So my friend L and I were talking about this yesterday and she said she and her husband didn't even bother to fill it out. I think we will have to, no matter what, because of the job change situations we are facing, and I would probably do it even if we didn't think there was any chance of it helping us, but I was rather curious how many families just don't bother with it. We had an informational meeting at the high school a few weeks ago, at which most of us parents of seniors came and learned about filling it out, and the mom of one of her friends commented to me that the only people she knew who were eligible for need-based financial aid were out of work entirely - and in fact, she knew of one family where the parents refused to look for work because it would mess up their family's eligibility for financial aid.
Anyway, out of curiosity, I did a google search on "filling out the FAFSA - why bother?" And after reading a couple of things that I found, I am really disgusted. Perhaps by chance, the first 3 sites I clicked on were message boards where college-aged people were complaining about their parents refusing to pay what they were supposed to for college. Evidently these kids thought that if the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) came back as, say, $50,000, their parents were "supposed to" write a check for $50,000. On one board, they were commiserating with one girl whose mother "refused" to help her with college, saying how sad it was that her mother was so uncaring and heartless. And this was after the mother had already paid $30,000 for the first semester at a private college! Another kid was complaining that his parents had earmarked "only" $60,000 for his college and refused to borrow any more. Borrow. For his college.
I almost registered for one site in order to blast these young'uns for this, and then thought better of it. Not helpful. But it does give me pause. I wonder if my own children have such a nebulous idea of our family finances that they honestly expect us to pay whatever the EFC turns out to be when they go to college? When did things change so much that it is optional for a child to have a part-time job during college? Huh?? Isn't that part of the college experience?
The EFC, by the way, is estimated FAMILY contribution. Not Parent contribution. So the kids are allowed to contribute to that. In fact, whether she understands it or not, Miss B's savings goes toward that.
That's another thing to add to the agenda of the Big Family Meeting Barry and I are planning to have with the children.
Barry heard a program on Wisconsin Public Radio a couple of weeks ago contrasting college-going today with college-going a generation or two ago. Now colleges sell themselves to prospective students based on the food, the housing, the activities. The fun. The color. Used to be, you went to college to learn, and all the rest was immaterial.
I feel more and more like an old fogey here.
The FAFSA informational booklet we were given had a little note to students contemplating college to remind them that going to school means financial sacrifice, that it is a choice and means giving up other things that one might like to have. Kind of a "duh" thing, but really, I bet it sounds ridiculous to lots of people. Yes, the college years are supposed to be fun. Yes, they are probably a young person's first taste of independence**. Yes, they will bring lots of new opportunities and experiences. But no, they are not meant to be a newer, more opulent lifestyle, and no, parents are not supposed to go horribly into debt to afford them. The student is the one who benefits from college, not the parents, and therefore, I think the student should be the one to pay for it. As he or she goes. Not with an enormous debt that dogs his or her steps for years after graduation, keeping him or her from marrying or starting a family or buying a home. It's not worth it.
* Most of those were in the stock market. Note I use the past tense here.
** If parents are paying for it, how independent is this independence, really? Come ON now.