Determination of need

Primary responsibility for meeting college costs rests with students and their parents, to the extent that they are able to pay. The difference between standard costs of education and the calculated family contribution is “demonstrated need.” Two distinct formulas assess information reported in the aid application process. The traditional institutional methodology (IM), developed by the College Board and refined annually by economists and aid administrators, determines the expected family share of costs and is used by the financial aid committee to determine eligibility for Wake Forest need-based scholarship and loan programs. IM is the dominant standard among selective national colleges. The federal methodology (FM) determines eligibility for federal aid. Differences between the IM and FM models include:


IM considers a fuller range of family asset information, while FM ignores assets of siblings, all assets of certain families with less than $50,000 of income, home equity, family farm equity, certain family-owned small business equity, and the value of dependent student-owned qualified educational benefit plans.


FM defines income as the “adjusted gross income” on federal tax returns, plus various categories of untaxed income. IM includes in total income any paper depreciation, business, rental or capital losses which artificially reduce adjusted gross income.


FM does not assume a minimum student contribution to education; IM expects the student, as primary beneficiary of the education, to devote some time each year to earning money to pay for education.


FM ignores the noncustodial parent in cases of divorce or separation; IM expects parents to help pay for education, regardless of current marital status.


FM and IM apply different percentages to adjust the parental contribution when multiple siblings are simultaneously enrolled in college, and IM considers only siblings enrolled in undergraduate programs.


The IM expected family share represents a best estimate of a family’s capacity (relative to other families) to absorb, over time, the costs of education. It is not an assessment of cash on hand, a value judgment about how much a family should be able to use current income, or a measure of liquidity. The final determinations of demonstrated need and awards rest with the University and are based upon a uniform and consistent treatment of family circumstances.


Except in the most extraordinary circumstances, Wake Forest classifies incoming students as dependent upon parents for institutional aid purposes, even though some students may meet the federal definition of “independence.” Students enrolling as dependent students are considered dependent throughout their undergraduate years when need for institutional scholarships is determined. For institutional aid purposes a student may not “declare” independence due to attainment of legal age, internal family arrangements, marriage, or family disagreements. Wake Forest offers scholarship and grant aid during the fall and spring terms to meet a portion of demonstrated need, and then considers students for available loan and work-study funds to meet the remaining portion of need. If students are eligible for additional funding through federal programs, these funds are packaged in accordance with each program’s regulations and fund availability.