CSS Asset Protection Allowance for Divorced Parents?

Parent of a HS junior here, just now starting to seriously research the intricacies of the financial aid process.

Per the topic title, I cannot locate anything specific online about how assets are handled for divorced parents when calculating aid on the CSS - only for the FAFSA.

Is there the equivalent of an asset protection allowance for schools that require the CSS, and if so, how does it work for divorced parents?

I’m the custodial parent but also the younger of the two parents. I mention that I’m younger because I’ve read some things specific to the FAFSA suggesting that the older parent is the only one who receives the protection allowance.

In practical terms, I’m trying to figure out if burning cash from say, $15000 to $5000 to pay down debts (and reduce my assets) would impact expected aid for CSS schools or if that money is already protected in some way due to an allowance.

Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

The FAFSA has universal federal rules that are used by every college to award federal aid. Not so with Profile. The Profile form is only used to collect data. Each Profile school than uses that data with its own financial aid formula. If you want to know if and how a specific school that awards institutional aid using data collected on Profile implements an asset protection allowance for divorced parents, you will need to contact the financial aid office at that school.

There is no standard asset protection allowance for the

And as an FYI, the asset protection allowance on the FAFSA is pretty low. It increased to $10,500 this year…but that is a temporary increase.

How much were you hoping the asset protection allowance was?

Per my post, I just want to know an approximation so I can plan better. I wasn’t hoping as much as I was expecting a rough amount. I know that the FAFSA allowance is $10,500. That’s why I specifically used “burning down cash from $15,000 to $5,000” in my example - because I expected the CSS profile school equivalent to be comparable.

If I know the allowance is X, or as a rule-of-thumb among T25s it is Y, or a group of people who have gone thru the CSS process tell me that in their experience it is roughly Z, I can then pay down debt, modify retirement contributions, make Roth IRA contributions before the deadline, etc. so that I have closer to X, Y, or Z.

@PhillyMike as another frequent poster here has stated…do not do any money burning for financial aid purposes that you were not planning to do anyway.

Even with assets not protected, schools likely aren’t going to add 100% of your assets to your net cost.

Have you run a net price calculator? You can play around with the asset amounts and see if there is a difference in your net costs. It will be an estimate only because you are divorced…but you can use it to get a rough estimate anyway. And some NPCs do account for divorced parents…most don’t.

Yeah, that’s the challenge I’m having. The NPCs aren’t built for divorced parents.

I understand the concerns about changing financial priorities for financial aid purposes. I think those are valid concerns and it’s probably true more times than not that it’s the tail wagging the dog. But for me, if given the choice between 1) finally paying off grad school loans that will have to be repaid anyway and decreasing EFC in the process vs. 2) just sitting on a 12-month emergency fund, killing EFC, and making the same student loan payments… I’ll pay off the loans, move to a 6-month emergency fund, and increase the financial aid received by thousands of dollars over the course of four years of college.

But again, it would be nice to know if I should take it down to 3 months or 6 months or 9 months, and that’s partly based on the allowance amount. So it sounds as if I’ll be making phone calls in the fall.

Appreciate your responses.

@PhillyMike in your situation, I don’t think shuffling $10K in savings is going to be what makes your need-based aid (from colleges that require the CSS) end up where you’d like it.

Unless your non-primary home assets are in the mid-to-high 6 figures or into the millions, your FinAid offers will be based mostly on the families’ incomes. What I mean is, if the three-to-four parents (I’m assuming at least one of the bio-parents has remarried) earn upper-middle class incomes, your child will likely have a higher COA. If the parents have lower-middle class incomes, the institutional need-based FinAid may be more generous.

So, if the parents are making $100K/each, that is what is going to set the bar for your COA. Not whether or not you have $15K or $8K in a savings account. Savings in that range may make the needle move a little, but outside of larger assets, your incomes are the biggest determinant I believe.

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In the olden days (5 years or so ago) the FAFSA formula gave a pretty big asset allowance to married people, and based it on the older of the two parents. It wasn’t that the young parent got no allowance, it was a joint asset allowance and they gave the amount out based on the older parent. Single parents got a very low asset allowance. I think at the time I filed I would have received about $50k-60k based on my age as a married person but only $10k as a single. For divorced parents, only one parent filed the FAFSA so he/she only got the single (much much much lower allowance).

I think it is different now and sounds like everyone gets $10,500, married or single.

For CSS, the schools set their own formulas.

Figure out if each college wants just your financials or both your and your ex’s financials. If it wants both, include both in the NPC. Of course, the hard part in this case is that you may not have accurate numbers for your ex.

So if I’m on a college NPC that asks for household income, I’m supposed to enter, say, $240,000 (3 x $80,000) as if we were two people with one set of household expenses, as opposed to three people with two sets of household expenses?

See below. Do they essentially just add all three incomes together? Ex has remarried, I have not.

You only need to include NCP parent (and new spouse as applicable) for CSS profile schools, not FAFSA only schools. That is the best you will be able to do because no one knows each school’s proprietary family contribution formula.

For example, in the case of a CSS Profile school where the NCP is remarried, some schools won’t expect the new spouse to directly to contribute to the student’s college costs…yet the school takes a view on how much of the NCP parent’s income is freed up by having a spouse share in household expenses. That is not going to get captured in most NPCs.

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Got it. Appreciate the response.

@PhillyMike you also need to find out how each college uses the non-custodial parent information. And you need to find out how they use non-custodial parent spouse financials as well. This is not the same from college to college.

  • If the college’s FA web site says that the non-custodial parent finances are required (usually with the CSS Noncustodial Profile, sometimes with the college’s own form):
    • If the NPC asks for each parent’s finances separately, fill in according to instructions.
    • If the NPC asks for a single number for each of “parent income” or “parent assets”, add all of the numbers for the parents together.
  • If the college’s FA web site says that only the custodial parent finances are required (uses only FAFSA, or also uses CSS Profile or its own form but not the CSS Noncustodial Profile or its own form for the noncustodial parent):
    • Fill in the NPC using only the custodial parent finances.
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This might help:

Remember…in two years, for FAFSA purposes for divorced parents…the parent who contributes most to the student’s support will be listed on the FAFSA…not the parent with whom the child resides (unless that is the parent who contributes most).

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