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Short Answers to A Few Common FAFSA Questions

Mark Kantrowitz

March 07, 2010

Does checking the Federal Work Study box on the FAFSA affect other forms of financial aid that a college might award, such as scholarships or other government aid? Is it wise to check this box even if you have not yet received a college’s financial aid offer? — S. Z.

Turning down one form of need-based financial aid generally does not increase the amounts of other types of financial aid to compensate. For example, you can’t get more grants by refusing to accept loans or work-study. There is no harm in checking this box; you can always decline the work-study later. Note also that checking this box does not guarantee that you will receive work-study.

Are you required to report the amount of your cash balance, checking and savings account on the FAFSA? I feel that this is very private information and I am not comfortable sharing this information. Am I allowed to leave it blank? — Becky M.

You must report the total current balance of cash, savings and checking accounts as of the date the FAFSA is filed. Bank account balances can be based on the most recent account statement. This information is currently required by law, specifically sections 475(d)(2)(A), 476(c)(2)(A) and 477(c)(2)(A) of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Failing to report it on the FAFSA is fraud. Of course, you can choose to not file a FAFSA, but then you won’t get any need-based student financial aid. If you’re worried about the privacy of your FAFSA, talk to the college financial aid administrator. Information submitted on the FAFSA is protected by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

I have been divorced for 17 years. I have a daughter who attends college full time and is 20 years old. She has never lived with her father. The child support order stopped when she graduated from high school, but since he was so far behind on his child support, I still receive payments on the arrearage. Do I still have to claim this as child support when filling out the FAFSA even though the order ended? — Katherine H.

You must report child support actually received on the FAFSA even if it is based on a past obligation and not a current obligation.

If you expect that the child support received will differ significantly during the award year, you could ask the college financial aid administrator for a professional judgment review. If the child support last year was higher than normal because of a lump sum catch-up payment, some colleges will make an adjustment to smooth out the volatility. If the child support during the award year will be lower because the child support payments will be ending, some colleges will make an adjustment to reflect the amount that will be received during the award year. But the decision to make an adjustment is up to the college financial aid administrator, not you.

My mom is a single parent raising me and my little sister. She gets child support for my sister, but she has never received any child support for me. Does my mom have to report the amount of child support she gets for my sister on the FAFSA, or can she specify the amount as zero because she receives none for me? — Reyna R.

Child support received for all children must be reported on the FAFSA, not just child support received for the student.


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