White daughter with arm lovingly wrapped around mom¿s shoulder in kitchen

When Finances Change While Your Student Is in College

Finances change; it happens. Instead of panicking because your student attends an expensive college, follow this advice to possibly receive more financial aid.

When submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students and their families are expected to provide information based on their financial situation. However, household finances can change at any time, whether that’s due to a parent losing their job, a natural disaster, the death of a parent, or a large, unexpected medical expense. 

An added complication: In 2016, the FAFSA began asking for tax returns from two years prior to submission (i.e., the FAFSA for the 2021–2022 academic year require copies of 2019 tax returns). A lot can happen with family finances in two years, so it’s possible your student’s financial aid award letter doesn’t reflect your current situation. If you believe a financial change you’ve experienced is substantial enough to warrant additional financial support, you can request a “Change in Circumstances” form directly from the school’s financial aid office. Here’s how.

How to file a Change in Circumstances form

A Change in Circumstances form is an official financial aid package appeal that’s filled out based on new financial factors. Each school uses its own paperwork, but generally, students and parents are required to fill out the form and provide copies of supporting documents. Here’s an example of a school’s form, which shows the types of information you’ll be requested to provide. These documents include W-2s, evidence to substantiate the extenuating circumstance, and filed federal tax returns. The parent and student will both need to certify the request with their signatures. The school’s financial aid administrators will then review the Change in Circumstances form and documentation to decide if your student’s aid award can be adjusted. These decisions are handled on a case-by-case basis, so submitting a request form doesn’t guarantee your student additional aid.

If an award adjustment is granted based on your specific circumstances, it might come in the form of various types of financial aid. For example, if you’ve lost your job, your student might become eligible for a higher percentage of need-based aid in their award package, like scholarships, grants, or federal subsidized loans. 

Related: Financial Aid Terms You Need to Know

Will finding new employment impact my student’s financial aid package?

Generally, parents who later secure new employment don’t have to worry about putting their child’s financial aid for the current year in jeopardy. However, when their student submits a FAFSA renewal for the following academic year, the parents’ most current financial information is required, which may affect the structure and/or details of your student’s award package if your finances have restabilized after the change. For example, an increase in salary may make your child’s loans transition from need-based direct subsidized loans to direct unsubsidized loans, which offer no deferment of interest payments. 

If your situation has dramatically changed since your student first submitted their FAFSA, it’s worth reaching out to their college’s financial aid office. Financial aid officers can clarify the available options based on your family’s unique situation and offer your student resources to help them stay on course with their education.

Related: Get More Money by Appealing Your Financial Aid Award 

A change in financial circumstances can be stressful at the best of times—but when you’re trying to help pay your student’s way through college, it can feel downright overwhelming. Take a breather and assess your options for your finances sooner rather than later to put yourself in a good place.

For more advice on the college and financial aid process, check out our Parents section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
finances financial aid financial changes money for college parents paying for college

About Callie McGill

Callie McGill is a Content Marketer for ValuePenguin.com.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

Victoria

Victoria

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

Alexandra Adriano

Alexandra Adriano

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2016

I've used CollegeXpress quite a bit as a senior, particularly for colleges and scholarships, so it's been a very big asset in that respect! I would recommend it to anyone looking to pursue a college education, especially seniors! This scholarship will help me achieve my goals in ways I couldn't have before, and I know that there are opportunities like that for everyone on the website and in the magazines!

Jada Bohanon

Jada Bohanon

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships for the colleges I applied to. It was very hard for me to find scholarships in the beginning that I was qualified for. My teachers recommended this website to find some, and not only did I find some scholarships but I also got to look into some schools I hadn’t heard of before. I was very happy to have discovered this website, especially with the coronavirus spreading all over as I can’t really go visit many colleges.

Damian Rangel

Damian Rangel

September 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me tackle college expenses, which will allow me to put more of my time and effort into my studies without the need of worrying as much about finances.

College Matches