"Simplified Needs Test" Discussion

<p>Hi, I thought I'd start a thread on this topic to see if people could relate their experiences and thoughts on whether the Simplified Needs Test (SNT) has changed their financial aid situation.</p>

<p>My family's situation is that I'm an early retiree, own my home outright, have relatively high assets (but not high enough to be able to afford $250K for my daughter's education, at least not without hardship in my retirement), and low income, well below the SNT's $50K threshold. Having gone through the FAFSA (and Profile) before with an earlier child, I know that meeting the SNT will dramatically reduce my EFC - without it, I probably won't qualify for anything other than unsubsidized loans.</p>

<p>The tradeoff for me is that to meet the SNT, I'm really going to have to torque around my finances for the next four years to avoid any capital gains and to make sure no investment activity or work activity will trigger having to file a 1040. I'll have to sell stocks/assets now to raise cash for the next four years and/or borrow just to meet living expenses since much of my current income is from transactions that trigger capital gains. I also occasionally generate some small income from contract work which I'll have to avoid like the plague since that would trigger having to file a 1040 with Schedule C. I'll also have to postpone selling my large house and moving into a smaller one for several years. (Another consideration is that I won't be able to itemize deductions, but without a mortgage, not itemizing won't change my taxes much if at all.)</p>

<p>So what I'm wrestling with right now is whether meeting the SNT and having a low EFC will likely result in significantly more financial aid for my daughter, enough to offset the financial negatives above. It certainly won't for private schools who use the Profile. And I can fund an in-state school from out of pocket as I'm doing with my older son right now. So it's the possibility of getting significant aid from a relatively expensive out-of-state public school, particularly the CA public schools, that is the attraction. (My daughter is an excellent student and probably will get accepted in several very competitive public schools - she's also very negative about attending an in-state school.)</p>

<p>Anyone been down this road before with these tradeoffs? Thanks for any advice,</p>


<p>I cannot answer for other states from experience, but I do know that California public schools do not promise to meet need for out of state students. They are not even able to meet need for all of California’s in state students. You will more than likely receive a lot of loans or a huge gap.</p>

<p>UCB has been very public that they increased the number of out of state students they have been accepting for the very reason that out of state students pay more to attend.</p>

<p>Do California publics even give significant amounts of need-based aid to OOS, especially considering all the fiscal problems in the state? Are you trying to qualify for Pell grants. I don’t know what else you would be aiming for if you don’t want loans.</p>

<p>The only public Us I know of that provide need based aid to OOS students are UVA and UNC-CH. I would not expect anything other than federal aid at other OOS publics. Sounds like you don’t need to worry about torquing around your finances but need to start expectations management with your daughter. If she is a high scorer there may be options in the merit aid area.</p>

<p>I’m in similar boat living off assests with disabled husband. I think some of the fafsa only schools have merit aid that takes the fafsa into consideration. Also, she might be able to get work study. Others posters have found that they had to fill out the 1040 because of jury duty checks, refund checks, etc. I have noticed while serving ciy and county, they will take your jury duty check as a donation. I would be especially careful this year until you know where she will be in school. Of course, it will matter much less when you only have one in school.</p>

<p>Simplified needs does reduce your EFC however if you are required to file a 1040 ( itemized deductions/payments including for tuition) you don’t qualify.
[FinAid</a> | FinAid for Educators and FAAs | Simplified Needs Test Chart](<a href=“Your Guide for College Financial Aid - Finaid”>Your Guide for College Financial Aid - Finaid)</p>

<p>There are some alternative qualifiers if you aren’t eligible to file a 1040a or 1040ez. Dislocated worker, receive means tested benefits etc. These were added the last couple of years.</p>

<p>Only you can decide if it’s worth it to do all you need to do in order to qualify for SN formula. I think it’s important to understand that an OOS public is most likely not going to give enough need based aid to bring the price down to that of your own in state. If you would qualify for Pell with the SN formula, you would be guaranteed that amount. You would also qualify for subsidized loans (3500 max for freshman year). Anything else would have to be merit, IMO, although you may qualify for some grant money. I just don’t believe it would come close to covering your gap.</p>

<p>My son applied to a couple OOS schools, hoping to get enough merit to make it work. He had a 33 ACT, so he was certainly competitive for merit. We are not Pell eligible, but with 2 in school our EFC was WAY below the $40,000 OOS COA for these schools. Our experience was that the merit scholarships offered didn’t come close to our Need (COA-EFC). One school did offer an institutional grant, but it was a drop in the bucket in terms of the total need.</p>

<p>The fact is, public universities exist to educate the children/neighbors of the taxpayers of that state. There are merit scholarships at some publics (and sometimes they are excellent), and there are some publics that offer in state tuition for certain OOS students. I am not aware of any publics (other than UNC-Chapel Hill & I believe UVA) that say they will meet need for OOS students.</p>

<p>I work at a public U. We use equity packaging, in which we attempt to provide students who apply on time a combination of EFC, federal grants, & institutional grants/scholarships that total a target number. This target number is based on the average annual tuition for an in state student. We do not increase the target number for OOS students, even though their cost is higher.</p>

<p>Thanks for all the comments. Exactly the info I’m looking for.</p>

<p>As background, my daugther is a superb student and is bucking for valedictorian at her (well rated) high school. She’s taking 6 AP classes right now in her junior year, is a class officer, is a director of a major fund-raising effort, debates, will be a four-year varsity lacrosse player, etc., etc. etc. She’s just now taking SATs and ACT’s and those likely won’t be as good as she’s not a very good test taker, but I’m sure they’ll be acceptable. So she should be a very attractive student to many colleges.</p>

<p>But as more info comes in, I’m starting to become skeptical that the SNT will do much more than qualify us for a Pell grant and other small sources of aid. If the cost of her college is $53K/year all-up, qualifying for $5K/year extra in grant money isn’t going to be a deciding factor and it may cost me this much or more each year to do the things necessary to qualify for the SNT.</p>

<p>This really is a screwy system where I have an EFC of $2K under the SNT and an EFC of $50K without it. And $1 of schedule C income, capital gains, state tax refund, or jury duty pay flips you from the first to the second.</p>


<p>It sounds like your D may be a candidate for merit at some excellent schools. Schools like Vanderbilt & USC have great merit, and they are top schools. There are other great schools with merit money available. So even if you decide that SNT is not worth the hassle, you may well not have to pay more than you are comfortable paying.</p>