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Were you "gapped" in financial aid by the college you're attending?

choiceauthorchoiceauthor 7 replies4 threads New Member
My name is Jeff Selingo. I am the author of a forthcoming book on college admissions and working on an article for the New York Times. I have received permission from College Confidential to post here. I am interested in interviewing parents of college-going students about financial-aid gapping. That's the practice of when colleges give you substantially less in financial aid than your EFC shows you should receive. If your son or daughter is enrolled at a college right now and has been substantially gapped in their financial-aid package compared to your federal EFC, please email me at [email protected] I'm looking for people willing to talk on the record and share their financial-aid letters.
edited January 9
32 replies
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Replies to: Were you "gapped" in financial aid by the college you're attending?

  • Erin's DadErin's Dad 33261 replies3990 threads Super Moderator
    Moderator's Note:
    The OP has been vetted for this.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9225 replies344 threads Senior Member
    The federal EFC generated by the FAFSA is used to determine Pell Grant eligibilty. It's not the amount families should expect to have to pay for any particular school. An estimate of that number can be generated by each school's Net Price Calculator, but those aren't accurate for divorced parents or business owners. And the information entered has to be accurate or the output won't be.
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  • choiceauthorchoiceauthor 7 replies4 threads New Member
    edited January 9
    I'm looking for families who had substantial amounts of "unmet need," enrolled anyway, and how they filled the gap.
    edited January 9
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  • choiceauthorchoiceauthor 7 replies4 threads New Member
    Yes, gapping is the norm. But according to federal data, gapping has increased substaintially in the last decade. So I'm looking for families who had big gaps, did they enroll anyway, and how did they fill the gap.
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  • thumper1thumper1 76073 replies3352 threads Senior Member
    We had a substantial gap the year we had two kids in college at schools that didn’t meet full need for all.

    We paid college costs out of current earnings. It’s called...we planned ahead to do this
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  • Erin's DadErin's Dad 33261 replies3990 threads Super Moderator
    Moderator's Note
    The OP has been approved to have two threads going on the same topic to get more input.
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  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 1583 replies22 threads Senior Member
    So you are basically asking for people that bought something that they really shouldn’t be able to afford based upon a fairly generic affordability index?
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2956 replies49 threads Senior Member
    Eeyore123 wrote: »
    So you are basically asking for people that bought something that they really shouldn’t be able to afford based upon a fairly generic affordability index?

    Yes, I'm not sure I want to read stories about families who made financially irresponsible decisions (there do tend to be more affordable choices when faced with a gap), or who took out large parent loans.

    Of course not all who chose to attend a school that gapped them were necessarily poor decisions, and hopefully OP can sort thru that. Some families can make it work, as thumper1 did by allocating a significant proportion of current income to the college bill(s). Others might stop retirement contributions for a few years (although I know some might argue that's a bad decision too, IMO it depends on the parents' ages).

    Each situation is unique, but what we often see on CC threads are students/parents who didn't do proper research and/or planning with regard to identifying affordable schools.
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  • chb088chb088 1007 replies32 threads Senior Member
    How does one even do that? You enroll and can't pay for it? Doesn't the student get dropped from classes if the bill isn't paid?

    I ran the NPCs, determined that we just couldn't afford certain schools, and therefore my kids didn't apply. My family falls into the "donut hole", so my kids go to in state schools where we can afford it. I've been saving in 529s since they were toddlers and it still isn't enough, so some just comes out of my paychecks.
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  • milgymfammilgymfam 1074 replies16 threads Senior Member
    Is anyone NOT gapped? I mean, my daughter is at a generous meets full need school, but without an outside scholarship helping out she still couldn’t afford it because their idea of our full need and our idea of our full need are different. I thought that was the norm, if not the best possible scenario even.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2956 replies49 threads Senior Member
    milgymfam wrote: »
    Is anyone NOT gapped? I mean, my daughter is at a generous meets full need school, but without an outside scholarship helping out she still couldn’t afford it because their idea of our full need and our idea of our full need are different. I thought that was the norm, if not the best possible scenario even.

    I agree that most schools gap....even meet full need schools for EFC 0 students, as many meet full need schools will include anywhere from $3K-$7K student self-help (which could be construed as gapping) in the financial aid packages. Students are expected to work summers, during the school year and/or take out Federal Direct Student Loans to satisfy the student-self help number.
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  • sybbie719sybbie719 20820 replies2020 threads Super Moderator
    Student self help is not gapping. At pretty much all full need schools there is an expectation that the student will be an active participant in the financing of their education.

    At full need schools, most of the self help through summer earnings is in the form of the start of money you will need when you get to college. Most of the time, this self help moneys is used to toward the direct billed items.

    it is the student who is responsible for purchasing XL sheets, laundry detergent , notebooks, textbooks and other sundry items. Schools are very upfront that if you do not met your summer earnings, you will not receive additional aid to make up the short fall.

    At schools that do not have loans as part of their financial aid packaging will provide loans to students who do not make their summer earning or may need the funds to pay their EFC. However, this is not an option for students who already have loans in their package.


    Even if a student has work study as part of their financial aid package, you must first apply/interview for a job and work that job before you receive funding.

    there are close to 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States. The overwhelming majority do not meet 100% demonstrated need. The ones that give the most generous financial aid will require the CSS profile or their own institutional forms to get a fuller look at the family's financial situation.

    I am from NYC where a 0 EFC student can have their cost covered by attending CUNY, being funded through TAP and PELL while living at home. This may not be ideal for students looking for a residential experience, as a 0 EFC will not cover the direct cost of attending SUNY, even if a student is EOP eligible.
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 311 replies5 threads Member
    From the responses here, it sounds as if some think the FAFSA EFC is a conservative estimate, or an underestimation, of what a given family can afford to pay. Am I interpreting that correctly? My impression is that even FAFSA is a wildly liberal estimate, or overestimation, of what a family can afford as it is loosely based on an outdated model from a hypothetical family budget from the 1960s. Also, I don't think it takes into account differences in cost of living for different geographical areas.

    Not that this has much to do with "gapping", but I'm getting the feeling that folks here think the FAFSA EFC is somewhat generous?
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  • chb088chb088 1007 replies32 threads Senior Member
    FAFSA EFC is a mythical number that most families cannot afford. That's why I looked at NPC. Even then, yes, my student has a loan, and we pay the rest from his 529 and any shortfall after that comes from his savings and our regular paychecks. And he goes to an in state college.
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