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Step-Parent's Income & FAFSA

G FreshG Fresh Registered User Posts: 110 Junior Member
edited November 2013 in Financial Aid & Scholarships

I'm working on the FAFSA form for my son's freshman year and I have some questions...

My son has been a good student-- 95 average, low 700's on the SAT I and II. Top 10% of his class. Grades and effort are slacking this year due to senioritis and "knowing it all." He has rec'd acceptance letters from three universities, one offering a scholarship that would cover over half of the cost (although this school is on the academic quarter system-- and DS is no longer leaning toward that); a state college offering a $4K award; and another school with no award info at the present time. He's awaiting word from three other schools. Community college is not an option due to lack of a vehicle for commuting.

By way of sharing some background info., my husband is NOT going to to contribute my son's college expenses. While this saddens me in a way, I am in full agreement with this decision. Our family has had years of counseling - Lack of respect for virtually every aspect of family life, rules, and basic expectations have been the norm on my son's part and we've all reached the end of the "road." He has always provided for my son's needs and many of his "wants, " with the exception of the car he covets.

Second, my ex-spouse (the bio father) has been out of the picture for over six years. No support, no contact. Last I knew, he lived in a distant state. While he was gainfully employed years ago, that changed to a self-employment situation, and now, who knows.

I worked part-time (my husband and I have children together, one of whom has a disability) and I just lost my job of three years in November due to a merger. I'm licensed to sell real estate and I'm attempting to rebuild my business-- in a not-so-great economy. My husband "re-career-ed" several years ago in order to help me w/ the younger children, leaving behind a well-paying job which required considerable travel. He is now working locally in financial services, another field that has suffered as a result of the economy--his income will be depleted by approx. 30%.

We are also looking at the likelihood of a private, parochial school for our youngest child due to his disability- so another tuition payment is on the horizon for Sept.

Back to the FAFSA-- we are completing the document with full disclosure-- unlike some previous threads referencing omissions of info with the intent to beat the system....Crunching some preliminary numbers, it's not looking too good for any aid.

SO-- what advice might anyone have? Filing the FAFSA, then talking w/ a financial aid officer at the schools where my son has been accepted? Are there any schools that might be more understanding of a situation such as ours? Timeline-wise, we're winding down w/ applying to other schools. Geographically, we're limited to a 5-6 hour driving radius from downstate NY.

Thanks very much~
Post edited by G Fresh on

Replies to: Step-Parent's Income & FAFSA

  • NikkiiLNikkiiL Registered User Posts: 1,048 Senior Member
    More than likely, most schools are not going to consider your husbands desire to not assist with paying for your son's education. Basically, many in FA Offices believe that a step-parent takes on 100% of the parent role when they marry into a pre-existing family. Realistically, your husband's income is part of the household income, and that is what the college will look at. There is no difference between yours or your husband's income....its all a part of the current household.

    Some institutions may take into consideration the need to send your youngest child to a special private school, given his diability, but that will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

    Also, given your reduction of income due to a job loss, they may also take this under consideration. You may want to see if you would qualify under the displaced worker clause for FAFSA (I'm not sure of the guidelines for this, as my students won't start submitting 09-10 FAFSA's until May).
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,987 Senior Member
    >>Filing the FAFSA, then talking w/ a financial aid officer at the schools where my son has been accepted? Are there any schools that might be more understanding of a situation such as ours?>>

    You can try...but I agree with Nikki...it's unlikely that the school will give you any special treatment because your spouse won't contribute. The FAFSA computes an "expected FAMILY contribution". Your husband is a member of your family. As you noted, you have benefited, and so has your son, from his income and assets. No parent (even bio ones) are REQUIRED to contribute to college expenses...but the FAFSA formula (and the Profile ones too) except that parents will contribute to the college educations of their kids...including step parents (who are contributing to the HOUSEHOLD income).

    Your situation is not unique...and I doubt that it will qualify as a special circumstance in the college's eye.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    My friend is in a similar situation to you. The step dad is not going to contribute to college. What she did was take a parent loan through PLUS in her name and is paying this off on her own to pay for a portion of the cost. Her son has taken maximum Stafford loans as well as getting a small merit award, and he works during the school year and summer to help meet expenses.
  • kayfkayf Registered User Posts: 4,161 Senior Member
    Dear OP,

    many states can require a non custodial parent to help pay for college. See here

    Child Support - Child Support And College Tuition

    You should IMMEDIATELY get your son to see an attorney if you are in one of the states that wil make a dad pay. This isnt for you, this is for him.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Super Moderator Posts: 14,561 Super Moderator
    From what I can tell of the dislocated/displaced worker question, the only help it provides is the ability to bypass the 1040A/1040EZ or federal means-tested benefits clause for auto 0 or simplified means test. I think if the family is making over $50k, it doesn't make any difference. I could be wrong ... like niikkiL, we haven't started working with this yet ... but that's my understanding of it.

