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FAFSA and Complex Families

003techie003techie 13 replies1 threads New Member
I am currently a junior in high school and trying to plan out college finances. I want to pursue a rather specialized field that there are not many quality programs for in my state, so most of my search has focused on out-of-state and private schools.
To get a better understanding of what my family and I should expect to pay I've been trying to become more familiar with the FAFSA and EFC for next year. However, I have a more complex family, and many of my questions I have been unable to find answers for.

Family:
- Divorced parents
- 1 younger sibling, will be freshman in college while I am a senior in college
- 2/3 time with dad, 1/3 time with mom
- Dad has a nice paying job, mom is unemployed
- Dad is remarried
- Stepmom has 3 children who are 16, 20, and 22
- Stepmom has near 100% custody of children
- 16 y/o will be a freshman in college when I am a sophomore in college
- 20 y/o will be a senior in college when I am a freshman in college, plans to attend grad school, is moved out of the house but is still considered a dependent student
- 22 y/o does not attend college, is moved out
- Mom has a boyfriend she lives with but is unmarried
- Mom receives child support each month

From most of what I have read, it seems me, my sister, my 16 and 20 y/o stepsibling, my dad, and my stepmom would be counted as my "household". In most of what I've read, the 20 y/o would count since they are a dependent student. Is this correct, or would the 20 y/o not count since they are moved out?

Are stepsiblings treated the same as siblings on the FAFSA / EFC?

Would my 22 y/o stepsibling be included on anything?

Would the income I report be my dad and stepmom's or my dad and mom's? Most of the sources I read said I had to include the income of my custodial parent's spouse, but since I spend time with both parents, would I report the income of both of them instead?

Also, would my mom's boyfriend's income have any importance on the FAFSA / EFC?

Any help is appreciated. I truly hope in the future FAFSA can be more clear with these sorts of situations.
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Replies to: FAFSA and Complex Families

  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    edited April 6
    If you live with your dad 2/3 of the time...then that is your household.

    I believe you need to report your dad and stepmom’s incomes and assets on your FAFSA. The siblings who are members of your household are listed as members of your household. Any who are in undergrad when you are count as students in college.

    You do not list your mom and her household on the FAFSA at all if you live most of the time with your dad.

    Now...if any of your schools require the CSS Profile....that’s another story. Do they?

    @kelsmom
    edited April 6
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  • happymomto2happymomto2 8 replies3 threads New Member
    You mentioned that you want to pursue a specialized field. There are some states that have agreements with other states where if the program is not offered at your in-state university, you can receive a discount on the out-of-state tuition due to the fact the program is not offered in your home state. It is worth looking into.
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  • 003techie003techie 13 replies1 threads New Member
    So my 20 y/o stepsibling would count as a member of the household?

    Only two of the schools I am looking at require the CSS.

    Thanks for your help.
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  • 003techie003techie 13 replies1 threads New Member
    Unfortunately, my state participates in the Academic Common Market at the graduate level only. I have, however, looked into a few schools which offer merit scholarships to reduce out-of-state tuition.

    Thank you for you response!
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  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    Well...for the Profile...your custodial parent (the one you live with most) will complete the Profile. Then your non-custodial parent will do the non-custodial parent form.

    What is this special major? Very often one can major in something else and still get to the end game career.
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  • 003techie003techie 13 replies1 threads New Member
    I was planning on majoring in Theatre Design / Scenic Design or maybe Entertainment Design if I am unable to make the others work.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    There are theater departments at just about every college.

    @happymomof1 maybe you can chime in.

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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4926 replies19 threads Senior Member
    Any help is appreciated. I truly hope in the future FAFSA can be more clear with these sorts of situations.

    Have you taken the time to fully read through the FAFSA instructions? Yes, a lot of students have complex family situations, but the FAFSA instructions do a pretty good job of breaking things down and presenting the options in plain language... even for the questions you are asking.

    https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2020-21-fafsa.pdf
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  • 003techie003techie 13 replies1 threads New Member
    All my previous searches on the FAFSA only showed the few pages of the actual application, not any of the "notes" for each question.

    Thank you for the link, it's very helpful!
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24569 replies19 threads Senior Member
    If you think you'd get more in need based aid if you used your mother's info on FAFSA, you'd need to live with her more of the 365 days before you file.

