When throwing your graduation cap in the air, saying goodbye to childhood friends and setting off on new journeys, something that often slips the mind of graduating high school seniors is paying for college.
Students may think completing FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) and having top grades is good enough to get them a free or relatively cheap ride to college.
However, as the first semester in college approaches and students began digging into finances, some realize this isn’t always the case.
What students usually don’t know is FAFSA determines the need for aid by subtracting the EFC (expected family contribution) from COA (the cost of attendance). The COA is the price of the tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and other fees the school estimates for the year. The EFC is determined depending on how the government classifies the student.
There are three main statuses: dependent, independent and independent with dependents. For the average undergraduate under the age of 24, the classification is dependent unless they are orphaned, homeless, with the armed forces, married or have dependents.
What this means is that a student’s financial is mainly based on their parents’ income. For some students, this works well enough to qualify for aid.
However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Like me.
The government’s argument when calculating EFC is that the parents make enough income to contribute to their child’s education. As with all arguments, there are people that fall through the cracks, especially middle-class students.
As a middle-class student myself, I live in house with five people. Both my parents are employed, and it’s a rare month we don’t live paycheck to paycheck.
I’ll admit my dad working as a nurse has advantages, but not enough that he can support a family of six and help fund my college. My mom, a teacher, helps where she can, but in a house with two teenage boy athletes it’s rough to keep food in the fridge longer than a day.
Basically, the government expects families that don’t have extra cash laying around to be able to dish it out for their kids’ college just because there’s potential for there to be extra cash in the bank.
The truth is, some parents don’t have that estimated money to contribute, so they don’t. I’m certainly not going to be the one to ask my family to change their current lifestyle to accommodate the beginning of my adult life, when I should be learning to be independent of them.
As a student worker, I make about $700 a month working 20 hours a week. I am carrying 15 hours this semester, so I don’t feel that I can take a full-time job. This income is nothing compared to the student loans I’m forced to tie my name to in order to get my education.
I graduated in the top ten of my class, held several leadership positions and gave many hours volunteering. I worked my butt off in high school to get into college, and when I started college, I had not even $1,000 to my name, no extra money from my parents and not a cent from the government.
But none of this seems to matter to the government when it is determining how much aid I should receive.
I’m most likely not in this boat alone. There’s definitely a problem emerging with the government’s process of determining aid for middle-class college students.