Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Dreaded FAFSA

My job is taking up a lot of my mental energy right now and then I spent last night doing a rough draft of our tax return and filling out the FAFSA for Brigid, with the result that I found myself trolling anthropologie this morning looking for something ridiculous to blog about.  I could just blog about the FAFSA--the Free Application for Federal Student Aid--that bugaboo of parents of college-aged children.  Last night, not five minutes after I'd completed the FAFSA, I came across a notice from Charlottesville High School about a free class to teach parents how to fill it out.

A whole class devoted to teaching you how to fill out a simple form seems a tad excessive.  Most of the FAFSA's pages are for entering demographic information.  Then you tell them how many kids you have, how many of them are in college, how much you earn, how much you have (you no longer have to estimate the value of your house) and how much tax you will pay this year--information easily found on your 1040 form.  It took me ten minutes to do Brigid's FAFSA last night, after struggling with the 1040 and its attendant schedules for about forty-five minutes.  Maybe I should teach the FAFSA class.  Actually, I tend to be a little cavalier with the FAFSA, throwing in good faith estimates and round numbers because for us it's really sort of a joke as we never qualify for any aid.  The fun part is at the end when you get an instant read-out of what the Federal Government has decided is a reasonable contribution for your family.  They have deemed our contribution for next year to be an amount close to my total yearly income.  You see, I told you the FAFSA is a joke.

Another joke is the Education Credit on your tax return.  It doesn't matter how much you spent on tuition, the most you can take, per child is $4,000, from which you must immediately subtract $2,000 and then multiply by .25, which number you then add back to the $2000, and then divide it all in half, and that's your credit.  So the "$8,000" I was allowed to claim for my two kids in college (a fraction of what was actually spent) became a measly $1302 tax credit.  Don't you dare blame Obama. It was set up that way before he became president.

I loved my mother dearly, but every time I apply for federal financial aid I am reminded of the time I was a senior in high school when she dumped on me the all-time best mother-guilt line ever.  My parents had just gotten the results from the FAFSA and my mom said to me, "You don't qualify for any financial aid because your father and I have saved so much so that we won't be a burden on you in our old age."  The sad thing is, my mother never reached old age.

But you are wondering what ridiculous thing I found at anthropologie.  The thing about the ridiculous thing is that when I looked at it more closely I realized that I would totally wear it.


The Cloud-Ruffled Romper.  I would live in this thing. I would drink cups of tea and read novels and lounge about in this like there was no tomorrow.  Check out the darling buttons at the back.  Unfortunately, $148 is a little steep for something you couldn't wear out of the house, especially when you have kids in college.


  1. Is there a separate form for financial aid from colleges or does the FAFSA cover it all? The financial aid form for private schools (non-college) is incredibly detailed. They want to know the value of each car, how much lessons cost, amount of [country?] club dues, and vacation costs! My favorite part is the section where I have to fill out what I can afford to contribute, with a stern "do not put ZERO" admonition.

  2. But how would you go to the bathroom in that thing?

    I did my taxes with TaxActOnline, and at the end it offers you a free FAFSA worksheet - it essentially prints out everything you'll need for the form. Best thing since sliced bread...

    Also, it calculated our college tuition credits for us and came up with a number higher than yours (even though we spent less). You may want to run your numbers through TaxAct, just to see what you get (it's free, until you file electronically).

  3. Not Beehive, it must be a different form for colleges, because I didn't have to enter any of that information. But I got to the form by entering FAFSA. Maybe when you enter the school code, and it knows your filling it out for a college, it knows to not ask for your country club dues.

    Thanks for the tip, SC. I will definitely try taxactonline! :)

  4. There was a similar scheme in the UK for grants, but it only applied (in the 80s and 90s) to University level education. We got nothing, yet we weren't rich on a teacher's and a nurse's pay with 2 kids.

    I like the Romper suit, and i think you could wear it outdoors. Just stick a red rose down your d├ęcolletage and it would look stunning.

    Got to be careful about the thorns though.

  5. Actually, that looks incredibly comfortable, although I'd prefer it in a darker color. That way the mess from lounging around on the couch, reading and eating bonbons, wouldn't show quite as quickly :-)

  6. A romper! I love it!
    Oy. I'm kvetching here at the tax forms and citizenship forms I have to fill out just to substitute teach. I'd totally skip the forms and get paid in cash if they'd let me...

  7. I can totally hear your mom saying that!
    I dread the forms, actually not so much the forms, just the reality of how much it will all cost. I have dreams that I'll get the number back and then it will proceed to lecture me on all the money we haven't had in the bank for 20 years accruing interest.
    Love the romper! I would love it even more in flannel!
    I am a die hard lover of overalls. So sad they are only in fashion every 20 years.