Student Aid Index (SAI)

Your SAI is meant to help you figure out how much you might have to pay for college.

So what is an SAI?footnote 1

Your Student Aid Index (SAI) is an index number that colleges use to determine how much financial aid you're eligible to receive. Your SAI is calculated according to a formula established by law and the information from your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

The SAI factors in your family's taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security). Your household size is also considered.

Note: Your SAI isn't the amount of money your family will have to pay for college and it isn't the amount of federal student aid you'll receive.

How your SAI affects your financial aid package

Typically, the lower your SAI, the more financial aid you'll be eligible to receive. Your financial need can be found by subtracting your SAI from your school's cost of attendance (COA). The COA is typically tuition, books, supplies, transportation, room, and board.

COA-SAI = financial need.

Based on this formula, your school's financial aid office will prepare a financial aid package and send you a financial aid offer.

It's possible that the most expensive school on your list might not cost you the most. Don't let a school's sticker price be the only factor to sway your decision to apply. The fact is, most students receive some kind of financial aid including grants, scholarships, and/or work-study. It all depends on the total financial aid package awarded by each school. This information is available in your financial aid offer.

Need help applying for financial aid? Check out our FAFSA® Guide.

"The future excites me so much. There's so many things that are unknown in the future, so it's a whole big broad spectrum of, ‘You can do whatever you want.’"

Kate G., Bridging the Dream Scholarship winner

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footnote 1. This information was gathered on 04/14/23 from and

footnote FAFSA is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.