Private Colleges and the FAFSA

Thought I’d share my response to a message that I received from a mom, who was interested in finding private colleges that just use the Free Application for Federal Student or FAFSA.

Here is Patrice’s question:

Is there a way to determine which private colleges use the FAFSA method for financial aid?  I would like to focus in on those schools rather than ones that use a different formula.  How do I find that out?

You might be wondering why someone would only be interested in private colleges that just use the FAFSA. Here’s why: the FAFSA isn’t nearly as nosy about a family’s financial circumstances as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which is the other major financial aid application.  About 270 private colleges and universities use the PROFILE, which might seem like a lot, but more private schools don’t use the financial aid form.

The FAFSA could be a lot more friendlier financial aid application for families who enjoy a lot of home equity. That’s because the FAFSA doesn’t even ask families if they own a house. So FAFSA filers won’t be penalized by the federal financial aid methodology that determines how much money an individual family should be able to afford for college.

Home Equity and the FAFSA

In contrast, the PROFILE will ask about home equity. This real estate asset can boost the Expected Family Contribution or EFC that represents what families, at a minimum, will have to kick in for one year of college. Many colleges will put a cap on a family’s home equity value, but it would still be better if none is considered at all.

In some cases, the FAFSA can also be a friendlier documents for divorced couples. I explain why in the following post:

College Choices for Teens of Divorce

Okay, so now I’m finally going to answer Patrice’s question. An easy way to find out which private schools only use the FAFSA is to eliminate all the private schools that use the PROFILE. Here is the link to all those PROFILE colleges.

I also told Patrice that she should check with individual non-PROFILE private schools to see if they use their own financial aid application as well.

If you want to learn more about financial aid, you might want to read one of my previous posts:

Financial Aid: How to Find out if You Qualify

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and a new eBook, Shrinking the Cost of College. She also writes college blogs for CBSMoneyWatch and US News. Follow her on Twitter.

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