After your Parents' Financial Statement (PFS) has been received and processed, you can view your Family Report in the Parents' Financial Statement Online. The Family Report shows you how SSS estimates the amount your family can contribute to educational expenses (your "Estimated Family Contribution"). Reviewing the Family report can help you understand the information that schools have to work with as they make financial aid decisions.
Remember: Schools use SSS's estimate of your family contribution as a starting point only. Each school makes its own financial aid decisions, based on its specific budget restrictions as well as its own policies.
To locate your Family Report after your PFS has been processed, go to the PFS Online. Login, then click on "View Family Report." Even if you applied via the paper PFS form, you can create a free account on the PFS Online to view your Family Report.
How Schools Use the SSS Estimate of Your Family Contribution as a Starting Point for Making Financial Aid Decisions
Below you'll see a sample Family Report, which summarizes the information that SSS gives to schools. Here's how schools use the SSS calculation as a starting point for making their financial aid decisions.
1. SSS Determines “Discretionary Income.”
To calculate your “Discretionary Income,” SSS takes your Income (the money you earn/receive) and subtracts Non-Discretionary Expenses such as taxes and emergencies. It also considers a small portion of your Net Worth (your Assets minus your Debts) as potentially available for meeting your living expenses. SSS automatically subtracts an "allowance" for basic living expenses; this allowance is based on your household size. The remainder is considered your Discretionary Income. (To your left, see these sections highlighted on the sample Family Report.)
2. SSS suggests to schools your "Estimated Family Contribution."
This number is a portion of your Discretionary Income that is available to pay for education for all your children in tuition-charging schools. If more than one of your children is applying to tuition-charging schools, the basic expectation is that you can split your parent contribution evenly among them. Your Estimated Family Contribution also includes an expectation that some portion of savings in the student’s name will be added to the amount parents can contribute from their own resources.
3. Schools review your full PFS and may verify your information.
Reviewing your entire PFS, including your explanations, helps school better understand your family’s financial picture. Most schools also compare the information you entered on your PFS with official documents you submit, such as tax forms.
4. The SSS analysis is often a starting point for a school’s decision-making process, not the end of it.
Based on their own policies and practice, it’s likely that schools will adjust SSS’s suggested contribution. A few examples that might result in a school making an adjustment to SSS’s calculation:
- A philosophy regarding a minimum amount that parents should be able to pay for educational expenses.
- A school policy that requires that in order to be eligible for aid, both parents should earn income (unless they are taking care of an infant or elderly relative or are disabled).
- An inability to afford the financial aid you qualify for, and may ask you to pay more than the SSS calculation.
- A difference between the SSS calculation and for using your home equity and/or other assets and debts and the school's own calculation.
- An adjustment to the SSS calculation in order to consider cost of living factors in the city or town where you live.
5. Each school decides how much financial aid it can/will award to your family.
In making its decision about how much of your financial need it can meet, each school considers how much money it has available in its financial aid budget; how much it costs to attend its school (tuition, fees, books, etc.); and the school’s enrollment goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
If SSS's estimate shows that my family can contribute X dollars, why didn't the financial aid offer from the school meet my full need?
Schools use SSS's estimate of your family contribution as a starting point. But most schools do a thorough review and make adjustments to the SSS estimate. After they have a revised "final" family contribution amount, a school then has to make a decision about how much of the remaining need it can/will fill, that is how much your financial aid offer will be. See above a more detailed explanation of these steps and considerations a school takes in making financial aid decisions.
Why did I get different awards from two different schools?
Schools that use SSS do begin at the same starting point -- the SSS estimate of family contribution. But each school reviews and possibly adjusts that estimate. And beyond that, each school has a different budget and difference policies that will impact the award they can give. Therefore, you will likely get different offers from each school. Click here to read about some sample scenarios.
Questions about a school's award?
If you have questions about a particular school's financial aid award, contact the school's financial aid department directly.