    If your family income is going to be measureably less than in 2008, you can try to get a professional judgment determination from the aid office - they may be willing to use your estimated 2009 income, rather than your 2008 income. There are no guarantees, but it's worth a try.

    I can't imagine there are many aid offices that would ignore the step-parent info. This would be outside the intent of the law, so it wouldn't be policy.
  • G FreshG Fresh Registered User Posts: 110 Junior Member
    Thanks everyone for your input and suggestions.
  • ray2070ray2070 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    OK, I have a similar situation, except I'm the son and no senioritis. stepdad doesn't want to pay, but lost contact with bio father since like two years old(mother and I moved back to US from dif country when I was five, bio father probably still there). Mother doesn't work , so she only payed for 3 colleges. I had to save up to pay the other colleges and SAT/ACT fees. I've also recieved no aid from bio father ever. Should I explain this to the financial aid offices at the schools that I plan to attend? also in state where there's no law that makes dad pay
  • ray2070ray2070 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
  • NikkiiLNikkiiL Registered User Posts: 1,048 Senior Member
    You can try to explain the situation but as many have already stated, the general consensus is that a step-parent is financially responsible for their step-children, regardless of their desire. It may not seem fair, but in all honesty, your step-father's income does assist the household, and you are a part of the household.

    Quite honestly, I cannot understand how a person can marry into a premade family and expect to not contribute to the child's well-being. One doesn't just marry the adult, they are also "marrying" the children. I am sooo sick of seeing threads about step-parents who refuse to help support the children they chose to take on. Its absurd!!
  • sueinphillysueinphilly Registered User Posts: 4,207 Senior Member
    I know people who got married and didn't realized the FAFSA implications.
    In fact I know someone with income in the 90K range who just married someone with income in the 35K range. He was very surprised when I informed him that his (the larger) income would be used in the financial application process and would greatly impact their EFC.

    they got married the year before the kid will be applying for college so in effect he gets the responsibility of paying for college when he had nothing to do with the raising of the child. It doubly sucks that they spent the equivalent of a year of more of EFC on wedding and honeymoon.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,987 Senior Member
    I agree with Nikki, but I would like to add another perspective...while the step parent might not "contribute" to the college costs...that step parent IS contributing to the family living costs (housing, utilities, clothing, insurance, food, etc). That being the case...seems to be that perhaps the bio parent should be working too. Many of these stories we read here involve a mom or dad married to a step parent who IS working...but the bio parent is either not working or is working part time. If college expenses for that bio parent are not being partially paid for by the step parent (some reportedly with huge incomes), then...maybe the bio mom or dad should get a full time job...doing ANYTHING (I know it's not a great economy..but some job would help your child).
  • NikkiiLNikkiiL Registered User Posts: 1,048 Senior Member
    I would agree with that thumper....the absent biological parent should bare some of the responsibility. Part of the reality though, is that some of the absentee parents are probably absent because of their lack of responsibility.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,987 Senior Member
    >>the absent biological parent should bare some of the responsibility>>

    Nikki...I didn't mean the absent bio parent (although it would be nice if some of them were more interested in helping their kids with college). I meant the bio parent LIVING with the new rich spouse who won't help with college expenses. The new wealthy spouse is helping to support that bio parent...they are married and living in the same home...same utilities, same food, etc. Seems like the mom or dad who has remarried could realize that their spouse is making their finances better..and maybe THAT parent could get a job and help their kid with college...since their new husband or wife won't. So many of these stories we read here talk about a wealthy step parent..but the PARENT is either not working or is working part time. Sorry...in my opinion...it's time to get a job.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Super Moderator Posts: 14,561 Super Moderator
    To add to that ... if the parent and the new spouse have agreed that the spouse should stay home, the new spouse needs to understand that he/she needs to support the stepchild's schooling!
  • NikkiiLNikkiiL Registered User Posts: 1,048 Senior Member
    I agree with both of you, thumper and kelsmom. We may not always hear the complete situation on here...but I do hear these step-parent financial complaints all the time...and I am just plain sick and tired of the complaining. I don't understand why something like this isn't discussed before hte marriage. Having two children of my own, I know that this would be of concern to me if I divorced and was looking to remarry. That man would have to be willing to treat my children like they were his own, or he would be sent packing.
This discussion has been closed.