021, right? The current net price calculators are set for students starting in fall 2019. Policies DO change in terms of awarding of aid. The 2021-2022 financial aid forms will use 2019 income...and assets as of the date of filing that form. You don’t know those numbers either.

    You also don’t know for sure if your second daughter will get accepted to a college that meets full need for all. Most colleges don’t meet full need for all.

    And your daughter doesn’t even have her HS sophomore year GPA, or an SAT or ACT score? Right? So you don’t know about merit aid potential (and those policies also can change).

    Another thing...if kiddo number one is receiving MERIT aid, that isn’t going to increase just because an additional sibling is in college.

    Oh and lastly...

    The FAFSA will be about a 50/50 EFC split. BUT Profile schools would be a 60% for each student...not 50%.
  • rosered55rosered55 Registered User Posts: 4,288 Senior Member
    My two daughters received generous financial aid because our family income was relatively low when they were in college. D1 went to a private university that used only FAFSA. D2 went to a private college that used FAFSA and the CSS Profile. They overlapped in college for two years. D1's aid did not increase when D2 started college. D2's need-based aid decreased for the two years she was the only one in college. However, she was awarded a merit scholarship for her senior year, and the school allowed her to stack it, so we ended up paying less for her senior year than we expected.
  • twogirlstwogirls Registered User Posts: 6,964 Senior Member
    edited December 2018
    You will apply for aid every year and you will be asked how many children are in college. Most schools do not meet full need, but if your younger daughter attends one that does....and you qualify for FA...be prepared to see the total cost go up once her older sibling graduates ( unless you have some unforeseen issues).

    A friend of mine was thrilled when her son was accepted with enough FA to attend his top choice, meets full need school. I suggested she run the numbers and see if the school would still be affordable once the older sister graduated ( they would both be in school for one year...freshman, senior). After running the numbers and speaking with the FA office....he chose a different school.

    Do you currently receive FA for your daughter who is a college sophomore?

  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 3,403 Senior Member
    edited December 2018
    It seems best to expect the nasty surprise element if we are just talking FA. Sounds like you are already on that running both NPC scenarios. This means tempering the applications appropriately, so it is good to be ahead of this.
  • mommdcmommdc Registered User Posts: 11,246 Senior Member
    For us it matters if two are in college because it makes our FAFSA EFC low enough to qualify for a state grant.

    Both attend public universities in our state, there is no institutional need based aid, other than merit.
  • THeMoMoTHeMoMo Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    Thanks for all the replies! The one in college currently does receive financial aid already, a mix of need and merit. Our FAFSA efc is $17000 which so far we have been paying out of pocket but it's sometimes a struggle.

    I foresee my high schooler qualifying for merit aid at schools that offer it...she's in the top 1% of her class of 550, scored well enough on PSAT to be commended, has good ECs, etc. She will be applying to a state school that offers good merit aid (Pitt), but she'd much prefer a smaller private. She's seen the strain that tuition places on the family already, though, and knows she'll have to be realistic. The decision really will come down to the money (and that sucks).

    So from what twogirls said, the FA departments are willing to run the numbers twice so we'll have a better idea of what we're looking at for the subsequent years. I'd rather that than rely on the online cost calculators, since when I put our info into the school my son already attends, the aid it says he'd get is far less than what he actually does get...they're good for estimates but we're going to need a more solid answer to base our decision on.

    I miss preschool.
  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 3,403 Senior Member
    edited December 2018
    Is your second kid (who might be a better student stats wise than the first) going to be denied the same opportunities that your first had? Is that going to be a family meeting point of discomfort? Was that not a consideration for first kid applications?
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 76,029 Senior Member
    So from what twogirls said, the FA departments are willing to run the numbers twice so we'll have a better idea of what we're looking at for the subsequent years

    Really? What financial aid department has the time for this? I didn’t read @twogirls comment that way...at all. I read it as the family ran the numbers...and talked to financial aid. My big guess is that the financial aid department could NOT guarantee any need based aid at all for these kids for subsequent years....because the kids have to APPLY again in subsequent years.

    Stuff happens. Older kid might take a year off. Parents might change jobs and have income differences. The SCHOOL policies on awarding need based and merit aid could change (for kid 2 at her schools...whatever those turn out to be). Oh...and the cost of attendance most definitely will change.

    No one has a financial aid crystal ball for future years.

