Maximizing Family Resources to Get College Financial Aid

It’s no secret that paying for college is an incredibly expensive proposition these days. Tuition at private schools has been steadily rising for years, and state financial troubles have now caused public school tuition to skyrocket, as well. No matter how much or how long you save, it often seems as though no amount of money is ever sufficient as far as college costs are concerned.

Some parents choose not to pay any part of their children’s education, leaving it up to their son or daughter to take out the necessary loans. Some have trust funds and significant family wealth, resources both of which make tuition checks a less daunting concern. And, on the other side of the spectrum, some parents come from disadvantaged backgrounds and can more easily secure financial aid for their children.

But then there are those of us who fall somewhere in between. We are the parents with middle class incomes and a desire to help our kids pay for school. We are also often those who get left out in the cold on the financial aid process. If this sounds like your position, and if you have children who are approaching college age, you need to take all necessary steps to maximize the amount your family can receive from financial aid sources.

Here are a few tips:

Don’t Own Your Home

This tip may require some more long-term planning, but colleges assess home ownership differently from cases where the home is not completely owned (i.e. where the family rents or has a mortgage).

Invest in Retirement

When considering aid, schools often look at the total net worth of both you and your spouse. They look at investments, trusts, real estate equity, and business value. But they often exclude all monies that sit in a retirement account such as an IRA or a 401K. Contributing significantly to such an account can consequently lower your assessed net worth.

Don’t Claim Your Child as a Dependent

Your son or daughter will naturally be a legal dependent of yours until the day they graduate high school and head off for college. At this point, however, many parents continue to claim their children as dependents, especially if they are helping out with college costs. But if your child is paying for some of the college expenses by himself, making him independent minimizes the consideration given to your financial resources and can result in larger amounts of aid.

These are a few of the major tips I used when preparing to send my kids off to college. The most important piece of advice, however, is one that needs to be planned out many more years beforehand: try to make sure that your kids are only a couple years separated in age, since having multiple children in college at the same time can translate into significant aid increases. But for those of us who have grown children and are past this point, taking advantage of the above opportunities may be the best short-term way to maximize your aid.

Guest Post by Amanda

15 Responses to Maximizing Family Resources to Get College Financial Aid

  1. Tell your kid to legally marry another college student. Preferably they would marry someone they don’t know and will never see again until the divorce. Once someone is married, the parents’ income is irrelevant. Then after both kids have gotten a free ride based on “need”, they can get a divorce.

    If the government wants to be involved in something as personal as marriage, I think it’s more than fair to make governmental marriage as impersonal as possible. This method is easy on the parents, easy on the kids, and sticks it to the government for sticking their nose in people’s personal business.

  2. Although I usually wouldn’t recommend stalling debt settlement to gain aid, the ‘not owning your home’ thing makes sense. Yes, my parents had this. And yes, I had my own income, and claimed my own taxes as of 18, so that also helped.

    As for what Kevin mentions above, while true, I’m not sure how close to fraud that would be considered (and no I’m not an attorney), and I’m not sure I’d recommend it to my children IMHO.

  3. I understand the concept of being able to qualify for more aid by taking more time to pay off your mortgage, but if you do that you end up paying more in interest on the mortgage. Does this really result in a financial advantage?

  4. I like the thinly veiled condemnation in “some parents choose not to pay anything and let their kids take out loans.” Subtle. lol.

    P.S. Can you tell your friend at punch debt in the face to stop talking shit about me on his Twitter? Not sure why he’s so obsessed with me, but it’s gettin’ old, fast.

      • I appreciate that you apologized for calling me a bitch. But he has yet to apologize for agreeing that I’m a bitch. He feels sorry for me, he says, probably because I have no money.

        There’s more to life than money, ya know. He needs to hear that and so do you.

        • So go ahead and let him now. He is a fantastic blogger, but it isn’t like he is my buddy in rl. I don’t know where he lives or what he looks like lol

          • He’s actually not fantastic. He holds a lot of seriously ignorant biases, and a highly trained rhesus monkey could probably write better prose than he does. He’s also not even that smart about money–his readers correct him almost daily.

            I actually haven’t set electronic foot on his blog for days and have no intention of doing so for awhile. He contends that he is my main source of traffic and I’d be happy to show that people will read my blog without following a link from his.

  5. No but I am trying to bring the word broad back with no negative connotation.

    Try to stay on topic…leave your feelings at the door unless they pertain to the post.

    • Really? Just me, then? I feel so …SPECIAL.

      Maybe I should just talk about it on my blog, where you can’t delete it. Or you could apologize again and mean it.

      And no, it’s not okay and never will be that you called me that. I just find it amusing, much like you find my financial problems amusing, how contrite you were once caught despite how easily the word flowed from your fingers.

      So if you don’t make it a habit, do tell me what made me worthy of such an honor…?

      • C,

        I am done getting sucked into your vortex of craziness. I don’t care if you accept my apology. I don’t care if you don’t visit my blog. I don’t care if you aren’t satisfied by my answers.

        I am going to start removing your link in your name if you don’t stay on topic of the post.

Leave a reply


3 + 3 =