How Could My Financial Aid Award Change Next Year?
Do Swarthmore financial aid awards change each year?
Swarthmore assesses a student’s financial need each year that a student submits an application for financial aid. Generally speaking, if a student’s financial need changes from one year to the next, the corresponding financial aid award would change to reflect that. For example, if a family’s overall financial strength increases, the financial need decreases. If a family’s overall financial strength decreases, the financial need increases.
What aspects of my family’s financial situation could influence my financial aid award?
A family’s financial situation is comprised of a number of factors, which are evaluated in context when Swarthmore considers a student’s financial need. Some of the factors that play a role in determining a student’s financial need include (but are not limited to) a family’s income, assets, size, and number of children attending college. Please note that siblings who are full-time students at four-year, undergraduate institutions are given credit in our need analysis when determining a Swarthmore student’s financial aid award.
How could changes in income, assets, family size, or siblings in college change my financial aid award?
It is common for a family’s income and assets to change from one year to the next, but it is less common for other factors, such as family size, to change each year.
A student’s financial need could increase if one or more of the following is true:
- a family’s size and the number of children enrolled full-time in four-year undergraduate college stays the same, while the family’s income and/or assets decreases
- a family’s income and assets are relatively unchanged from one year to the next, but the family’s size and/or the number of siblings enrolled full-time in four-year colleges increases
For example, if a Swarthmore student’s family size stays the same, but a younger sibling enters a four-year college as a full-time student, the family has new additional costs of educating another college student. Generally, with most other factors remaining unchanged, this means that the Swarthmore student’s financial aid award would be expected to increase.
A student’s financial need could decrease if one or more of the following is true:
- a family’s size and the number of children in college (full-time enrollment at four-year, undergraduate institutions) stays the same while the family’s income and/or assets increases
- a family’s income and assets remain about the same from one year to the next, but a Swarthmore student’s sibling graduated or left college
For example, if a returning Swarthmore student’s older sibling graduated from a four-year undergraduate college, while the family’s income and assets did not change much from the previous year, the family would have fewer costs associated with college expenses. Subsequently, the Swarthmore student’s financial aid award would be expected to decrease, with most other factors being the same.
What are some reasons why my financial aid award might change from one year to the next?
If you see significant changes in your financial aid award from one year to the next, in either direction, you are encouraged to consider whether some key factors have changed (such as income, assets, family size, or the number of siblings enrolled in college), and if so, to what degree. In addition, other elements are considered as part of the financial need analysis, including:
- Billed costs from the College. An annual increase in Swarthmore’s cost of attendance (such as tuition, room, and board), even by a small percentage, may result in a change to the bottom-line number of the financial aid award.
- Outside scholarships. Students are more likely to receive outside scholarship awards in their first year than they may receive in subsequent years. All else being equal, this would result in a student receiving a smaller aid award in their upper-class years, despite the fact that Swarthmore does not control the amount of outside scholarship awards a student may receive.
- Summer earnings. Students are expected to contribute a portion of their summer earnings each year: $2,000 in their first year and $2,500 in each subsequent year. All else being equal, this increase in the student’s contribution would decrease the student’s aid award from the first year to the second.
- Significant changes to family circumstances. Swarthmore’s Financial Aid Office follows a process for assessing significant changes to a family’s circumstances at any point in the calendar year—changes that can be deemed beyond the control of a family and that affect the family financially in an adverse way. This could include major events such as the loss of parent employment, loss of parent income, death of a parent, unforeseen catastrophe, etc.
Should you have questions about a change in a student’s financial aid award, you are welcome to contact the student’s assigned financial aid director, who will be glad to address your concerns.
Every family’s circumstances are different and are evaluated in context. Consider that a family of four with two parents and two children (one of whom is a full-time student at an undergraduate institution) and an annual income of $180,000 could expect to be impacted differently by a change of $10,000 in income than a family of one parent with two children (both of whom are in college) and an annual income of $60,000.