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Do Twins Get More Aid? If a Student Gets Married, Does the Financial Aid Change?

Mark Kantrowitz

September 20, 2010

My boyfriend and I are afraid that if we marry my annual gross income ($47,000) will prevent him from getting federal grants and loans for college. He has no income at all. He is disabled but was denied disability when he applied. We don’t mind waiting if it would be better to wait. — Sarah K.

Your fears are justified.

When a married student files the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the income and assets of the student’s spouse must be reported on the FAFSA, not just the student’s income and assets. Your income is likely to affect your boyfriend’s eligibility for the Pell Grant. It may also affect his eligibility for subsidized loans, but he will still be eligible for the unsubsidized Stafford loan. His parents will no longer be eligible for the Parent PLUS loan, since he will be independent because of the marriage. As an independent student he will be eligible for higher unsubsidized Stafford loan limits: an extra $4,000 a year during the freshman and sophomore years in college and an extra $5,000 a year during the junior and senior years in college.

Currently, the regulations at 34 CFR 668.55(a)(3) and (b) preclude updating the FAFSA due to a mid-year change in the applicant’s marital status, so you could wait until after the FAFSA is submitted to get married. The change in marital status will then have no impact on his eligibility for federal student aid this academic year, but it will affect subsequent years. However, these regulations will probably be changing effective with the 2011-2012 academic year. A pending Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is proposing to replace the current marital status exception with a requirement that an applicant update the FAFSA if the applicant’s dependency status changes during the award year for any reason, including a change in the applicant’s marital status.

[Update: The new regulations allow but do not require applicants to update their FAFSA due to a mid-year change in marital status. However, the new regulations also allow colleges to require an applicant to update the FAFSA because of a change in the applicant’s marital status “if the institution determines the update is necessary to address an inequity or to reflect more accurately the applicant’s ability to pay.” So colleges have the discretion to update the FAFSA to reflect a change in the applicant’s marital status, but are not required to do so. Thus policies regarding whether an applicant must update the FAFSA for a change in applicant marital status will vary from college to college.]

I have twins. Do I have to fill out the FAFSA twice or can they both be included on one form? Also, does the federal government give more “free” money to those who have multiples in college? — Donna M.

You have to complete two FAFSAs, one for each child. The parent information on the two FAFSAs will be the same, but usually there are some differences in the student section of the FAFSA. For example, the student income and assets may differ, and the student names and Social Security numbers will certainly differ.

Twins, triplets and other multiples tend to qualify for more student financial aid than singletons because more children are enrolled in college at the same time. The federal need analysis methodology divides the parent contribution by the number of children in college. The expected family contribution (EFC) is often much lower as a result, yielding an increase in eligibility for need-based financial aid. For example, among low and moderate income families (AGI < $75,000) with dependent children pursuing Bachelor’s degrees, 46.0% of those with two or more children in college qualified for a Pell Grant, compared with 39.9% of those with just one child in college.

Some colleges offer special scholarships or discounts for twins. The Lake Erie College Twins Scholarship splits a full tuition scholarship among the twins. Other colleges offer a discount for siblings enrolled simultaneously, not just twins. George Washington University, for example, provides a 50% discount for the second sibling enrolled in college at the same time through the GW Family Tuition Grant. Ask your college if they provide a “buy one, get one free” deal. Colleges are more likely to offer discounts if the twins are identical or if a multiple of three or more children will enroll at the college at the same time.


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