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
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.
I am planning on entering a graduate program this summer. As a
newlywed and homeowner I will be needing more financial assistance
than the average student. My college's financial aid adviser does not
think I need a private student loan on top of the Stafford and Grad
PLUS loans. According to my calculations I will. How should I
approach this situation?
— Elizabeth K.
Graduate and professional students can borrow up to $20,500 per year
from the unsubsidized Stafford loan and up to the full cost of
attendance minus other aid received from the Grad PLUS loan. The cost
of attendance includes modest allowances for room and board in
addition to tuition and fees and other direct educational costs. These
allowances are intended to cover only the incremental costs associated
with the student attending college, not the living expenses of other
family members. Even if you were to somehow obtain private student
loans on top of the Stafford and Grad PLUS loans, the excess over the
cost of attendance would be considered a resource and your federal
student loan eligibility would be reduced accordingly.
Some colleges will make an adjustment to the cost of attendance to
include dependent care costs because this is explicitly permitted by
the Higher Education Act of 1965. They may also increase the cost of
attendance to cover the cost of student health insurance. But they
will not increase the cost of attendance to cover discretionary
lifestyle choices or expenses that are completely unrelated to
enrollment in college. It is not uncommon for nontraditional and
independent students to have higher than average living expenses, but
current law does not permit student aid to be used to cover these
Moreover, using education debt to make payments on your mortgage is a
bad idea. You'd effectively be borrowing money to pay the interest on
your debt, causing your debt to grow exponentially larger. Your debt
at graduation will be excessive and you will probably end up
defaulting on the loans and ruining your credit. Live like a student
while you are in school so you don't have to live like a student after