What is the best way to answer the question about parental financial support on the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE?

Question:

One of the questions on the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE asks about how much financial support my parents might provide when I start college next fall. What is the best way to answer this question?

Answer:

The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form is used by about 250 mostly private colleges to award institutional financial aid funds. These colleges still use the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for awarding federal and state financial aid.

The PROFILE may be customized by each college and there is no standard for how the colleges use the answers submitted on the PROFILE. In particular, there are several different ways that colleges may use the answer to the PROFILE question about financial support for college from the student’s parents.

Some colleges compare the answer to this question to the PROFILE form’s calculation of the parents’ ability to pay for college and use whichever figure is greater.

Some colleges even add the answer to this question to the PROFILE form’s calculation of the parents’ ability to pay for college.

This is in contrast with the FAFSA, which ignores cash support received by a dependent student from his or her custodial parent(s) and does not ask how much money the parents plan on contributing to the student’s college education.

Given that the colleges do not disclose the purpose of the parental support question or how they use the answer to this question, the safest answer is to provide a nominal figure. For example, low-income students with family income under $50,000 a year should answer zero. Middle-income students should answer no more than $250. High-income students should answer $500.

The amount should also be consistent with amounts claimed through higher education tax credits on the previous year’s federal income tax returns.

The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form is used by about 250 mostly private colleges to award institutional financial aid funds. These colleges still use the FAFSA for awarding federal and state financial aid.