How Much Would You Help with Financial Aid Forms

Updated on October 25, 2015
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
18 answers

My husband and his daughter (my SD) moved into an apartment in September. She is a high school senior and is applying to several private colleges and universities this year. My oldest son (husband's step-son) is also a senior but will be going to a state school or community college, so the application process is pretty simple for him.

I have been telling my husband for years that the financial aid process for her will be tricky as most of the schools to which she is applying require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA, and that most of them also require that her non-custodial mother (no contact or support in 5 years) fill out a CSS Profile and that these schools will consider her mother's income in their financial aid decision. Our current separated state complicates things further (I make a lot more money than him so he would be wise to file taxes, etc. in a way that excludes my income). Additionally, I think he's counting on his dad to cover any gaps and doesn't understand that in later years, that money will be counted as income for her and further cripple her financial aid. I advised him to consult with a pro as this could mean a difference for her of tens of thousands of dollars, or not going to the kind of school she wants to go to at all.

This is falling on deaf ears. At the end of the day, his finances are no longer my business and he can do what he wants. However, I do feel bad that she might get screwed out of being able to afford to attend a top-notch school because her dad can't get it together.

Would you just step back? I'm considering talking to her directly or talking to my FIL and raising red flags with him so that he knows to be more aggressive with talking to my husband and getting him prepared for this process.

What would you do? Again normally I wouldn't care, but this is kind of a big deal.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thanks all. Good things to consider.

My issue with the "let the kid figure it out" approach is that she literally can't do that. It seems that most of you aren't familiar with the CSS Profile? It's the way that students access the generous aid offered by the more pricey private schools. It's more complex than the FAFSA. It's a very invasive look at finances and takes a deep dive into the income, assets, expenses etc of not only the custodial parent but the non-custodial parent. This is information that she doesn't have access to.

The issue with my FIL is that he has a well-funded 529 account set up for the kids and at least as recently as last year, distributions from a 529 account held by someone other than a parent (like a grandparent or other relative) are counted as income for the beneficiary (because those assets are excluded from the initial financial aid application assets). It's to prevent parents from saving for college in someone else's name, not accounting for those assets in their application, and then having the funds available to pay the bill. So if he pulls out $10K to help pay her bill next year, that looks like $10K of income for her when she re-applies for financial aid as a sophomore and student income is heavily weighted in the aid formula. He has to move that to a parent 529 before the end of the year and I don't think he knows this and if he did, he would take action.

More Answers


answers from Chicago on

Sorry this I harsh.

They are adults (or almost) and are quite capable of asking for help (including yours). If they need it they will ask.

The college application process is well discussed and there are a lot of places to get help. Let them work on this on their own, and come to you (should they chose) on their own.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I would just concentrate on your son...and as the song says,"let it go".

He isn't going to suddenly start listening to you and if she is motivated to go to a private top notch school then she should be motivated enough to figure out how to pay for it.

Just don't forget that if you co-sign for any of your son's loans make sure to get an insurance policy on him just in case something happens to him you aren't stuck with all the loans. We just had a case shown on the local news of a family that lost their daughter in a car accident...then the student loans she had taken out with her parents as co-signers reverted to them and they owed almost six figures in her student loans because they didn't take out a policy to cover them or a clause in the loan that they be null if she were to die.

Good luck the "new" college process seems so much harder than we were doing it back in the day.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Given your situation, I think you absolutely have to step back. This is his daughter and her life. She knows her father, she is living with him, and you are separated. Please don't get involved with your FIL. There's just no way to make this work. It's falling on deaf ears because, well....all the reasons you are no longer in a working marriage.

If you see your stepdaughter, you can mention to her that she should get free help from the financial aid resources available. She can apply for schools she can afford - "top notch" doesn't always mean "good deal" and it doesn't always mean "most expensive". There's no reason to downplay the value of the many schools that would love to have a smart and motivated student like her, or to feel that she's being shortchanged by not attending, say, an Ivy League school with huge competitive odds. I'm not sure why you think your FIL helping will count as income for her - granted I haven't done this for about 8 years so maybe I'm out of the loop. The main thing is for federal loans to be in HER name so she doesn't have to pay them back at a high level and so they don't revert to her father - he should NOT co-sign on loans, and neither should his father, even if they help her directly to pay her own loans.

