What can you do if your parents can’t help pay
This section of FinAid provides advice to students whose parents are unable or unwilling to help students pay for school. Regardless of the situation, some of the more common questions received by FinAid come from students seeking help because their parents cannot contribute to their education.
FinAid supports changes in federal legislation that would shift the burden to the students. Unfortunately, current federal law does not provide many options for students who want to go to college but whose parents refuse to help.
For an abbreviated version of this advice, see Fastweb’s How to Deal If Your Parents Won’t Pay.
The federal government and the schools consider it primarily the family's responsibility to pay for school. They provide financial assistance only when the family is unable to pay. If a family just doesn't want to pay, that won't make a difference. Parents have a greater responsibility toward their children than the government or the schools.
The US Department of Education has published guidance to financial aid administrators indicating that neither parent refusal to contribute to the student's education nor parent unwillingness to provide information on the student aid application or for verification is sufficient grounds for a dependency status override. This is true even if the parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes or the student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.
In cases of divorce, the custodial parent is responsible for completing the FAFSA form. If the custodial parent remarries, the finances of the custodial parent's spouse (the stepparent) must be included. This is clearly stated in Section 475(f)3 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Public Law 89-329), the piece of Federal legislation that authorizes most Federal student aid programs.
All public and private colleges follow the law not only for the awarding of federal and state student aid, but also for the awarding of the school's own aid. In fact, many colleges go further and consider not only the custodial parent and stepparent's income and assets, but also the income and assets of the non-custodial parent.
Prenuptial agreements are ignored in student aid need analysis. A prenuptial agreement is an agreement between the husband and wife, and as such cannot be binding on a third party, such as the government or the college. In addition, a prenuptial agreement cannot waive the obligation to help pay for the children's education, as even a natural parent cannot waive the children's rights. If the prenuptial agreement included a clause waiving the obligation to help pay for the children's education, most courts would declare that clause null and void.
Advice for Students and ParentsFortunately, there are ways for parents to help with their child’s education without having to provide financially. By providing a little clarity for both students and parents, both can end up on the same page when it comes to getting help to pay for school from other sources.
Your first goal should be to encourage your parents to complete the financial aid forms. Even if they don't want to help you pay for college costs, by refusing to complete the forms they prevent you from getting aid on your own account (e.g., government grants and student loans). After you have convinced them to complete the forms you can try getting them to help you pay for college.
Unsubsidized Stafford Loans without Parental Information
Section 479A(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended by section 472(a)(4) of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, allows dependent students to obtain an unsubsidized Stafford loan without parental information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if the college 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." However, most students would get more financial aid if their parents complete the FAFSA or if the student is granted a dependency override. Combine two paragraphs and remove last sentence.
Check out what qualifies a student for Independent Status
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