The information you enter on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines how much financial aid you will be awarded for college or university. It's important to be careful and accurate when completing FAFSA.

Every answer counts and can impact your bottom line. The FAFSA asks about your housing situation. This information is used to calculate how much money you'll need to cover your cost of living while attending school.

Owning a Home and the FAFSA

There is need to worry about the value of yours, or your parents', primary residence when filling out this application for post-secondary financial assistance. The FAFSA doesn't require applicants to share this information.

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If you or your parents own a secondary residence or any investment properties, these must be listed on the FAFSA as reportable assets. The net value of these properties should be listed. To determine their net value for this purpose, use the following formula:

[Market Value of the Secondary/Investment Property] Less [Mortgages or Other Debts Owed on the Property] = Net Value

Housing and Cost of Attendance at School

The cost of your housing, or room and board, while attending college is used to calculate your Cost of Attendance (COA). The COA is calculated by your school; it's the average amount that a student will pay to attend the college or university for a year. If you're attending more than half time, your COA includes tuition and fees, room and board, cost of supplies, cost of books and other allowable expenses. Your housing expense directly affects the amount of your COA.

FAFSA and Campus Housing

The FAFSA asks you about your housing plans while you are pursuing your educational goals. If you plan to live in a dorm or college residence, your housing costs will be calculated using the exact amount the school charges. If you live off-campus, you'll be given a housing allowance. The allowance may be reduced if you indicate you'll live with a relative. For example, the University of California Berkeley calculated the 2017-18 cost of living in a residence hall to be $15,716. Off-campus students are given a budget of $8,992, and students living with relatives are given a budget of $2,630.

FAFSA Calculation for Financial Need

Your financial need is determined using a basic formula. Your family's expected contribution -- the amount you or your parents are expected to pay out-of-pocket -- is subtracted from the school's cost of attendance. This results in your financial need. In most cases, your financial need is the maximum amount of financial aid you can receive. However, you aren't guaranteed this amount.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.