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Grad student sibling's impact on undergrad's EFC

MaryMNMaryMN Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
Does anyone have experience having two kids in college and one of them is a graduate student? I called the undergrad (private school) financial aid office, and they said they do recognize the older sibling a second child in college (and hence reducing the EFC for the undergrad) as long as the older student is still a dependent. The older student is pursuing a science PhD so many of her expenses will be covered, but we still plan to help her get a car, set up an apartment, pay for health and car insurance, etc. Do colleges require you to keep track of how much of that child's expenses you cover? How much longer can we declare her as a dependent? What are the pros and cons for her and us in terms of her becoming "independent" and when and how do you make that transition, especially if because of her, the younger student does have "financial need"? Any thoughts or experience with this scenario?
Post edited by MaryMN on

Replies to: Grad student sibling's impact on undergrad's EFC

  • 1stcolldad1stcolldad Registered User Posts: 89 Junior Member
    I am not exactly possitive on this, but I think when your daughter turns 24 she can be independent. When she is declared independent it will benefit her as far as EFC is concerned. But you will no longer be able to claim her on your FAFSA for the others, which will raise the EFC for them. Again not possitive but it will give you something to research.
  • entomomentomom Registered User Posts: 23,662 Senior Member
    Just starting to get familiar with this myself since D1 is graduating from college this spring and has applied to grad school and D2 is graduating from HS and entering college in the fall. Here is what I have gathered so far, not definitive, so if other members have comments, I'd love to hear them.

    After many discussions with FAFSA, it sounds like no matter what their independent/dependent status of the older child, the fact that they are in grad school means they don't qualify as another child in college. I've called and online chatted with FAFSA several times and have come to this conclusion. However, recently a CC parent that their kids school says that it will count the older sib for FAFSA, so it never hurts to ask an individual school.

    For Profile, if the older sib is a dependent for tax purposes, they can be counted as another student attending college. They even told me to do this w/D1 who had applied but not yet found out if they had been accepted. However, when I talked to one college, they told me they weren't sure that the school actually counted the grad student as another child in college in FA calculations; as with all figures on the Profile, schools have their own policies on how they use the information.

    As far as the dependent/independent question, my understanding is that they use whatever you used on your taxes.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 8,806 Senior Member
    For a grad student to be considered a tax dependent, the parent(s) must provide for more than 50% of their material support.

    Material support can include rent paid in their behalf, a grocery allowance, any insurance coverage paid on their behalf. Basically any necessary living expenses. A car is not a necessary living expense.

    A car, esp. if it's registered in their name, will generally be considered a one-time gift by the IRS and not material support.

    You do need to keep track of all the expenses and do a rough calculation to see who is contributing more to the grad student's maintenance.

    But here's the kicker---tuition is material support and if the grad student is getting a TA, RA or Fellowship then you must consider both any stipend (or salary) the grad student is getting from the school plus the value of any tuition remission they receive when calculating how much support the student is providing for herself.

    I had to do this calculation regarding D1 for a couple of years and this is the advice I got from my accountant.

    It sounds like that your younger child's college will allow you to list your grad student as a dependent on the younger child's FAFSA if the grad student is a dependent for tax purposes.

    Your grad student will independent on her own FAFSA whether or not you declare her as an dependent on your taxes. FAFSA dependent status is not the same as tax dependent status.

    BTW, if you do declare your grad student as dependent on your tax return, then your grad student cannot clain she is an independent on her own tax return and will lose her ability to use the higher deduction for an independent. (IOW, her non-taxable earnings will get capped at $5800/year isntead of the higher allowance a single person is allowed.)
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,386 Senior Member
    Undergrad schools vary in how they deal with grad school siblings in the "count" of students in college. Some allow grad school students to be counted, and others do not.

    It doesn't matter if your grad school student is independent for financial aid purposes. ALL students who have a bachelors degree are independent for financial aid purposes...they do not have to be 24 years old.

    On the FAFSA, you can count the grad school student as a member of your household IF you provide them with more than 1/2 of their support. You can also then include them in the college student count as pursuing a grad degree. BUT the school your undergrad student is attending might NOT allow you to count the grad school student.

    When DD was a college freshman, her big brother was college senior. We asked EACH school she was interested in what their policy was. Some would count him as a grad school student...and others would NOT. YMMV depending on the school.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered User Posts: 82,539 Senior Member
    The older student is pursuing a science PhD so many of her expenses will be covered, but we still plan to help her get a car, set up an apartment, pay for health and car insurance, etc.

    If your grad student child has her tuition paid for and a nice stipend, it would be very hard to indicate that you're providing more than 50% of support.

    I have a child who will be in grad school next year with a generous assistanceship, and there would be no way that we'd be able to indicate that we're providing more than 50% of his support, even tho we pay for his car insurance, cell phone, healthcare, etc.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,386 Senior Member
    P.S. the way your declare your kids on your taxes or how they file their own has NO BEARING on their financial aid applications. It also has no bearing on whether the school your undergrad kiddo attends will count your grad school kiddo.
  • DebrunsDebruns Registered User Posts: 2,793 Senior Member
    Thumper, I thought you could declare the grad student on your taxes and CSS Profile, but not the fafsa. My son is a grad student, 22, lives at home, goes to school full time, and he is considered "independent" on his fafsa, so I can't count him on ours. I do on the Profile and our taxes. All the questions to verify Independent status were negative until they asked about grad school.
    I found some colleges counted him, many didn't. Some took it under consideration, not giving me the full amount of a third child, but more than just two. It really varies. I called fafsa although the questionaire had him independent and they told me to put "2 in college". When I asked a few college what would happen if 3 was put down, they said they would just "correct it'.
    Most told me PhD students wouldn't count because most had a stipend, masters students didn't as a rule.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,386 Senior Member
    My son is a grad student, 22, lives at home, goes to school full time, and he is considered "independent" on his fafsa, so I can't count him on ours.

    Well...maybe I'm misinformed. DS was a grad student. We were providing well more than 1/2 of his support. He was independent for financial aid purposes for HIS FAFSA (he couldn't list his SISTER undergrad on his) but HE was still a member of our household AND he was enrolled in college pursuing a degree (I believe graduate degree was listed on there at the time). So...he was a member of our household and on little SISTER's FAFSA, he was listed as one of the two students in college.

    BUT some of the colleges were VERY clear...they did NOT count grad school siblings in the count. The school DD attended DID count grad school siblings in the number of students in college IF the grad school student was still considered a "member of the household"....which our son was.

    YMMV depending on the SCHOOL where the undergrad sib is enrolled.

    There is no question...the independent GRAD school student CANNOT under any circumstances list their sibling undergrad on their FAFSA.
  • DebrunsDebruns Registered User Posts: 2,793 Senior Member
    Oh, I know that, but there were questions like this my son had to answer
    Independent Students

    and I thought it said, if the child could answer any of them, they weren't a member of the household "in college", not in the house proper. The women at the "fafsa hotline" (and that wasn't a great experience) also told me that, . I did put him on the Profile which both schools asked for.
    I found the question from fafsa and why I thought I couldn't:

    73. Number in parents' household. Enter the number of family members in your parents' household.

    The following persons are included in your parents' household size:

    You (the student), even if you do not live with your parents.
    Your parents (the ones whose information is reported on the FAFSA).

    Your parents' other children, if your parents will provide more than half of their support from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011 or if the other children could answer "No" to every question in Questions 46-58.

    My son had to say he was a grad student in a masters program in those 46-58 answers, so sadly, I had to leave him out.
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