Here Is how to get more college financial aid, without breaking the rules

As college costs explode, families are turning more desperate for financial help.

It was recently demonstrated that some parents took the extraordinary step of giving up legal guardianship of the children to somebody else — often, a relative or friend — their income and resources would not be computed in their children’s need-based financial aid bundles.

You should not do that.

“At best, this is unethical,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of SavingForCollege.com. “At worst, these instances may involve fraud and perjury.”

The great news: There are loads of above-board approaches to pick up more federal, state and college aid, Kantrowitz said.

To begin, financial aid is calculated based on a family’s income for the year before last. So if you are filling out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, for your 2020-2021 academic year this October — if the FAFSA season begins — it is your income in 2018 that is considered.

You need to try to lower your income while your child is applying for and attending college, Kantrowitz said. “Avoid artificially increasing income, like by recognizing capital gains or by taking distributions from retirement plans,” he said. Expecting a bonus at work? Attempt to defer it, he added.

You can also reduce your reportable assets by utilizing any money in the bank to pay down debt, such as auto loans and mortgages. If you have more than 1 kid in school, that will probably boost your financial aid eligibility. “Increasing the amount of kids in college from one to two is similar to dividing the parent earnings in half,” Kantrowitz said.

Obviously this is not always possible. But if you have two kids that are close in age, possibly one gets the chance to skip a grade, Kantrowitz said. Or in case you’ve got a kid in grad school, and he or she receives over half of the financial support from you, you can count that kid as still in school, also.

You Need to Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible, Kantrowitz said. That is because most countries award aid on a first-come, first-served basis. And other help — for example campus-based money — is in limited supply. (Again, program season starts Oct. 1.)

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