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More Tips on Finding Ways to Pay When Your
Parents Can’t

Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Visit the financial aid office and schedule an appointment to talk with a financial aid administrator. They can evaluate your situation and advise you of your options. Even if they can't declare you an independent student, at least they can help by talking to your parents. Sometimes it helps to have a third party interceding on your behalf. They may be able to find some emergency loan funds for you, to help you on a temporary basis.

  • If your parents filed the FAFSA, you are eligible for the unsubsidized Stafford Loan, even if you don't qualify for need-based aid.

  • Search for merit aid. Ask financial aid administrators at your school about merit aid and look for scholarships on Fastweb.

  • Consider enrolling in (or transferring to) a lower priced school.

  • Get a job and earn money until you turn 24, when you automatically become an independent student, and then finish your college education. When you apply for financial aid, send a letter to the school summarizing your situation, and tell them that you expect a decrease in your income during the school year because you will no longer be working. They can then adjust your financial aid package to reflect estimated income instead of prior year tax income.

  • If you are Amish and have been shunned or banished because of your desire to seek an education and as a result no longer have any contact with your family, provide a signed statement to this effect to the financial aid administrator. Some financial aid administrators will do a dependency status override in this case. (Note that you may also run into trouble because of the requirements to register for Selective Service.)

  • Hire an attorney and petition the court to have your parents' parental rights terminated, on the grounds that they are refusing to provide for your support. The courts typically require that the parent have ceased all support and contact with the child for at least a year before they will consider such an abandonment case. Abandonment is one of the situations in which the school can grant a dependency override.

  • Look at the various tax benefits for education, such as the Hope Scholarship and student loan interest deduction. These benefits are available to the taxpayer who pays the educational expenses, and so will be available to you. Please note, however, that some of these benefits require that you not be claimed as an exemption on someone else's tax return.
Finally, write a letter to Congress and tell them about your story. If Congress were aware of how many students like you fall through the cracks, they might be willing to make some modifications in the Higher Education Act. For example, suggest to them that they increase the loan limits on the unsubsidized Stafford loan so that students with parents who cannot help can at least get the financing necessary to pay for school.

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