Estimating financial aid with a complicated situation?

I am a rising senior trying to narrow down my list of schools. Many people would suggest I run the NPC for my potential schools and rule out the ones that aren’t affordable.

However, my financial situation is a little complicated. My parents are divorced. My mom has an uncomplicated job/regular salary, etc but my dad owns apartments and I’ve heard that NPC’s aren’t accurate for families who own businesses/make their income through real estate.

Every NPC we’ve run has us paying full price, which is not very encouraging lol.

So I guess my question is will the FAFSA take into account that all the real estate my dad owns is our source of income? Or are we just screwed for financial aid? Is there a better NPC or a different way we can estimate costs?

Unless it changed recently, the FAFSA uses the income of the parent you live with for the majority of the year. FAFSA only schools don’t tend to give a lot of money. Schools that use the CSS and the FAFSA give better aid, but they’ll consider your dad’s income. Make sure you have a financial safety on your list.

What’s your budget? Will your dad contribute?


As @austinmshauri said, FAFSA will not care about your non-custodial parent’s finances. Thus, your financial aid for the majority of colleges in America will not be affected by his financial situation.

However, if you’re intending on applying to colleges that use the CSS Profile to determine FinAid, you may run into problems. Basically these will be T50 private schools in the USNWR list. And a couple of prestigious publics.

So, if you’re applying to U of Central Florida or Arizona, only your mother’s info will matter. If you’re applying to Fordham, Duke and Notre Dame, both your mother’s and your father’s finances will be scrutinized. As well as any step-mother or step-father you may have. The CSS includes both sets of parental households - all four if the bio-parents have remarried.


A couple of exceptions to the CSS requiring both parents’ income: Vandy & UChicago only require the custodial parent (although there is verbiage that they reserve the right to ask for more information).

Regarding the FAFSA, isn’t it changing sometime soon to require income from the parent providing the majority of financial support vs primary physical custody? @kelsmom

ETA: I meant this as a general comment rather than a response to the previous poster.


Our experience was that even the college with the largest endowment, and the reputation for the most generous financial aid in the country, dinged us for our very modest rental real estate business, and deemed us full pay because they figured that we could mortgage or sell real estate to pay for college, even though it would reduce our income to the point where we would qualify for financial aid… after our child had been graduated.

I strongly suggest that you make options that are financially within reach. Apply to public schools in state, and schools where you would qualify for significant merit money. Unless you plan to game the system by concealing your parent’s rental properties, you will likely not qualify for need-based financial aid.


Yes, the rules regarding which parent to use for FAFSA changes for 2023-2024. Here is an article outlining the changes: New FAFSA Changes - Winners and Losers » The College SolutionThe College Solution.


Read what @Kelsmom posted upstream. The parent to be listed on the FAFSA will be the one who provides the most financial support to the student. (Not the parent where the student resides most unless that IS the parent providing the bulk of the support).

There are CSS Profile colleges that do not use the non-custodial parent information at all. You might want to look for those.

You also might want to look at schools where you would qualify for significant merit aid which does not consider any family finances.

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I assume the FAFSA will allow the student, with input from the parent, to determine who provides the most support. Just because the non-custodial parent pays $1000/mo doesn’t mean they provide the most support since the custodial parent is paying for the day to day stuff, the housing, maybe the medical, etc. I think there is a lot of leeway to determine who provides the most support unless it is really one-sided (non custodial paying private school tuition, huge check every month, custodial parent not employed).

In a 50/50 custody situation, then it might become more even even if one parent has a much more expensive life style, and then the new rules say the parent with the higher income is the ‘FAFSA’ parent.

From the article:

“What will matter is who claims the child on the tax return, which is currently irrelevant.

Under the new rules, the parent who provides the most financial support to the child in the prior-prior tax year is the one who should file the FAFSA. If this isn’t definitive, Kantrowitz thinks that the U.S. Department of Education will issue guidance basing the determination of the custodial parent on whichever parent has the greater adjusted gross income (AGI).”

This is going to be confusing, and my bet is that there will be information forthcoming from the Department of Education to clarify.


For the divorced parent situation, see FAQ: Divorced parents, financial aid, and net price calculators , but note the pending change of the definition of custodial parent from the one you live with to the one providing the most financial support. Some colleges require only the custodial parent finances, but others require both parents’ finances; you may have to dig around the college financial aid web pages to figure out what each college wants.

If the parent with the real estate assets and income is needed, then that can make estimating with NPCs less reliable, especially if the NPCs do not ask detailed questions specific to real estate assets and income.

Basically you’ll need to hunt for merit.
What’s your gpa? Curriculum rigor? Any test score?

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