Financial Aid

What Can You Do If Your Parents Won't File the FAFSA or Help Pay for College?

Find out if there are financial aid opportunities for students whose parents can't pay for college.

The Fastweb Team

October 22, 2019

What Can You Do If Your Parents Won't File the FAFSA or Help Pay for College?
I am in kind of a bad situation. I had a bit of personal problems and had to move out of my house and no longer live with my parents. Unfortunately they will no longer pay for any of my schooling. I previously filled out the FAFSA and did not qualify because my parents made too much money. However, because I no longer live with them and they will no longer pay for my schooling, I was wondering if there was any kind of financial aid that I do qualify for. I was also wondering if I would be able to file as an independent instead of dependent on the FAFSA. — Jarrod W. There are a variety of reasons why students and parents part ways once the child reaches the age of majority. Whatever the reason, it typically means that the parents either can’t or refuse to help pay for college, which means they are less likely to provide their financial information on the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. While there is little students can do to change that situation, they can hopefully improve their chances of receiving financial aid packages. First, you should see if, based on your circumstances, you qualify as an independent student on the FAFSA. You are considered independent on the FAFSA when: • You are 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year
• You are an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, in foster care or was a ward of the court when 13 years or older
• You are a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or serving on active duty for other than training purposes
• You are a graduate or professional student
• You are a married individual
• You have legal dependents other than a spouse
• You are an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship
• You are a homeless youth
• You are a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of other unusual circumstances If you don’t meet any of the above requirements, you will not be considered an independent. It’s very hard to reach independent status without meeting one of these requirements – having an estranged relationship with your parents is not enough, unfortunately. Another option is to contact a financial aid administrator to discuss options. Sometimes, a financial aid officer will attempt to contact the parents to explain the situation – to reassure parents that providing financial information on the FAFSA in no way obligates them to pay for college costs. Additionally, a financial aid administrator may be able to provider a dependency override if you can prove you’re living or fleeing from an abusive or hostile home environment. They can also make you eligible for unsubsidized Stafford loans if you can prove your parents no longer financially support you. Finally, you might also be able to qualify for some of the education tax benefits, such as the Hope Scholarship tax credit and the student loan interest deduction. The bottom line is – reach out to a financial aid administrator. Explain your situation to them, and see how they can help. After all, helping students pay for college is their job. My husband and I currently have our child listed as a dependent and we are not getting much financial aid. She is 19. If she files her own taxes will she get more aid? — Tisha S. No. Filing taxes and qualifying for financial aid are two separate things. Though she may file her own taxes, she is still considered a dependent on the FAFSA. A child is only considered an independent student if he or she is over the age of 24, married, has dependents other than a spouse, is a veteran or active duty member of the Armed Forces, is a graduate student or satisfied a variety of less common criteria for independent student status. Even if she is financially self-sufficient, lives on her own and is not claimed as an exemption on your federal income tax return, she is still considered a dependent for federal student aid purposes. If you have a question about financial aid or how to qualify for more, contact the financial aid administrator at your child’s school. They can help you navigate getting more financial or merit aid if that’s a possibility for your financial circumstances. My 20-year-old son was emancipated legally last year when his father sued me for modification of the child support obligation on our original divorce decree regarding him and his now 17-year-old brother. Since he was of legal age at the time of this modification, the court order declares him emancipated. I claimed him as a dependent on last year's federal income tax return and have filled out a FAFSA form for him for the last two years. Do I need to fill out a FAFSA for him this year? Does he qualify as an independent? — Pam Y. You still need to complete the FAFSA for him as a dependent student. According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, it is the law to treat as independent any student who becomes an emancipated minor before reaching the age of majority. The specific legislative language is: "is, or was immediately prior to attaining the age of majority, an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship as determined by a court of competent jurisdiction in the individual's State of legal residence". The term emancipation is often used to refer to the status of a child when child support obligations end, such as when the child reaches the age of majority. This is not, however, the same as an emancipated minor. An emancipated minor becomes an adult able to sign contracts before reaching the age of majority through a court order. A court order terminating child support upon the child's reaching the age of majority does not qualify, not even if it uses the word emancipation. If you have further questions about your child’s standing, contact your lawyer or a financial aid administrator. Also, it wouldn't hurt to search for college scholarships in order to make up the difference between what you can afford to pay and what you're expected to pay once financial aid is figured into the equation. Get started on your scholarship search now.

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