Ashley’s off to grad school and is afraid her parents’ high incomes will hurt her when it comes to financial aid. She’s even thinking maybe they should divorce to make them look poorer on paper.
Hold your horses, Ashley! There’s an easier solution which allows for, among other things, Mom and Dad to stay hitched.
This is my second time emailing you, but this time I feel like I have a question that has yet to be addressed. I really enjoy your advice for entering college students, but I think us exiting students (and potential graduate students) need some help as well!
I agree! And just a teaser here — this site is currently being rolled together with my resume advice site and will be re-launched with a new name within a month or so. Stay tuned!
I’m a senior in college at the moment, looking forward to graduate school for an AuD and a PhD, which means I need to get serious about finances.
Indeed. Two doctorates? That’s gonna run ya.
Both of my parents work, and their combined income is too much for me to claim federal aid. Unfortunately, a good majority of that income goes to medical bills (despite excellent health insurance), so my parents can’t help out much. As a result, I have over $45,000 in Parent Plus loans accruing interest, and I haven’t even started my 7-year graduate program.
In the process of discussing graduate school, my mom suggested I look into the pros and cons of declaring independent status. (I had suggested they divorce and my mom take custody since she works only part-time, but my dad said that’s fraud and I’m 21 anyway.)
Let me stop you right there. If you’re a grad student, you’re automatically considered independent. Doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 54, doesn’t matter if your parents are married, divorced, etc. Once you’re out of undergrad and into grad school, you’re an independent student as far as federal financial aid is concerned.
I work, but I only make maybe $5,000/year because I can’t work much during the semesters, so I would definitely qualify for some sort of aid. But I have a lot of questions (and can’t get anyone to answer them!):
Yes, you should qualify for a lot of aid if that’s the case, especially now that you won’t be reporting your parents’ income.
1. How little money must I receive from my parents in order to declare independent status? As it is, I receive only assistance for fuel and a small ‘allowance’ each month.
Again, you’re already an independent once you’re in grad school. Mom and Dad can bring you two gold bars wrapped in $100 bills every morning if they want to — you’re still an independent.
2. Am burdened with trying to find my own health insurance plan if I am not a dependent or can I still be covered under their plan?
That depends on the health plan — ask yours. There are definitely situations where you can still stay on your parents’ health insurance into adulthood. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher is in grad school in Nebraska right now, and she’s still on her parents’ plan. She’s 22, I think, maybe 23.
3. How would declaring independent status affect my Parent Plus loans? Would I still be able to take out loans that way?
Well, just to drive the point home, there’s no declaration that’s gonna happen — you’re an independent from this point on. Your parents can’t get PLUS loans anymore — those are only for dependent students.
Now, having said that, the amount of student loans you’re allowed to take yourself greatly increases when you’re in grad school. You’re allowed an annual maximum of $20,500 per year — $8,500 subsidized and $12,000 unsubsidized, up to a whopping lifetime total of $138,500 ($65,500 subsidized, $73k unsubsidized). If you’re in med school, that ceiling jumps to $224k.
At this point, anything helps. I look forward to your reply!
There you have it. Hope it was at least minimally helpful.
What about you grad-school bound chappies out there? Got anything to add on the subject? Let us know in the comments below.