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National Application Center :: pay for college

Plan, explore, and apply to college using these great tools.

Student Aid Report and Problem Resolution

After completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and sending it electronically or by mail to the federal processor, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR contains all the information provided on the FAFSA, messages from the processor and some calculations.

Important steps to take:

Review the SAR to make sure all of the information is correct. If you need to make any changes, first check with the schools you are considering attending to see if they can submit the changes for you electronically. If not, mail the corrected version of the SAR back to the processor. Schools that are not listed on your SAR will need to receive their own set of original hard copies. To request these, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 319.337.5665.

The government's philosophy behind student financial aid programs is that parents are primarily responsible for paying for their dependent student's education to the best of their ability. Eligibility for student aid is based on the difference between what the parents pay and the cost of attending the college or university.

For this reason, a very important number, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), appears in the upper right hand corner underneath the date the SAR was processed. This is the amount that the federal government has determined that the student and family will be able to contribute to the cost of your education, including your living expenses, for one year. (This formula is called the Federal Methodology, FM.)

The Expected Family Contribution is calculated by a standard formula, applied to all financial aid applicants nationally that takes into consideration all of the information included on the FAFSA. The Expected Family Contribution is the same for all schools to which the student applied for aid, no matter what it costs to attend each school. If the student or family find it difficult to come up with this amount, they can borrow to help finance it. Click here for more information on loans.

Schools may request additional information, such as copies of the students and parents' tax returns. Always respond immediately to any requests from the financial aid office, as financial aid is typically awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and funds are limited.

If there are any problems with the SAR contact schools' financial aid offices and let them know that there will be changes. For example if a parent was working when the FAFSA was completed and he or she is now unemployed, most schools will change the EFC amount. Remember, if you don't tell the schools that things have changed (financially or otherwise), they will not know.