The “industry standard” in this case is the financial need formula established by the federal student loan program, which Scholarship America has modified for the Families of Freedom Scholarship 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 Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund does not consider:
- Nontaxable income
- 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund assets
- Retirement funds
- The value of family residence
- Student earnings
Moreover, the first $500,000 of assets (cash, checking, savings 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 are included in the calculation, as it is not always possible 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 this scholarship fund.