CSS PROFILE vs. FAFSA: What are the Differences?

FAFSA (“Federal”) and CSS PROFILE (“Institutional”)

There are certain adjustments in the EFC calculation process that are treated differently between the two financial aid methodologies.

Below you’ll find a summary of many of the differences within the computation elements of the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE,.

Elements        Federal       Institutional    Advantage

Forms Available   January 1    October 1
Income – Asset
Protection Allowance      Yes       Yes Institutional
State Tax Allowance      Yes (1)       Yes Institutional
Education and
Savings Allowance      No       Yes Insitutional
Allowance     No (2)       Yes Institutional
Emergency Reserve
Allowance      No       Yes Institutional
Minimum Student
Contribution      No    Yes, $1,800 Federal
Adjust Regional
Cost of Living      No       Yes Institutional
Secondary School
Allowance      No       Yes Institutional
Low Income
Allowance      No       Yes Institutional
Simplified EFC     Yes (3)       No Federal
Automatic EFC Zero     Yes (4)       No Federal
Family Home “Net Worth”
Assessed      No     Yes (5) Federal
Siblings Assets
Assessed      No       Yes Federal
Small Bus.      No       Yes Federal
Family Farm
Assess. < 100 Employees      No       Yes Federal
Parent Considered     No (6)       Yes Federal
Student Income
Assessment Rate     50%      50%
Student Asset
Assessment Rate     20% 25% (Siblings’ Assets < 19 not in college yet) Federal
Parent/s Income
Assessment Rate   22%-46%         Same
Parent/s Asset
Assessment Rate     5.64%       5% Institutional
2 Children in College 50% of EFC ea. Child 60% of EFC/Child Federal
3 Children in College 33% of EFC ea. Child 45% of EFC/Child Federal
4 Children in College 25% of EFC ea. Child 35% of EFC/Child Federal
Student Owned 529 Parent Asset Student Asset, Siblings < 19 not in college count Federal
Grandparent Owned 529      No Some schools include with     supplemental application
Grandparent Distributions Parent Income Student Income Federal

Footnote Added Clarifications

(1) State Tax Allowance for FAFSA does not count state sales tax and does not recognize income levels. The table is based upon IRS Schedule “A” data. The Profile considers both sales tax and distinguishes among income levels. The source for the data is the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

(2) The FAFSA does not have a separate medical/dental allowance but there is a percentage of allowable out-of-pocket medical expenses calculated in the Income Protection Allowance (“ IPA”). This is important when considering a financial aid appeal based upon out-of-pocket medical costs when FAFSA is in play (federal money in most cases).

(3) Simplified EFC calculation means assets are excluded when certain income tax filing requirements are met and the family income is $49,999 or less.

(4) Automatic EFC Zero occurs when family income is $24,000 or less.

(5) CSS PROFILE assesses family home “net worth” (market value less debt) by multiplying the net worth times a multiple of adjusted gross income. Most schools place a cap on the amount assessed based upon a multiple of income, usually in the range of 1.5 to 3 times. Here are samples below. It is important if you have a large amount of home net worth that you carefully select your Profile schools if you are trying to qualify for need based financial aid.

(6) Federal method definition by statute whereby custodial parent and spouse are responsible for student’s educational expense. Institutional uses option for the non-custodial parent to provide financial information with supplemental form whereby the “biological parents” are responsible for the student’s educational costs.

CSS PROFILE Family Home Net Worth Assessment Samples

School Cap Multiple Times to Income Level

American University 100%
Cornell (All 568 Schools ) 1.2 times
Duke University 1.2 times
Illinois Wesleyan Univ. 2.5-3 times
Princeton, NJ Zero
Vanderbilt, TN 2.5 times
Boston University 2.5 times
Rice University TX 2.5 times
Mass. Institute Technology 100%
Notre Dame Case by Case
Brown University 3 times
Colby ME Case by Case
DePauw IN Zero
Bowdoin ME 1.8 times

Example Bowdoin, Income $100,000, Net Market Value $200,000

Income $100,000times 1.8 = $180,000 assessed @ 5%= $9,000