Saddly, this is a very common problem that affects about half of all college students and prevents many others from going to college until they are 25. Even though you're 18 and on your own, the government decided that you have to put your parent's income on your FAFSA until you are 25 or married. The FAFSA is the federal application for financial aid that all accredited schools use. Without federal aid, you may have to work several jobs while going to school part time just to survive. Books and tuition are not cheap. and not everyone has the luxury of living with mom and dad. For the lucky few their are scholarships available, but they may only cover a portion of the total cost.
Okay, here are a couple strategies to qualify for full financial aid.
You may not agree with this, but the first strategy is to marry another student in the same situation to exclude your parent's income from your FAFSA. Make sure the other student has very little income and get it annuled immediately if they cause any problems. Just remember this is a business arrangement, so don't consumate the marriage. You can get married at the courthouse and keep your maiden name. No one has to know who or why. Annule it when you either graduate college or turn 25.
The second strategy is to either get your parents or yourself a home-based business in order to take a loss and reduce your AGI or your parent's adjust gross income. AGI is income minus losses. Adjusted gross income and funds available determine your EFC or expected family contribution. Usually an adjusted gross income in the 6K or less range will give you an EFC of O. The
higher your EFC, the less financial aid you qualify for. Full time students with EFC's of 0 always get full financial aid if they complete everything by their college's priority deadline.
Home-based businesses can be created based on one of your existing hobbies. Make it legal by getting a $15 state business license and a business license in your city if they require one. Make it ethical by making some kind of real effort like passing out a few business cards and talking to people. This does not mean you have to spend a lot of money. After three years your home-based business will be reclassified as a hobbie if you continue to take a loss, so you might consider getting a new business license. During that period you may have to do monthly, quaterly or annual reports. It's as simple as a phone call if you have no income to report.
Having a home-based business allows you to write off a lot of things that are legitament tax deductions. Do some research or get a pro to help you at tax time. H&R Block is not what I mean by a pro; you need someone that can help you plan ahead for the year and teach you enough so you know what records to keep and what qualifies as a deduction.
Unfortunately, I thought that joining the military would solve my financial aid problem because I now have this thing called the GI Bill. The truth is that the GI Bill is worthless, because your college will reduce your financial aid by the same amount you receive from the GI Bill. So there is no educational benefit to joining the military, because everyone that needs financial aid qualifies for it.
Category: Personal Finance