The expected family contribution of FAFSA is going away. Good riddance.


“The idea is that the university knows you well enough to expect something from you,” said Sarah Goldrich-Rab, professor of sociology and medicine at Temple University and author of Paid Costs: College Costs, Financial Aid, and Betrayal American Dream. “You find those words long ago in a relationship, and they don’t really know you at all. It does not build trust. “

Then comes the kicker: this expectation may be just the beginning. “A college often expects students to pay more than the EFC,” said Robert Kelchan, Associate Professor of Higher Education at Setton Hall University and author of Higher Education Accountability.

For students applying to college just outside of high school, “family” in the EFC usually means parents, as it is nearly impossible for students to function properly at any time in college.

But the EFC makes no allowance for families where the parent or parents believe that a child should try to pull that off. Or when parents look at higher education, because they see no value in it, and then decide not to help. Or even when the student feels an obligation to help the parents, (or especially) if the parents cannot help them.

The system also complicates things. “With LGBTQ students, people really start to understand the problem,” Dr. Goldrich-Rab said. “When a 19-year-old comes out and is cut off, what is the family now?”

The EFC does not make any allowance for extended families and obligations to parents, aunts, siblings or chosen families.

“It denies any responsibility that may lie elsewhere,” Dr. Zaloom said.

By writing the last word of the EFC in the language of charity, the federal financial aid system attempted to soften the blow. Certainly, powerful forces are demanding parents whether they like it or not, but at least it is a gift of sorts. right?

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