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FAFSA - Fraud issues?

infiniteDREAMinfiniteDREAM Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
My family situation is like this: My father is deceased, and my mom remarried a few years ago. My mom makes very little money (less than $600/month), while my stepfather is fairly well-off (making 100k/year, if I remember correctly).

My mom wishes to fill out the FAFSA and CSS PROFILE without including my stepfather's information so that I'll be eligible for more financial aid. Her argument is that my stepfather isn't going to contribute to my college education; however, I know that's irrelevant and that his income still needs to be reported.

I'm not sure what to do. I've tried to convince her not to, and tried to tell her that it's fraud, but she's still convinced that she's going to do it. What could happen to me (and her) if she fills it out incorrectly? Is there any compelling argument I could use to deter her from going through with this?

I appreciate any help I can get.
Post edited by infiniteDREAM on

Replies to: FAFSA - Fraud issues?

  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    Aside from the illegality of it -- and I am not minimizing the importance of that! -- but because it, in itself, does not seem to be important to your mother, the main thing she needs to know is that it's very likely, especially over the four to five years of your college education, that your FAFSA will be selected for verification. That means the school will require copies of your parents' tax returns. If you mother is filing as married-filing-jointly, or married-filing-singly, the school will know the FAFSA was filed fraudulently.

    Verification happens a LOT. We have been verified every year... many people are, especially those that qualify for federal aid. The information on your FAFSA must be consistent with the information on the tax return.

    You certainly won't get any aid with a falsified FAFSA. I'll leave it to others that know more than me as to what other negative outcomes might result directly for your mother.

    And CSS Profile colleges invariably require supporting documents; tax returns, wage statements, etc.
  • swimcatsmomswimcatsmom Registered User Posts: 15,650 Senior Member
    For FAFSA it is highly likely you will be selected for verification as schools are required to verify 30% of all FAFSAs submitted to them. Some verify all FAFSAs they receive. This involves submitting copies of tax returns which will, of course, show your Mom's true marital state (unless she also plans to file a fraudulent tax return, not a good idea).

    When you sign FAFSA there is a warning at the end that providing false information can lead to fines or imprisonment. You would also have to repay all aid disbursed. Both you and your mother are required to sign FAFSA. Also a school that has given you aid will probably rescind your degree if they realize you have defrauded them.

    from the FAFSA:
    If you are the parent or the student, by signing this application you agree, if asked, to provide information that will verify the accuracy of your completed form. This information may include U.S. or state income tax forms that you fled or are required to fle. Also, you certify that you understand that the Secretary of Education has the authority to verify information reported on this application with the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies. If you sign any document related to the federal student aid programs electronically using a Personal Identifcation Number (PIN), you certify that you are the
    person identifed by the PIN and have not disclosed that PIN to anyone else. If you purposely give false or misleading information, you may be fned up to $20,000, sent to prison, or both

    Schools that ask for CSS always require copies of tax returns.
  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    The fact that your stepfather won't contribute is a difficult issue for many students. Some private colleges will factor that into their FA calculations, but even when they do (rarely, I think) they'll still expect more from your mother because the assumption is that she is not fully supporting herself and gets the direct benefit of that second income. It's a different situation than a mom trying to actually live on $600/mo.
  • infiniteDREAMinfiniteDREAM Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Thank you both for your responses - I didn't realize that schools were required to verify so many of the FAFSA forms they receive. Perhaps I'll be able to convince her that it's very likely that she'll get caught; I'm almost certain that they file taxes jointly.

    I told my mom that we could perhaps ask for special consideration because of the lack of contribution from my stepfather; even if I wouldn't get as much aid, it wouldn't hurt to ask.

    I'm definitely appreciative for your input, and I'll try to bring up these points to my mother later. Wish me luck...
  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Registered User Posts: 4,327 Senior Member
    I don't know if there's any public data on this, but anecdotally it seems that students who are eligible for federal aid --either grant aid, subsidized loans and/or workstudy-- have a much higher rate of being selected for verification. That would make sense, since the students who are not receiving need-based aid aren't getting a special benefit from the government. So, if your mom lies in order to get federal aid, she's probably even more likely to get selected for verification just by virtue of qualifying for aid.

