Financial aid needs to amend requirements

It’s the beginning of a new year, a new semester and a new FAFSA season. That’s right, after millions of students finish filing their 2006 income tax returns, it will be time to sit down and fill out the form which will determine how much money the federal government will give them for education.

For most traditional students, this includes a pow-wow with their parents, as the FAFSA requires all dependent students to include their parents’ tax information. They use this information to determine how much money your family can be expected to contribute to your education costs.

But wait a second… what about students whose parents refuse to pay for their college? Well, in a word: too bad. According to the University financial aid department, there are five circumstances that are NOT sufficient to classify you as an independent student. They are:

1. You don’t live with your parents,

2. Your parents flat out refuse to pay for college,

3. Your parents have no money to give you (i.e. they’re broke),

4. You got married after you applied for financial aid,

5. You don’t want your parents help and have decided to jump into real life with both feet and your piggy bank in tow.

At BGSU, the only way to be considered an independent student (outside the FAFSA requirements) is if you’re experiencing “adverse family situations,” which basically means abuse, neglect or estrangement.

So what about the FAFSA requirements? Well according to there are six tests to determine if you’re a dependent student. If you can answer yes to any of the following, you’re an independent student:

1. Are you 24 or older (if a full-time student)?

2. Are you or will you be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program in 2007-2008 academic year?

3. Are you married?

4. Do you have any dependents (children)?

5. Are your parents deceased or were you a ward of the court until you were 18?

6. Are you a veteran or active member of the U.S. military?

So the federal government is basically telling you that no student under the age of 24 can be a self-sustaining individual unless you’re married or have kids. That’s just a little to traditional for me. By the time I turn 24, I will have graduated college, be married and have been in the work force for four years.

The government and our University need to take into consideration those students whose parents either cannot afford to pay or flat out refuse to pay for their children’s education. Logically, if I never see a penny of my parents’ money then my financial need should not be based on how much money they make.

Now, some counselors at the financial aid department will suggest these student’s file special consideration forms to report major financial changes such as unemployment, loss of child support and major medical circumstances. So go ahead and file the paperwork. Sometimes it helps.

Unless your special circumstance is bankruptcy. If your parents have no money because they are paying it all to the court in a bankruptcy settlement, you’re in big trouble. You can still fill out all the proper forms, but, as I was told about my application, personal debt doesn’t count as a special financial circumstance.

So, instead, the University will pretend like your parents have money they don’t have and will base you financial need on this imaginary money. This leaves poorer students with only the option to get out of college as fast as possible in a desperate attempt to save themselves a few semesters of tuition.

At the same time, these students are usually working one or two (or more) jobs trying to pay for college. What happens when you try to work two jobs and take 18 credit hours? Your GPA will probably suffer. Exhaustion and full schedules can lead to less time for homework and studying, causing some students’ grades to drop. And as we all know, when your grades drop, so does your ability to get scholarships.

Many scholarships here have a 3.0 or higher GPA requirement. So you can see the vicious cycle being created by the University and the government’s refusal to recognize students who are struggling to be self-sufficient.

Even if you can prove your self-sufficiency, like I had to do to be considered an Ohio resident for tuition purposes. I had to fill out a worksheet showing that I make enough money to cover all my living expenses. Even so, I am considered a dependent by the University and by the government.

These are the types of situations that can only be remedied by loud and persistent voices. If you’ve experienced these sorts of hardships during your time at college, send The BG News a letter to the editor, let the financial aid department know this policy is unfair and it is only hurting our students.

Send comments to Amanda Hoover at [email protected]