According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 48.2 percent of undergraduates took out federal financial aid loans to cover the basic costs of tuition.
But for those considered dependent according to federal standards, a legal guardians financial information determines the amount of aid offered.
“What it does is determine the expected family contribution (EFC) for that student, whether or not the family can afford to pay or are willing to pay,” said Diana Fairchild, Interim Director ofFinancial Aid.
According to Fairchild, this can limit opportunity for students whose parents aren’t helping out with school.
“The problem with that is it doesn’t give students enough money.” Fairchild said.
For students with parents completely unwilling to submit financial information, federal aid is not an option and the alternatives are few.
“They would probably be looking for student loans and honestly that would be pretty tough too because often they will need to have a co-signer,” Fairchild said. “But, honestly it is really difficult if a parent is unwilling to fill out a FAFSA.”
Fairchild said parents unwilling to participate in a child’s financial aid application process are generally misinformed about what their financial information is used for.
“Filling out a FAFSA doesn’t obligate them to give any money at all to a student,” Fairchild said. “They think by filling it out, they are obligating themselves to pay for something.”
Though a student does have the option to file for status as an independent, the process isn’t easy.
“It is very rare, but sometimes we have students who think, ‘Well, I will just go file a petition for a dependency override,” Fairchild said. “What they want is to become declared an independent but the federal government has pretty strict guidelines on that and it’s not just as simple as, ‘My parents won’t help me.’”
Students filing for independent status must have extensive documentation proving his or her legal guardian has not contributed financially in any way.
“What happens more than anything is it isn’t a case of a parent being unable, its more unwilling and the federal government says, ‘Well, unwilling isn’t good enough to get someone declared independent,’” Fairchild said.
Situations involving parents being incarcerated or missing completely would be prime reasons for filing as an independent, but solid documentation by school counselors or social workers must be provided.
“It’s pretty strict what the law will allow us to do, it’s not a simple thing to get done,” Fairchild said.
Fairchild said students who file for independent status are few and far between, but for those who are stuck without the cooperation of their parents, attending Boise State can become an unattainable goal.
“I think for the students that find themselves in that situation, it’s really, really, tough,” Fairchild said. “It certainly decreases their options.”
Fairchild said becoming independent is difficult because the government tries to prevent families from circumventing the process of submitting financial information that would affect loan amounts.
“The reality is, there are a lot of families that are trying to get around those rules and it really hurts those who are truly in need of help,” Fairchild said.