Is this your first go-round with colleges? Please be aware that the more expensive schools tend to give more financial aid than the state schools. They have bigger endowments, and they know that hardly anyone can afford them. We've seen many families who have Kid A at a very expensive private school, Kid B at a state school in another state (therefore paying non-resident tuition), and Kid C at a school in their own state. The out-of-pocket for the parents was virtually the same for each kid because the aid varied so much.

I know you care for your stepdaughter and want the best for her. But you just can be in charge of this. I'm sorry.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

If you are legally married your income will be counted as part of her father's income. If you have not had contact with the mom in 5 years I think I'd find out if she's even still alive and if she's even working because her income WILL be counted.

I think these kiddos needs to face facts that they will likely NOT get any financial aid. They have parents with too much income and they won't get free money for college. They won't be able to get loans based on need either. Dad will have to sign for their loans and dad will have to pay those back if the payments ever slack when kids are out of school and on their own.

I would worry about my own kiddos and let dad learn the hard way that you're right. If he doesn't put your income then he's committing fraud. That's my opinion though. I know it's a fine line and it might not matter but if the government has their way they'll find every possible resource. It will probably be found out through income tax papers. You and estranged hubby have to decide how you're going to file. Married with dependents get more tax cuts than single with 1 or 2 dependents. But that's the paperwork that is used to prove income for the FA paperwork.

These kids need to be applying for every single scholarship they can. So they can find money for school that won't be a loan.

Since dad won't listen to you just let it drop. You've done what you can. He's probably tired of hearing it from you and determined to do it any other way than a suggestion from you. That's the way guys are.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I didn't help my daughter at all. I figured if she is smart enough to go to and wants to go to a good university she should be able to fill out the forms herself, work through it herself. She did fine. Our decree had already structured who claimed who to maximize student aid for our oldest. FAFSA goes by the parent's income who claims the child on their taxes. The other parent's income does not have to be used. They ask for it but you don't have to provide it.

Anyway, no reason why your step daughter can't fill out her own forms, kids do it every day

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

ETA: Perhaps it is time for the young lady to be exposed to real life. You get what you pay for and not always what you want. I did a quick check on the CSS profile you talk about and it is for the prestigious schools. Well, we all can't go that way to school. You don't mention what her interest is so we don't know if another school would/could fill in and her possibly transferring later. College is not for everyone perhaps a vocation would be in order.

Original: You started out with "My husband and his daughter." If I remember correctly, SD moved with dad because she did not care to live with you any longer. When they left the main household, they left you and any advice you could/can give. So stop trying to worry about someone who does not want your help.

Focus on your son and his education. Assist him in filling out the paperwork and getting his financial aid packages.

Prepare for the remainder of your children to attend school by setting up some kind of long term planning for them.

As my daughter would say, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is lunacy." It is not going to work. So, "Let it go."

the other S.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

There's a saying that if I say the same thing to someone more than once, I'm trying to control him/her, and that is not my job. So if you have suggested to your to-be-ex once that it might help him to talk to a professional, you have used up your one statement and you need to let it go, for your sanity and out of respect to the others. If you have a good relationship with your SD and can make a suggestion to her that it might benefit HER to work with a guidance counselor or someone who regularly walks students through the financial aid application process, then do so. However, you will be wise to observe the 'one shot' rule with her too. I know you care about her, however besides the fact that you are becoming ex with her father, she's now at the point where she has to start figuring out how to handle forms and bureaucracy herself or how to get assistance herself. Good luck with the process!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Do you think he is the kind of person who wants to not listen to you? There may be a better way (your suggestions), but he might be stubborn enough to do the opposite of your way.

You might be better off explaining or giving a few helpful website to your step-daughter (assuming you are on speaking terms with her) and let her know you would be happy to help her find answers to questions she might have.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I wouldn't lift a finger to help a disrespectful 17 year old daughter and an enabling throwing our marriage away husband. For each of them life is such a better teacher. When it comes time to file your taxes please do it without him and move forward as best you can.

When folks show you who they are believe them and accept them. Neither wants or respects your help, so please just stop. Smile and nod but stop with the helping because it doesn't seem to be helping any of them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

It sounds like you and your husband are separated. I haven't read previous post so I'm just guessing. If separation is the case then whatever you say he will probably not listen I can tell you are concerned for your SD as she was once a part of your life but there isn't much you can do if her dad is being stubborn. Stepping in may make things worse but I can understand you wanting to protect your SD. If she talks to you I think I would start with her. She will probably have more success with her father than you will. Good luck!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i don't get why anyone wouldn't. we couldn't send our kids to school (we paid for their AA degrees but they had to do the rest), and yeah, filling out forms is part of what they had to do. but there were gazillions of them, and of course we offered to help.
it's a pity your ex is....well, being himself...... but i can't see how it would be a bad thing to offer to help your SD directly.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think that you won't be able to micromanage his tax filing, so after telling him once, you will have to let him do what he's going to do. When you see your SD, let her know that some of these schools might be prohibitively expensive, or she might not get into a school that she feels certain she can get into, so she needs to apply to some financial and academic "safety" schools along with her dream schools. Even with a really high GPA, she might be rejected by the school of her dreams.

