Number of Children in College on the FAFSA
The parent contribution on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is divided by the number of children in college. The number of children in college can have a big impact on eligibility for need-based financial aid. For example, when the number of children in college increases from 1 to 2, it is like dividing the parent income in half.
The student always is counted in the number in college, even if the student will be enrolled less than half-time. Parents normally are not counted in the number in college on a child’s FAFSA. Other family members who are included in household size may be counted in the number in college if they are enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program that leads to a college degree or certificate at an eligible college or university.
If the student’s parents are divorced or separated and the custodial parent has remarried, the stepparent’s other children can be counted in the number in college if they receive more than half their support from the stepparent, even if they don’t live with the stepparent.
A parent who is enrolled in college will be included in the number in college on their own FAFSA, but not on their child’s FAFSA. If one or more parents are enrolled in college, ask the financial aid office at the child’s college for a professional judgment review. The financial aid administrator will want to see proof that the parent is genuinely enrolled in college, such as copies of paid bursar bills. The financial aid administrator will call the other college to confirm.
Eligible colleges and universities include only those institutions that are eligible for Title IV federal student aid. Students who are enrolled at a U.S. military academy should not be included in the number in college, because the federal government covers their college costs.
The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE form does not use the number in college as a divisor of the parent contribution. Instead, it adjusts the parent contribution by a larger percentage than the FAFSA, as illustrated by this table. As a result, it is less generous than the FAFSA when there are multiple children in college.