Citizen with non citizen parents

I am Indian citizen, worked in USA and paid state taxes between 2000-2004 to virginia/maryland.
My son is born citizen from maryland. Moved back to India when he was a toddler.
He got 1550 SAT with around 3.9 equivalent GPA converted from Indian system.
I have retired early 5 yrs ago. No liabilities/debt. Live in own home.
Have around 400K $ invested in fixed deposits and dividend yielding mutual funds that give annual income of around 25K $ for comfortable survival. (These include spouse income too)

No investments in retirement/pension funds.

My son wants to do undergrad in USA. Unfortunately he is not INstate in any state.
The moment I put 400K under assets some of the aid calculators are increasing my EFC.
Can I put these under retirement funds and explain the situation when asked?
What are the options? Wish his birth state was INstate by default.
He will be interested only in top 100 universities for comp sc. only.

How much can you afford per year? A full ride is unlikely.

Outside of a handful of universities, most are need aware for financial aid for international students. Many state universities reserve their financial aid programs for instate students .

Your son may get some merit towards tuition at places like NJIT, or University of Arizona, but I am unsure about a full ride. You may need to spend some $$ per year. What is your budget?

Another option would be to complete undergrad in India and get a Masters in US. It’s a shorter program; he will be older with a degree and can look for work since he is already a citizen.

Doing undergrad and coming to US for Masters is always an option. So not desperate to compromise on quality of education.
If total COA is within 25K, I will pitch in25% and rest I will let him go on debt either through a bank in India or US.

CS is a competitive major at many universities. Furthermore, to get your COA to around $25K, you will need a university that gives a lot of merit aid, which is not as common as it once was. BTW, NJIT and UofAZ have respectable CS departments. UofAZ is located in a relatively low cost of living area, meaning your son can work full time in the summer and save up if he is frugal.

NJIT has a large CS program with a large Indian international student body. Location in NJ/Ny metro area is a big plus for internships and jobs. My kid graduated from there in CS and has a job in NYC .

These are the ones I am familiar with for merit awards . Others here may have more recommendations.
One more note: as a US citizen, would your son qualify for federal student loans? They are capped at around $5500 a year, but may have lower interest rates. It may reduce what you need to borrow privately.

Thanks for info. I think so, my son will be eligible for federal loan. Heard of US citizens from India availing the option.

Your son is a U.S. citizen so for financial aid purposes, he will be considered as such. He won’t have instate residency status for any public universities.

My son wants to do undergrad in USA. Unfortunately he is not INstate in any state.

correct…no in state status.

The moment I put 400K under assets some of the aid calculators are increasing my EFC.
Can I put these under retirement funds and explain the situation when asked?

no. You can’t list these as retirement funds unless the money is actually IN retirement accounts.

What are the options? Wish his birth state was INstate by default.
He will be interested only in top 100 universities for comp sc. only.

How much CAN you pay annually for his college education?

Look at University of New Mexico, University of Alabama, University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. These schools have good auto merit.

But if you are saying you will only contribute 25% of $25,000 each year…that’s only $6000 or so. It’s going to be hard to get college costs to that number.

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See many folks on here taking approach of focusing on schools that parents can afford precluding their kids from applying to schools like Stanford, Harvard, CMU, MIT etc…for areas of study in demand with employers. If your kid gets accepted to a school like that it changes their earnings trajectory, network etc. In many cases those schools have more generous financial aid. Computer Sci is an area of study that typically yields a great return on investment.

Your kid has great stats. Your focus should ideally be on kid getting acceptance into a school with a great reputation in Computer Sci. Kid is US citizen. Worst case takes on loans. Job prospects and level of pay post college should address liabilities incurred. You should also be prepared to chip in more funds beyond current budget. Comes across as you can afford to pay more but would rather not. If i recall Indra Nooyi’s (Ex PepsiCo CEO) parents in India sold everything they had to send her to school in the US! If your kid has the smarts you should do everything(my 2 cents/attitude) to give them that shot.



You might look at NC State (NCSU). It has reputation as very good in computer science and the Research Triangle area is a tech hub with an Apple campus in the works. Also a large Indian population if that matters and apparently one of the best cricket grounds in the US in Morrisville (I read an article recently about it). Duke and UNC could be worth a look too. Not sure about financial help.

You could email various universities’ financial aid office explaining you retired in India, your retirement income of 25k/year comes from investments, your son is a US citizen who’d like to return to the US for college = how is this considered ?

In the meantime, look at public universities offering merit money.

We were in a somewhat similar situation due to being older parents. I was mostly retired before my youngest applied to universities.

Unfortunately as you pointed out $400,000 sitting in assets is something that a university looks at and thinks “college money”. However, this is in fact not much to retire on. Thus what looks to you like $25,000 per year (a modest retirement) looks to them like money in the bank for college. This is one of the multiple “ugly glitches” in the way that universities compute need based financial aid.

I think that you will either need to find a university that gives very good merit based aid (which is generally not the top ranked schools), or have your son attend university outside the US.

I think that a bachelor’s degree in India and optionally a one year master’s in the US is a possible option.

One thing I wonder about is a bachelor’s in India, and then working in the US until your son reaches age 25, and then a master’s in the US at an in-state public university. Your son can obtain residency in a state in the US by working there and paying taxes. However, I think that he needs to be 25 years old to be considered independent of his parents (who I am assuming will not be living in the US).

The University of Chicago uses only the FAFSA. With a $25,000 income, I believe he would qualify for the simplified needs test whereby assets are not counted. Chicago meets full need.

Any FAFSA only school would offer the simplified needs test…but most do not meet full need for all accepted students.

@kelsmom what else does this now require beside the income threshold?

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If the total income received by both parents converts to $27,000 USD or less for 2020, the automatic 0 EFC formula applies for 2022-23. In that case, all assets are automatically ignored.

If the total income is more than $27,000, the simplified needs formula might apply. The rules for this formula change a lot for 2022-23 compared to past years. See page 4:

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Have him apply to Oklahoma & Florida State.

That eligibility is complicated for this student. His parents are not citizens. And it sounds like they live in India. So…the tax forms wouldn’t apply. And since they don’t live here…would they even be eligible to apply for means tested benefits? No.

So…how or can a citizen who lives abroad, and whose parents are not citizens qualify for simplified needs?

The income can still be used to qualify for auto 0. As long as the income is less than $27,000 when converted to USD, it works. I don’t believe that simplified needs would be used for someone using a foreign return, though (but I could be wrong) - I don’t see how you can qualify if you aren’t living in the US & filing a US tax return.

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Utah and Missouri allow a student to become resident for tuition purposes without having your parents live there, via a year of physical presence. You can’t be claimed as a dependent by your parents but don’t have to qualify as independent under the IRS rules (ie you can still receive support from your parents).


Another way for a US citizen to get instate resident status is to join the National Guard in whatever state the college is located.