What If My Parents Refuse to Pay for College? Can I Apply as an Independent Student?
It’s generally assumed that parents will chip in at least something in order to help their children get a college degree. Unfortunately, according to a study from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, only 62 percent of students get some kind of monetary help from their parents. The rest might get no help at all from mom and dad.
Parents can cite all sorts of reasons for staying out of the education-funding game. They might claim that students who find their own funding are more likely to stay in school, for example, or they may say that they’ve worked hard for their own money and expect their children to do the same. This may be fine reasoning, but it can leave a child in the lurch when the bill for school comes due, and that student might not be able to rely on financial aid to cover costs completely.
Students who need financial assistance in order to pay for college are expected to begin the process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form details a student’s net worth and financial need, and also provides administrators with information they can use in order to reward students with the help they’ll need in order to stay in school. Not surprisingly, this form is pretty standardized and defined, and the rules that govern the answers a student supplies don’t tend to bend and flex based on personal preferences and extraordinary circumstances. Administrators process hundreds of thousands of these forms, so there’s no room for specifically tailored aid package.
Students who have parents who can pay, but who aren’t willing to do so, might be penalized by this system.
The U.S. Department of Education provides a number of situations in which a student might be considered independent from a parent, including:
- A student’s marriage or divorce
- Active duty in the armed forces, not including training
- A responsibility for more than half of a child’s support payments
- Placement in foster care
These are very firm rules, and at no point is there a box that students can check if their parents just don’t want to cooperate.
The FAFSA is the starting point for loans that originate with the federal government, but they’re not the only types of loans that are available to students in need of help with college. There are a variety of private student loan options available to students that are not based on need, so students might be able to get funding for school through these sources, even if their parents won’t help.
There is one caveat to be aware of, however, as many private loans require a cosigner. Students often have low credit scores and poor payment histories, simply because they haven’t handled much money at this point in their lives. If parents won’t pay for college, they might not be willing to cosign for a loan. An uncle, grandparent or other close family member might be willing to fill that role instead.
Financial Aid Basics