    The benefit to using your mother's info is her lower income. If she's not married to her BF, you do not need to include his income.

    The down side is you'd go from a family size of 6 with 2 in college to just you and your mother, and only one in college.

    Of course your parents would have to agree to your spending 183 nights with your mother. Some people do this type of 'financial planning' and it's okay to set yourself up for better FA, but make sure it really is better FA.

    If you are looking for a good Theater school, look at the outliers like U of Wyoming (lots of merit money, lots of hands on experience), U of Wisconsin Stevens Point (low tuition, very low R&B), Coastal Carolina. There are some hidden gems out there with fun programs.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30598 replies194 threads Senior Member
    @thumper1 is absolutely correct. Just about every college in the country has some kind of Theater program. Whether or not Tech/Design is a separate major (and if there are separate Lighting/Makeup/Stage/Projection/Sound/etc. design majors or concentrations) within that department is something you need to investigate.

    Happykid is a Lighting Designer . She started out at our own local community college (Montgomery College in MD), then transferred to a state university (Towson University in MD). Money was a huge issue for us, so the CC to state U route was the only possible option. After working in the DC/Baltimore area for several years, she is currently pursuing a fully funded MFA program in Theatrical Lighting.

    What state are you in? Have your parents told you what they can pay?
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16031 replies99 threads Senior Member
    @thumper1 ’s advice on filling out the FAFSA is correct. You need to report both your dad’s and your stepmom’s income. For FAFSA, all children who live in the household at least half the year, as well as the 20 year old (as long as the parent on that student’s FAFSA is your stepmom), are included in household. The 22 year old is not included.
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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4926 replies19 threads Senior Member
    For FAFSA, all children who live in the household at least half the year, as well as the 20 year old (as long as the parent on that student’s FAFSA is your stepmom), are included in household. The 22 year old is not included.

    FAFSA seems to indicate that one of the main tests for determining if a child is a member of the parents' household is the parents providing more than half of the child's support, regardless of whether or not the child has spent at least half the year living in the household. Am I reading this wrong?


    How many people are in your parents’ household? Include:

    •yourself, even if you don’t live with your parents,

    •your parents,

    •your parents’ other children (even if they do not live with your parents) if (a) your parents will provide more than half of their support between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, or (b) the children could answer “No” to every question in Step Three on page 5 of this form, and

    •other people if they now live with your parents, your parents provide more than half of their support and your parents will continue to provide more than half of their support between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16031 replies99 threads Senior Member
    Sorry, yes ... 51% or more financial support to be in HH size.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82819 replies738 threads Senior Member
    003techie wrote: »
    Only two of the schools I am looking at require the CSS.

    Some (not all) colleges that use CSS Profile require the CSS Noncustodial Profile from the parent you do not live with.

    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/2083835-faq-divorced-parents-financial-aid-and-net-price-calculators.html
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  • SybyllaSybylla 4769 replies59 threads Senior Member
    edited April 7
    What are your commutable options?
    edited April 7
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  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    So back to my question....which of your colleges require the CSS Profile...and the non-custodial parent form?

    Also, don’t know enough about your living situation...but does your mom live in the same high school district as your dad? Are you willing to transfer high schools so you can consider your mom as your custodial parent for financial aid purposes? What other things would you not be able to do if you lived with your mom most of the time?
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  • 003techie003techie 13 replies1 threads New Member
    I am currently in Florida. My parents could most likely pay around 20-25k a year.
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  • 003techie003techie 13 replies1 threads New Member
    If my mom (non-custodial) reported no income on the CSS, would that qualify me for more financial aid?
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  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    edited April 7
    Are you a Florida resident for tuition purposes? If so, you have many public universities in Florida that would come in with a price tag that is affordable.

    Are you eligible for Bright Futures? If so, at what level?

    Add $5500 Direct Loan onto whatever your parents can pay...and you have nearly $30,000 each year to pay for college.

    This is very doable.

    You need to start with the Florida public universities...and yes, they have theater programs.

    https://www.sfa.ufl.edu/cost/undergraduate/

    Cost of attendance on campus...under $22,000.

    Sure apply to those pricey OOS schools and private schools...but understand that you have a yearly budget...and you need to discuss this with your parents. If colleges don’t give you sufficient funds...you will have to decline their acceptances.
    edited April 7
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