Midterms are in full swing and the semester is picking up fast. While students are focusing on courses and their wellbeing, another one of college’s largest stressors lurks just around the corner.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which opens annually on Oct. 1, serves as a large source of financial aid for many students. In order to be eligible for federal financial aid, including loans and grants, students are required to complete the application each year.
For some students, filling out FAFSA may be just a small inconvenience. For others, though, the process is much more complicated. UMKC senior Katherine Alexander said filling out FAFSA has always been an issue because she has to use her mother’s financial information to file.
“I attended college straight out of high school, so I was automatically considered a dependent,” Alexander said. “I had already moved out of my mom’s house due to our deteriorating relationship and was not expecting in the least to have to use her tax information because I had my own job. My first two years of school, I was able to work with her to fill it out. But after that we stopped talking, and I was out of luck. I have had to come out of pocket for my tuition since my junior year.”
In order to avoid the difficulties students like Alexander face filing with their parents’ information, students must qualify as an independent. According to the FAFSA definition, an independent is anyone who is either 24 years of age, married, in the military or has children.
While some students fall into these categories, there are plenty who do not. This means the majority of students must file their FAFSA using their parent’s tax information. Alexander explained that she believes the FAFSA application fails to help so many people who need aid, simply because they may not be able to provide the information the government wants.
“College is expensive, and I am not rich,” Alexander said. “I need help financially but because I cannot hand over my mom’s taxes, I am punished for it. It is very unfair.”
In addition to the problems some students face in collecting their parents’ information, other students face difficulties because of their parents’ financial situation. UMKC student Bradley Yoder was very candid about his parent’s income affecting the aid he receives.
“My parents make a substantial amount of money, and by default I had to use their tax information because I did not have my own,” Yoder said. “Since they make good money, in terms of loans and aid, I receive little to none and come out of pocket for a lot of things. They assume because my parents have money, they help me with school, but that is not the case. I work and take care of myself and my education.”