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Options for a Student Whose Parents Refuse to Complete the FAFSA

Mark Kantrowitz

March 01, 2010

I have been financially independent from my parents since I was 19. I’m 23 now. I’ve been working two jobs and taking 12 hours in school. My school says that I cannot file a FAFSA without my parents’ information. My parents will not give me their tax information or even fill it out online. I don’t have the stamina to work this much and go to school at the same time any more. I’ve been diagnosed with a genetic illness and I need to change my lifestyle to address that. I’ve been pursuing private loans, but they all want a cosigner. My parents won’t sign and I don’t have anyone to ask that doesn’t already have student loans. There has to be a way to get federal aid, but I can’t find the answers anywhere. Any information you can provide me with, would be much appreciated. Thank you! — Sarah N.

If you will be age 24 as of December 31 of the award year, you will be considered an independent student for federal student aid purposes. Until then you are considered a dependent student and parental information is required on the FAFSA. There are also a variety of other criteria for independent student status, such as being married, having a dependent other than a spouse or being a veteran.

Tell the college’s financial aid administrator about your situation and ask for their help. Sometimes they can help convince your parents to complete the FAFSA. Providing their financial information on the FAFSA puts your parents under no obligation to help you pay for college, but will enable you to obtain financial aid from the government on your own.

If there is anything unusual about your relationship with your parents, such as a history of abuse or a hostile home environment, bring it to the financial aid administrator’s attention. Sometimes they can use this information to justify a dependency override. The college will want to see independent third party documentation of the situation, such as a copy of a court protection from abuse order or a letter from a social worker, teacher, clergy or guidance counselor.

If your parents still refuse to complete the FAFSA, the college has the authority to make you eligible for unsubsidized Stafford loans without parental information on the FAFSA. Section 472 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 amended section 479A(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to permit college financial aid administrators to offer dependent students unsubsidized Stafford loans “without requiring the parents of such student to file the financial aid form prescribed under section 483 if the student financial aid administrator verifies that the parent or parents of such student have ended financial support of such student and refuse to file such form”. This won’t make you eligible for a grant or work-study, but at least it is something. Unfortunately, the lower loan limits for a dependent student will still apply.

I hope you will persevere in pursuing a college education despite your difficulties. Working full-time while in school can interfere with academic performance and is a major cause of students dropping out of college. But you will soon turn age 24 and be able to qualify for financial aid on your own. You’ve already accomplished a lot without your parents’ help. Don’t let their refusal to complete the FAFSA prevent you from completing your education.


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