Federal Student Aid: Is the Criteria Fair?

Many students depend on federal student aid to pay for their education. Colleges are becoming more and more expensive every year and are nearly impossible for a middle-class family to pay for, let alone a lower-class family. Federal student aid is almost entirely based on the overall need of the student. When you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the federal government uses the information on the application to decide whether you are eligible for federal funds. If you are eligible, they decide how much you will receive based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Information on FAFSA

Many times the information on an individual’s FAFSA is not a good indication of how much money they have available. I understand that the government is trying to make the process as fair as possible, but they are leaving out some important questions. On the FAFSA, you are asked for you and your parents’ income information and how much money both you and your parents currently have in your bank account. These are fair questions, but FAFSA does not ask how expensive your bills are, whether you have to pay for your medical bills out of pocket or if you have insurance, or any other expenses you have.

Expected Family Contribution

Every time I have filled out a FAFSA, I have always wondered about this EFC concept. Once the application is completed, you are told what your EFC is. How does this application know how much your family is able to contribute? I feel like this is something they should ask the student and the student’s family. They would have a better estimate as to how much they are able to contribute. This may be an easy way for people to lie, but perhaps they should ask this question in addition to providing a number they believe the family can contribute.

Those Who Are Not Qualified

The federal government determines who is not qualified based on how much money the parents’ and the student makes in a given year. This is a good start in deciding who qualifies, but I also think that it shouldn’t end with this. Some parents may make over $100,000 a year, but what if they refuse to pay for their child’s education? Is the student at fault? What if one of the parents is critically ill and a lot of that money goes towards medical bills. There should be a way for students to repeal the government’s decision of their disqualification, especially if they can provide proof of their situation.

There are many students every year who are unable to pay for their college education because the government decides that they do not qualify. The system is definitely flawed and there are limited funds to go around, but I do believe that the government has some room to make exceptions. The government should consider what parents already have to pay for rather than assuming they have enough to put their son or daughter through college.