Can Saving for Education Affect Financial Aid?

Students with backpacks

Your child or grandchild receives straight A’s and is a star swimmer. Or the years they’ve spent battling against bedtimes and curfews have paid off handsomely in their debate team meets. While it’s true that they’re a success, this hard work doesn’t always translate to dollars and cents.

Did you know that only one student out of every 300 will receive a full scholarship to college.1

This can be a shock to many families who have spent years cheering on their hard-working children. To mitigate this steep learning curve, here’s a quick study for you on how your family can be prepared for the cost of college.

Most aid comes in the form of student grants and loans.

  • Federal grants don’t need to be repaid but are typically designed for low-income families. So many students don’t qualify. 
  • Student loans, which are much more common, have to be repaid within a certain time frame and incur interest – with interest rates that are reset each year according to U.S. Treasury rates.

Financial aid eligibility

While you can’t control how much financial aid your child may be awarded or what the interest rate on a student loan will be, you are in control of how much you contribute to your education savings strategy.

Some families worry that contributing to a 529 plan or other savings plans may hurt their chances of receiving financial aid. In reality, up to 5.64% of parent-owned assets – excluding qualified retirement assets, your primary residence and insurance policies – are considered in financial aid calculation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

Your financial advisor can show you different ways to save for education and will explain how different ways of saving may impact your overall financial plan.

Examining financial need

Federal financial aid is need-based and determined by one equation:

Cost of Attendance (COA) — Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need

All families applying for financial aid must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can apply as early as Oct. 1 of your child's senior year in high school for the 2020-2021 school year. The deadline to complete the FAFSA varies by state. Based on the information you provide in your FAFSA, the Federal Student Aid Office will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is subtracted from a school's cost of attendance (COA) to determine your child’s financial need. However, this need doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll receive that amount in financial aid.

The COA is the total cost of attending a particular school for one year. It includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and transportation to and from school.

How we can help

The more money you save and invest for education, the more control you and your child will have over how to pay for college. Remember, while loans, scholarships and grants can help, what they can offer may be beyond your control. So to make the grade, talk to your financial advisor today for more information about saving for college.

Important Information:

1 Secrets of Winning a Scholarship. Mark Kantrowitz, 2013.

Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors do not give tax or financial aid advice. This is a highly specialized field, and specific questions should be directed to a qualified financial aid expert. This material is offered for broad, informational purposes only. Many important details of the federal financial aid system are not mentioned or fully described. The information provided is a simplified explanation of the federal financial aid system and how savings vehicles fit into it. 

This information discusses federal financial aid only. Information on aid from schools and states and on private scholastic and athletic scholarships is not provided.

More Resources:

How much will college cost?

Answering this question can help you create a realistic savings goal – but the answer depends on when and where your child goes to college.

Can I afford to send my child to college?

The cost of college is very expensive and rises every year. That's why we're here to help you decide just how much you can afford.

How can I balance saving for college and retirement?

It can be intimidating to think about how much you should save for both college and retirement—but it doesn't have to be.

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