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.
The regulations allow but do not require applicants to
update their FAFSA due to a mid-year change in marital
status. However, the 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