    Also, if even one college selects you for verification (and I'd almost guarantee you that this will happen), then they are obligated by law to report any errors or mis-statments to the government along with corrections to your information, and then every college to which you apply will receive that updated information automatically.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Super Moderator Posts: 14,529 Super Moderator
    Unfortunately, situations like yours are not unusual. The bottom line is that if the custodial parent is remarried, schools must use the income/assets of the stepparent when determining eligibility for federal financial aid. This is part of the congressionally-mandated EFC formula. Many stepparents refuse to pay ... but that won't change the expectation that their income/assets are available to help pay for college. Many birth parents also refuse to pay.

    Please make sure that you have included at least one school that you can afford with just the help your mom has told you she can provide (if she hasn't given you an amount, it is time to ask!), any savings you might have, and $5500 in student loans (the maximum a freshman is guaranteed to receive).
  • infiniteDREAMinfiniteDREAM Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    I'm fortunate enough to have a high ACT score and a decent GPA (34, 3.6~ish), so I can get into a local school with little cost. It's not the education that my mother or I dreamed of, but it's certainly a possibility. The truth is, I don't need need-based financial aid to go to college - I would just need it if I tried to go to a better school.

    (Which reminds me - I need to finish filling out the application for one of my local schools. Thank you.)

    It would make more sense for schools to verify those who receive aid... I'll do a little googling and see if I can find any statistics on that. If I do, I'll post it in this thread (or edit this post) for anyone else who's curious.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Super Moderator Posts: 14,529 Super Moderator
    At least 30% of all FAFSA's received by every school must be verified. I work at a large state U. We verify every FAFSA selected by the processor; the total is > 30%. Schools that give lots of need-based aid are more likely to verify all students, not just those selected by the processor.
  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Super Moderator Posts: 34,348 Super Moderator
    I'm assuming you don't attend an inner city school. Ask your mother how the college will look at someone making $7K, and how you can afford to live where you do.

    With those scores there are some good options open to you: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/848226-important-links-automatic-guaranteed-merit-scholarships.html
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered User Posts: 82,543 Senior Member
    Even if you're not selected for verification the first year, since 30% are verified every year, chances are over a 4 year period, you will be selected for verification and you'll get in serious trouble for any previous years' as well.

    It's too bad that you hadn't brought this to our attention earlier, if you do have high stats, you could have gotten a lot more scholarships, but a good number have deadlines that have passed.

    Are you a national merit semi-finalist?

    What are your scores?

    You mentioned that your mom dreams of a different college experience for you....well maybe she needs to get a better job and pay for one.
  • sk8rmomsk8rmom Registered User Posts: 5,746 Senior Member
    infinite, have you run any of the online EFC calculators yet? Does your stepdad have other college-aged children? EFC is determined by a number of factors - income is certainly the biggest contributor to EFC, but family size and # in college are also significant.
  • infiniteDREAMinfiniteDREAM Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    moms2collegekids - I'm not a semi-finalist, but I did make commended. I have one almost guaranteed scholarship from my stepfather's company because of this, but I still have a long way to go to ensure I can pay for everything...
    My highest ACT score was a 35, but my SAT was mediocre (I'd have to find the score again). I have a GPA of 3.6ish.
    I really wish I had addressed this problem earlier - looking at the thread posted earlier, there are some other schools around here that I probably should have applied for because they give a lot of merit based aid. =/

    sk8rmom - I don't know anything about my stepfather's assets, other than this house and such. He does have one other college-aged child, but they do not live with us.
    I had assumed my mother was clueless as to this as well, but I will try to convince her to dig the information up and do an EFC calculation.

    [Once again, I must thank everyone a million times over.]
This discussion has been closed.