Impact of SAI on College Financial Aid

Understanding the Impact of Student Aid Index (SAI) on College Financial Aid


As the FAFSA landscape undergoes a significant transformation, students and parents grapple with the change from Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the new Student Aid Index (SAI). Understanding these shifts and their impact becomes crucial in navigating the evolving financial aid scenario for higher education.

What is SAI?

The Student Aid Index (SAI) stands as the cornerstone of evaluating a student’s financial eligibility for college expenses, supplanting the prior EFC mechanism. Although SAI inherits similarities in its formula and core inputs from its predecessor, its fundamental objective diverges notably. SAI is engineered for heightened precision, transparency, and equitable determination of financial aid eligibility.At its core, SAI operates as a comprehensive metric, weighing critical financial parameters such as family income, assets, household size, and the student’s financial status. While akin to the EFC, SAI’s refinement seeks to eliminate complexities, rendering it more user-friendly, accessible, and accurate. By streamlining the evaluation process, SAI endeavors to provide a clearer, fairer assessment of a student’s financial need for higher education.

How to Improve Your SAI for Better Financial Aid Eligibility

The applicants can be prepared for the changes in the FAFSA, especially the change of EFC to SAI primarily by becoming aware of the changes. Some more things that an applicant could do to improve their eligibility for the best kind of aid and have a good (lower) SAI score are as follows:

1. Look for colleges that are generous with Aid

The applicants could look at the history of financial aid offered by the desired institutions. Examine their track record of providing gift aid and merit aid that lowers costs and satisfies financial need.

2. Consider and Updated on the Aid Forms that the Colleges will Employ

Most institutions use a federal method to determine aid, utilizing data from the family’s FAFSA. However, 260 largely private institutions use the PROFILE aid application to distribute their own funding as well. The PROFILE formula examines a family’s financial situation in greater detail. For instance, while many PROFILE institutions do not count home equity, the FAFSA does.

3. Become Smarter About the College Savings

College funds are the focus of 529 savings accounts. Aid formulae will evaluate them at a lesser rate than other assets if they are owned by the parent or student. Grandparents and other savers should hold off on giving a student money for college until after the kid has submitted their final aid application. If not, the money will be classified as student income and subject to a 50% tax (or paid to the college for the benefit of the student).

4. Reducing the Value of Parental Assets

Parents are expected to use between 5 and 5.64 percent of their assets to pay for their children’s college. (The FAFSA formula protects a percentage of assets.) By paying off consumer debt or making large expenditures, parents can lower their assets.

5. Reducing the Value of the Children’s Contribution Being Reported on the FAFSA

Colleges anticipate that a student will utilize a significant percentage of his or her assets and income to pay for school. Applicants could consider using up student funds and assets on supplies for education, like a computer. Alternatively, one might invest that money in a 529 savings plan, where universities utilizing the government formula will consider it at the lower parent rate.

6. Applying for Financial Aid well Before the Deadline

Applying for aid as soon as possible could help the case since financial aid that lowers costs (such as grants and scholarships) is generally allocated before the deadline for applications for financial aid.

7. Knowing When and How to Appeal Aid

Some monetary situations are transient or altered following the submission of an aid application. A parent, for instance, might have gotten a one-time bonus. Or perhaps a job might have been lost. If the applicant has a valid justification, they can successfully file an appeal for aid. They can also request a review of their aid package by presenting the institution with a better offer from another school.


The renaming of EFC to SAI through the FAFSA Simplification Act aims to simplify the aid process. This, along with other enhancements, makes applying for student loans and accessing aid more streamlined. It fosters accessibility to higher education for those with lower incomes and their families.

Navigating the shifts around SAI and the nuances in how it determines eligibility can still prove challenging for families. That’s why our Top5 Colleges tools are so valuable. It simplyfies the financial aid process by providing customized award estimates across colleges tailored specifically to your SAI score and academic profile.

In just 60 Seconds, Top5 analyze your profile and provide:

1. Personalized likely financial aid packages and expected out-of-pocket costs per college
2. Projected eligibility for grants and scholarships based on profile
3. Ability to compare aid offers and true affordability across schools side-by-side

Simplify your college selection process with Top5.

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