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Professional Judgment
 
Parents Enrolled in College

Whether a parent can be included in the number in college became a professional judgment item because it was prone to abuse. Parents with doctorates would enroll in the local community college in order to qualify their children for more student aid. On the other hand, other parents would genuinely be pursuing a college degree at the same time as their children. Financial aid administrators should require the following when deciding whether to include a parent in the number in college figure:

  • Enrollment at least half time at a Title IV institution. You should verify that the school is a Title IV institution, as some parents have tried using diploma mills.
  • Copy of proof of registration. You may want to verify the parent's enrollment with the school.
  • Copy of a paid tuition bill. Some parents would enroll, then allow the registration to be cancelled for non-payment.
  • Signed statement by the parent about their intention to pursue a college degree, with the following warning in bold print: "If you purposely give false or misleading information, you may be fined $20,000, sent to prison, or both."
  • Information about other degrees held by the parent. If the degree the parent is seeking is not higher than the highest degree previously obtained by the parent, additional information should be sought.
  • Information about the current employment of the parent and whether the parent is pursuing a career change.
  • If the parent is currently employed, the parent's enrollment status should be consistent with their work schedule (e.g., evening and weekend classes if they work during the day).
  • The amount of any employer reimbursement of tuition expenses should be subtracted from the parent's college costs before making any adjustments.

Some financial aid administrators require at least one year of paid enrollment be completed before they will allow an adjustment. Some ask for copies of grade reports or other proof that the parent has been attending classes.

There are two possible adjustments if the parent is genuinely pursuing a degree. The financial aid administrator should choose one or the other. The first approach is to include the parent in the number in college. The other is to allow the parent's actual tuition expenditures as an offset to income. The first approach will sometimes result in more financial aid for the student and sometimes less. (If including the parent increases the number in college to two, the first approach will usually result in more aid when the parent's tuition and educational expenses is less than the parent contribution. The first approach will usually result in less aid when the parent's tuition and educational expenses are more than twice the parent contribution. The first approach will usually result in more aid when the parents earn $45,000 to $60,000 a year and the parent's tuition is less than $6,500 a year. When there are more family members in college, the parent's tuition and educational expenses must be lower for the first approach to yield more aid. In general, for the first approach to yield more aid the parent's tuition and educational expenses should be very low, typical of the amounts charged by low-priced public colleges and community colleges. It is best, however, to run the numbers both ways to see the impact.) The second approach is less prone to abuse and more accurately reflects the impact of the parent's tuition on the family's ability to pay. Most financial aid administrators will use the second approach. The usual implementation is to add the parent's tuition to Schedule C.

(Note that financial aid administrators are not allowed to reduce the parent contribution by the amount of the parent's tuition and educational expenses, as that would involve a prohibited change to the Federal need analysis methodology.)

 

 
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