Paying for College

Will Divorced Dad's Income Affect EFC?

Question: My parents are divorced, and I live with my mom. It’s just her and me in our house. Once I turn 18, my dad is legally not required by the state of Florida to support me financially (i.e. pay for my postsecondary education.) Since this is the case, will my family’s expected contribution be based on just my mother’s income? I don’t work. My mom is the sole provider in our household.

Even if your father’s divorce decree does not require him to support you past age 18, colleges that require financial information from both parents will still use his income and assets to determine your financial aid. Well, that’s the BAD news. But there is also some GOOD news:

1. Many colleges require just the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA asks for financial information from the custodial parent alone. So, at these schools, your EFC will be based on ONLY your mother’s information.

2. Many private colleges (especially the more selective ones) as well as some public colleges, also require the CSS Profile Form (or their own similar form). The Profile seeks information from BOTH parents, even when they are divorced. Here is a list of colleges that require this form:

That may not sound like good news … and perhaps it isn’t. BUT … if your parents’ divorce isn’t recent, you can write a letter to financial aid officers and explain this. College officials may be lenient and will discount your father’s income when they assess your financial need.

In general, a parent’s ABILITY to pay and not the WILLINGNESS to pay will determine a financial aid award. So if your dad refuses to contribute to your college costs, it might hurt you at some institutions. However, the FAFSA-only colleges will not look at his data at all.