Colleges to Target for Families of Divorce

 In CSS Profile, FAFSA, Financial Aid Forms

Financial aid forms can be confusing. That confusing can be made exponential in the case of separation and divorce. Oftentimes, if parents are separated or divorced, schools can require information from both parents.

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Custodial and Non-Custodial Parents

While only one parent will be termed the custodial parent, a growing number of schools also require information from the non-custodial parent. This can have negative ramifications for financial aid eligibility, as the non-custodial parent’s income and assets will be factored into the financial aid decision. This is the case even if the non-custodial parent doesn’t plan to contribute to the cost of college.

How Should Families of Separation and Divorce Approach Financial Aid?

As a result, I am often asked how families of separation and divorce should handle the financial aid process and planning for college. For families starting the process early, one great strategy is to target schools that only require the FAFSA. FAFSA-only schools only require information from the custodial parent, which in most cases reduces the family’s expected contribution to the school.

However, in addition to the FAFSA, more and more schools are requiring the CSS Profile, a form used in general by private schools and those with more institutional aid to provide families. A majority of CSS Profile schools require information from both the custodial and non-custodial parent. So, should families of divorce and separation either rule out CSS Profile schools or relent to paying sticker price for private colleges?

CSS Profile Schools That Don’t Require Non-Custodial Information

The short answer is no.

There are several well-regarded schools that require the CSS Profile but do not require information from the non-custodial parent. One such school is Vanderbilt. Others include Bucknell and the College of William and Mary.

To find a full list of these schools, families can go to this College Board website where all schools that require the CSS Profile are listed. The site then indicates which schools require the non-custodial portion to be completed.

The difference between these schools can be drastic for families of separation or divorce.

Here’s more info on the impact divorce has on financial aid >>

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