You have told him what you think, now let the chips fall where they may. Make sure she applies to enough schools so that she has somewhere to go. There are many roads to a good college education.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If your DH is going to be involved in the paying of the schooling, then he should be involved and know what he is paying for and he should be very clear with her what he will pay for, how and how much. Example, my DH direct deposits money into his daughter's joint account to pay her rent. He gave her a finite amount for tuition. Everything else above that has been hers to deal with. Unfortunately we've had to get involved in the FAFSA process because of misinformation or incomplete information or incomplete understanding that messed up her financial aid. Then she didn't accept a grant she was offered because she didn't understand the offer. He didn't know she had it, so he was looking at private loans. Etc. If there hasn't been a family sit-down regarding finances for college, then there needs to be insofar as how to get aid, how to handle that aid, and what the student is expected to handle himself. He might also want to talk to the bursar's office/financial aid office directly.

If FIL has a 529 for them, then there should be a discussion very soon about that with the adults and student about how to handle it. I would get involved if it would mean something significant in how funds are available.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Oh heck - he's not thinking clearly about this at all.
We just signed on with a financial planner to help us navigate these things for our 11th grader.
This is a complex process and it's nothing like it was when Hubby and I were going to college in the 80's.
Your SD (and your son) needs to think about her positioning with the schools (she should apply to 6 or 8 or them) with the majors she's interested in - and she needs to get onto ePrep (if she hasn't already) to study up and get the highest possible SAT and ACT scores (she should take both) she can get.
FAFSA is complicated and needs to be filled out EVERY YEAR for every student you have going to college.
We're just learning about this stuff - and WE have homework to accomplish before our next meeting next week.
Your SD is going to have to deal with however things fall but it would be nice if her Dad could get his act together and put his best foot forward for her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

In an ideal world, I'd say that your SD is coming into adulthood, and it would be best to discuss it with her directly. However, if I remember (and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), your relationship with her isn't good. Do you think you can have a good conversation with her about this, or will she become defensive and think that you are using this as an opportunity to unfairly criticise her dad? If the latter is the case then, despite your best intentions, there may not be much you can do.

ETA: I want to comment, JB, that my take on the 'let the kid handle it' responses is not that she'll be able to figure it out on her own - she obviously needs her father's help. But that your ex might listen to her more than you at this point and if he still doesn't take any action (or if she doesn't bring it to his attention), she'll know who's at fault.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I teach high school seniors and help them navigate college and scholarship applications and all of the financial complications that go along with it. It is incredibly complicated, and I admire you for wanting to help your SD. If you have a good relationship with her, and if she is likely to listen to you, then I would talk to her and offer to walk her through it. I would also talk to your FIL so that he will understand the process. Hopefully he will talk to your husband about it. With so much potential money involved and your SD's future at stake, I would definitely pursue attempting to educate those involved. Good for you for caring.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I got caught at the part that your husband is moving into an apartment with your daughter. First of all, if they can afford to live in an additional place besides the home that you lived in together, that will raise a few eyebrows. Second I like Kimberly F's answer.
Next since he is not going to live with you? did I read that right? Let him solve it, let her solve it and you enjoy your day. And if you own a home you yourself might want to consider a Quit Claim deed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I don't know any of you and how your relationships work. Just take this as something to think about if it may apply. I admire your wish to help. However, I suggest that it might be wise to let it be.

If I had a good relationship with my step-daughter or her grandfather, I would tell them that the application process is complicated and suggest she talk with the people at her school who help with the process and/or he find out more about the process and how long term results could be undesirable. If they ask for more information I'd discuss the situation with them. If they don't show an interest, I'd drop it. I'd be careful to not criticize her father, his son. I wouldn't get involved unless you think they won't take offense and would not put a strain on your relationships. In reality, how they handle financing her education is their responsibility. If any of them feel that you're interfering i suggest that there will be drama that could prevent reasonable decisions.

1 mom found this helpful
For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions