The Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund uses well-established, commonly accepted financial need criteria to calculate the level of scholarship support granted to eligible Fund registrants. Need is calculated once a student has selected a school or college and is preparing to enroll, and is generally determined by what a family can reasonably be expected to pay, given their particular financial circumstances, compared to the cost of the postsecondary institution. Awards are based on a percentage of calculated financial need, not a percentage of the total school or college expense. Because of this, award amounts differ from student to student.
In order to provide the most help possible, Scholarship America® applies a far more generous formula to determine the financial need for students eligible for the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund® than the formula used by most college financial aid offices.
The industry-standard criteria in this case come from the financial need formula established by the Federal Student Loan program, which Scholarship America has modified for the Fund to allow greater access to assistance. For this reason, while the standard formula considers a wide range of income and assets in determining financial need, the Fund does not consider:
• Nontaxable income
• 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund assets
• Retirement funds
• Value of the family residence
• Student earnings
In addition, the first $500,000 of family assets (cash, checking account, savings account, and cash value of stocks) is ignored in the financial needs calculation. However, interest income from the Victim Compensation Fund awards that families have invested is included in the need calculation, as it is often impossible to separate this investment income from the rest of the interest income that people report on their tax returns.
Furthermore, the purpose of the Fund is to provide for an entire generation of financially needy students who, absent this Fund, may not have the financial resources needed to attend a postsecondary institution – a population that numbers in the thousands. If all investment income were excluded from the needs assessment, future generations of financially needy students would receive substantially less help from the Fund.
Finally, even Fund registrants who take advantage of the generous scholarships that New York State legislation provides to students attending New York schools are encouraged to apply for Families of Freedom Scholarships. Depending on the cost of the school or college they choose to attend, these students may still show need for additional financial assistance. (Fund registrants from New York who do not attend in-state schools are, of course, eligible for general Families of Freedom scholarships.)