Financial stability and the FAFSA

FAFSA and financial stabilityFor nearly seven years, I have worked from home as a freelance writer. The commute was great. But sometimes the whole premise of marketing myself and finding new work all the time could get me down. And when I did complete work for editors across the country, it would take months sometimes to receive a check in the mail. Sometimes, those checks never did arrive. Magazines would shut down without ever notifying me and I’d be out hundreds of dollars.

Never knowing when those paychecks were coming could lead to some pretty fancy budgeting, especially since I’ve been separated from my husband for eight months. Just when I thought I would be desperate and have to borrow money from someone just to buy groceries, I was hired full-time as a communications coordinator for a local chamber of commerce and economic development office. Great pay, great benefits and my own office lured me away from this wonderful world of freelancing.

My new supervisor still encourages me to freelance – which I will. Any bit of extra money sitting around in my checking account will find a purpose. For instance, my son has decided to transfer to another four-year private college closer to home. He got accepted and the FAFSA information is all completed. We’re just waiting now on that college to tell us what they can give Scott to go there his sophomore year.

But I don’t think it will be enough. As a separated woman, I thought it would make a difference in his financial aid package. But our family out-of-pocket figure was $6,000 more than it was for his freshman year according to FAFSA. Wow. That will hurt. We got Pell grants and all kinds of grants last year. I will definitely be making a call to the financial aid office if the figure the quote is too low. I want them to really make sure that Scott has a fair chance of going there without huge loans. It’s a great college that has grown leaps and bounds. It’s a perfect place for my son who isn’t quite sure what he wants to major in yet. I know that they do bend over backwards to accommodate students, especially those who have grown up in the area all their lives. Our hard luck story of separation and no funds in the bank might appeal to their softer side.

financial tipsThe FAFSA form does ask if the student’s parents are separated or divorced, but it never allows you to specify which one you really are at that time. It also asked for one parent’s income besides our joint adjusted gross income. My husband made too much money last year because of some farming decisions and selling too much corn. That made it look like we had made a lot of money.

I am the primary parent right now paying the bills. Our divorce isn’t final, so there’s no definite child support coming from my husband. And since my son is 19 years-old, my husband doesn’t have any legal responsibilities to help pay to raise Scott. Sad, but true. So, I foot the bill for his groceries, utilities, whatever it is when he’s living at home. He’ll be home 3 months, and if he decides to go the cheaper route for his sophomore year, he’ll probably be living at home and driving to and from a local community college.

Where he goes is still up in the air. But my new job will help, at least, secure in my mind that I will have enough to pay for the basics in life and possibly store a little away while I’m still freelancing on my evenings and some weekends.

Nothing is ever guaranteed in life. But I have guaranteed Scott that I will do all in my power to help him get a four-year degree. There are not any jobs out there for him, so he might as well keep going to school.


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