Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

Finishing up this year’s round of FAFSA applications, you may have found that your package has changed since you last applied. The reasons for increases or decreases can range from differences on the government, school, or family side of the arrangements. Shifts can usually be adjusted to, but first you must be aware of them and know where they are coming from. Here are five of the major sources of financial aid package changes:

Government Policy

FAFSA’s ability to meet the necessary aid of all applicants can change from year to year. To fairly distribute financial aid, elements of financial aid may be weighted differently. While this can be frustrating, understand that it means more aid is being given to more people that need it. The best way to prepare for these shifts is to stay updated on government policies regarding financial aid and scholarships.


Often school tuition changes are not accounted for in financial aid packages and so you may be getting the same amount of aid as in previous years but covering a smaller percentage of tuition. Schools generally inform both students and families of tuition changes in a brief email which can be easy to glaze over. SAVE THOSE EMAILS. In the event that you have to notify FAFSA or other organizations of this change it is good to know the exact percentage of the tuition increase. It may also provide you a more specific person to contact regarding this financial aid change.

The best way to handle these changes is to coordinate first with the school and then with the FAFSA. Your university may have some aid to help facilitate the increase in tuition for students on financial aid or know of the best way to work with the FAFSA regarding tuition changes.


Scholarships can have a huge impact on your anticipated need. If you are getting aid from different sources than you have had in the past then this will reduce your overall need. Similarly if scholarships that were covering some of your expenses have expired or discontinued, then your expected need will be greater. While different forms of aid may reduce your financial aid package, they might be more beneficial to you in the long run. Some scholarships are targeted to specific majors and can offer connections that the FAFSA cannot provide. As you begin to decide on majors and specialize your education, more specific scholarships might be worth looking into.


Your assessed need is determined based on family assets and expenses which can experience major shifts over the course of the year. If you have a sibling who has graduated from college, for example, then that financial burden is no longer factored into your family’s expenses. Your family’s adjusted net worth can change if a family member has died and you inherited some of their property. On the other hand, if your sibling is just entering university or a parent or guardian has been fired, this may increase your calculated need.

Overall Income

Your family’s adjusted net worth and income may be altered in less obvious ways. If your family has paid off the mortgage on any owned property or had to take on a new mortgage, these changes will affect your assessed need. While your parent or guardian may not have had a major job shift, they may have gotten a salary cut or increase that they did not think was worth mentioning.

Bottom Line

Don’t be surprised if your financial aid package is bigger or smaller than it has been in previous years. When applying for financial aid, make sure that you’re up to date on changes in government and university news as well as changes in your family that could affect anticipated need. If you notice that there is a significant difference in need, consider what factors have contributed to the change. If the change is only partly accounted for, then it may be worth looking into more thoroughly.

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