SPA System
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Frequently Asked Questions


Will my financial aid change in future years?
    Your financial aid package each year is based off of your FAFSA recording. If the components driving the FAFSA result are stable each year, yes your financial aid package should be relatively similar each year. However, this is not the case for many financial aid recipients. The main factors that can change your financial aid package up and down are the following:
      • family size
      • number of current college students in the household
      • income and assets (student and parents)
    Also, a failure to meet any of the renewal criteria for scholarships obviously will affect your financial aid package amount.

How does the IRS Data Retrieval Tool work?
    During your online FAFSA filing process, you'll be given an opportunity to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT). Applicants will be asked a few screening questions to determine their eligibility to use this tool. Please remember, the use of the IRS DRT is completely optional. The major benefits of utilizing the IRS DRT are:
      • You don't have to find your tax records.
      • You don't have to worry about making mistakes entering your tax information on your FAFSA.
      • If you use the IRS DRT and don't change any of the retrieved information in your FAFSA (other than that listed in step 3 above), you won't need to provide tax transcripts if you're selected for verification.

    If you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool you will be prompted to enter your PIN number and click "Link TO IRS." Eligible applicants will be temporarily transferred to the IRS website. Don't worry, once your done with this process you'll be brought right back to FAFSA screen.

    Once on the IRS website and after authentication, the IRS web site will display the data to be transferred to the FAFSA. The applicant may then choose whether or not to transfer the data. If the applicant chooses to transfer the financial data, the applicant will be given an opportunity to update the displayed data, if necessary. Note: Unmodified data (submit as is) may reduce the likelihood that their FAFSA will be selected for verification.

What cases would a FAFSA applicant be ineligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
    A student would be ineligible to use the FAFSA-IRS Data Retrieval Tool in the following situations:
      1. The dependent student's parents are married, but file separate tax returns.
      2. It has been less than 2 weeks since the tax returns were electronically filed (allow 8 weeks for paper filing).
      3. The independent student is married and files a tax return separate of their spouse.
      4. The tax return filing status on the FASFA is marked as "I will file, but I have not completed my tax return".
      5. The applicant's marital status has changed since January 1 of the processing year.
      6. Either the student or their parents (in the case of a dependent student) has amended their tax return.

What are 5 important facts about financial aid?
    A student would be ineligible to use the FAFSA-IRS Data Retrieval Tool in the following situations:
      • A majority of financial aid packages are mis-awarded and/or under awarded
      • The first financial award offered by private universities is usually not their best offer, yet a majority of families accept them.
      • Too many families assume they don't qualify for any financial aid, and end up paying more of their hard earned money for college.
      • Too many families do not plan enough in advance and thus, cost them more out of pocket money and limit their child's college choices.
      • The college financial aid process is severely underestimated!

What is Expected Family Contribution (or EFC)?
    The EFC is a term used in the college financial aid process in the United States to determine and measure an applicant's eligibility for federal student aid.

How is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated?
    Your EFC is a measure of your family's financial strength and it is determined by the information you give about your family's circumstances. Two similar formulas, or methodologies, are used to determine your EFC. The federal government uses a formula called the Federal Methodology. Many colleges use a formula called the Institutional Methodology. Both formulas figure out your EFC by looking at the following:
      • family size
      • number of current college students in yourhousehold (this include parents if they are attending school)
      • income and assets (student and parents)
    AGM EFC Calculator can help you estimate what your EFC will be using either methodology.

How do colleges use the EFC?
    Colleges subtract your EFC from the total cost of attending their institution for one year. The total cost — which includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation costs — minus your EFC is how much financial aid they estimate you'll need to attend the college.

Why am I expected to pay different EFC amounts at different colleges?
    Financial aid policies vary somewhat from college to college. For example, some colleges may consider family circumstances, such as unusual medical expenses, while others may not.

What can I do if my EFC seems higher than it should be?
    If you believe that a college has calculated your EFC incorrectly, contact your financial aid office or contact your financial advisor. Financial aid officers can explain how they determined your EFC and discuss your options. Your EFC may be lowered if your family has had a significant change in income or expenses since you applied. You can always write a letter to your school for reconsideration/re-review.

What should I do if my EFC is high?
    If your EFC is high, you should not expect to receive a large need-based financial aid package. Look for colleges that have a strong merit-awards policy or practice need-blind college admission.

Should I consider appealing if I feel my financial award amount is too low?
    It is important to review the financial aid results. Since most colleges have a tendency of decreasing grants while increasing loan amounts, a review may often yield greater award packages. The chances of receiving decreased financial aids are higher for senior college students since the universities know that those students are not going to go somewhere else. If the review results indicate underfunding of financial aid, we offer appeal letters on behalf of the students or parents. Since most colleges prepare rejection letters to such appeals beforehand.

What is Rigors of Secondary School Record?
    It is a measure of how challenging the student's classes are with respect to what the high school actually offers. It is intended to give the admissions officer some context for the student's course list and to provide some general information about the competitiveness of the high school. Did the student take mostly honors and AP/IB classes, or did they take the easy way out.

    "Most rigorous" means the student took the maximum number of AP classes that can be scheduled at that school. It could be two AP classes if that is all that is offered at that particular high school, or it could be a dozen or more at some high schools.

What is achievement-based aid?
    It is awarded to students who have a special characteristic, skill, talent, or ability. Typically achievement-based aid is in the form of scholarships.

What is need-based aid?
    It is provided to students who demonstrate financial need. Most financial aid, particularly public-funded aid, is awarded on the basis of financial need determined through the application process and in accordance with a prescribed federal formula.
    Financial aid is available in four basic types of programs.

    Scholarships are "gift aid" which do not have to be repaid. Scholarships typically include criteria such as academic performance or special talents.
    Grants are "gift aid" and generally do not include criteria other than financial need.
    Work-study is a "self-help" program in the form of part-time employment during the student's college career.
    Loans are a form of "self-help" self-help" since they represent borrowed money that must to be paid back over a period of time, typically after the student leaves school.