    This year at a full need school, your first kiddo is paying $17,000 to attend, right? The year your two kids overlap in college, that kid will likely see an increase in her need based aid.

    It sounds like kid number 2 is not applying to colleges that meet full need. Your EFC per FAFSA will not be below $6000 for both kids so neither will be Pell grant eligible. Kid two will be able to take a $5500 Direct Loan. Hopefully kid two will be accepted to some schools that have merit aid potential.

    Has she looked at some of the smaller schools say in Ohio...Denison, for example? What about Otterbein, or Allegheny? Maybe she would get sufficient merit aid to make these possible. MAYBE.
  • THeMoMoTHeMoMo Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    For our oldest, it just worked out that his first-choice school offered the best FA package. He also knew that money was going to play a role in the decision. My second child will go to college, and we'll pay everything we can, so they're being given the same opportunity in my opinion.
  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 3,403 Senior Member
    edited December 2018
    So at the uni for your son, you get FAR more aid than the NPC tells you, every year? What portion is merit?
  • THeMoMoTHeMoMo Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    Thanks for your reply, Thumper. Yes, I fully understand that we have to apply for FA every year, as we have with our oldest. Our plan right now is for #2 to apply to full need schools and those that offer really good merit aid to top students (like Fordham). I suppose what we'll have to do is see how close the online calculator is to the actual offer assuming two in college and then make a prediction for what it will be when it's one. Like I said, the online calculator for our oldest's school gives an estimate far higher than what we actually pay so I don't want to make such a big decision based on a potentially flawed number.

    It was easier with #1 because there weren't any extenuating circumstances and we could compare FA packages as apples to apples and could commit to the next 4 years. With #2 we'll only know what year 1 will look like...that makes me nervous.

    Thank you all for the input!
  • THeMoMoTHeMoMo Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    edited December 2018
    Sybylla, about half. The calculator’s estimate is way more than our EFC but the actual package pretty much matches it.

    I don’t know if it matters, but their calculator isn’t the standard college board one most school seem to use.
  • SybyllaSybylla Registered User Posts: 3,403 Senior Member
    Right, so the addition of the extra kid might not reduce your D1s cost as his package exceeds your need as the school sees it. FAFSA EFC being mostly irrelevant.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 9,585 Senior Member
    Themomo- I guess a question for you is how close to the bone are you cutting it with the least generous estimate vs. the most generous estimate? Only you know whether you are already living on beans and lentils and cutting your own hair, vs. trimming where you can but still maintaining a reasonable lifestyle for your family.

    I've seen families make wildly optimistic assumptions about aid in subsequent years and get burned; I've seen families assume the worst and get pleasantly surprised. Nobody wants their kid dropping out because they can't afford to pay for sophomore year even though it happens all the time, but nobody wants to tell their kid NO if a school seems affordable now but might be somewhat more expensive (but still affordable) for the last three years.

    So nobody can predict aid for your second kid in years 2-4, but YOU already know the basic building blocks of your financial life- do you have adequate life insurance for both the main breadwinner and secondary breadwinner (or stay at home parent)? Do you have disability insurance? Is their equity in your home (if you own) that you could tap in an emergency? Family members in good health right now? How old are the parents and if you had a financial set back in the next year or two, is there adequate time in the workforce to recover before retirement? Any credit card debt and if so, can you pay it off prior to kid number 2 starting college?

    I'd focus there. Nobody can predict aid for years 2-4 because ANYTHING can happen, even with a rock solid plan in place- a kid could need an extra year to graduate (gulp, that hurts A LOT) or switch majors and need an extra semester. A kid can get sick at midterms and need to withdraw past the refund date. A parent can lose a job, there can be a change in the tax code which completely changes your take home pay even if your gross pay stays the same. You can get a new, better job with more money, or get laid off with a couple of weeks severance but a huge payout on some deferred comp. So many variables.

    So in my book, getting a handle on your financial picture now, so you can figure out how comfortable you can be with the riskiness of SOME of the college's aid packages will help you all. If you're skating close to the edge right now, focusing on the generous "all merit" schools will the smart way to go. If you've got some flex in the budget, you've got more options.
  • twogirlstwogirls Registered User Posts: 6,964 Senior Member
    @thumper is right. My friend ran the numbers with one in school and then called FA to ask a few follow up questions. They realized that with one in school their FA would significantly decrease.
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