Options for a Student Whose Parents Refuse to Complete the FAFSA
By The Fastweb Team
August 22, 2017
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.
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 costs.
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 you graduate.
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