Financial Aid: A Parent’s Refusal to File

Today, I received this disturbing inquiry from one of our non-profit partners and wanted to post the question to help and inform other NPOs, individuals, or organizations who might find themselves in a similar situation. I’ve changed all names to ensure the anonymity of the student and organization.

I am working with an 18 year old young woman who had graduated high school but was unable to attend college this past fall. She was accepted into St. Curves College but had to withdraw from classes because her mother refused to provide financial information necessary for receiving federal/state financial aid. I spoke with the student and attempted to contact her mother on several occasions.

Please post any advice, information, links or other resources you may have that would assist this student and this organization.

My research for “emancipated minor” returned the following from

The status of “emancipated minor” is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for financial aid purposes. To be considered an independent student at least one of the following must apply:

  • You are married on the day you apply (even if you are separated but not divorced);
  • You have children who receive more than half their support from you;
  • You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you and will continue to receive more than half their support from you through June 30, 2010;
  • You are an orphan or ward of the court (or were a ward of the court until age 18)or both your parents are deceased;
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces (“veteran” includes students who attended a U.S. service academy and were released under a condition other than dishonorable).

I’ve also found this fairly detailed link from, which seems to indicate that you are stuck if your parents won’t file, but let’s hope that’s not the case.

  • David

    This is truly sad. Why would a parent refuse to help?

  • Courtney

    This is a really sad story; however given that it is simply a snippet, I am hesitant to pass judgement. The first thing that I would attempt to do is to find out why the parent doesn’t want to file the necessary paperwork and there are a few questions I’d have for the student (i.e., is the parent an immigrant; is the parent afraid that it would post to the credit report; and is this the first student in the family to attend school?). Usually, it’s two of those reasons.

    Moving from there, I’d explain to the student and the parent (via the student) that financial aid forms don’t post to credit reports and generally can’t be used for any legal means. I’d explain that there are other options for the student to secure money BUT that the form must be filled out.

    Finally, I’d ask which forms are in question. If it’s for the school, that’s a bigger issue than if it’s just the FAFSA. In my personal case, when I needed money, my parents were unaware that reporting income didn’t pose any problems and once I did, I worked with my school to secure money on my own (I had alternative loans because my parents didn’t qualify for the Parent PLUS Loans).

  • Benay

    The College Initiative often works with young students – here’s the answer
    from one of our counselors re: the 18 year old student whose mother does not
    want to share her financial information for purposes of financial aid

    To apply independently, student must be or have:
    Working on a Masters Degree
    Both parents deceased or orphan/ ward of the state Homeless/ Transitional
    Housing/ Shelter

    It seems as if the student does not fall into any of these categories. I
    would like to know how was financial aid described to the mother. If she
    believes that financial aid will interrupt or change her benefits if on PA,
    or if she is working and filling out financial aid affects her credit or
    that she is signing a loan, then she will be reluctant to give the

    The mother may also not trust her daughter for whatever reason to provide
    her personal information to. It may have to be that the child has to go to
    financial aid and have a financial aid counselor speak with her mother via
    phone to get the information.

    The last resort maybe someone pre-writing a letter for the mother to sign
    and get notarized stating she is refusing to provide information to her
    child. That letter would then have to be presented to the colleges financial
    aid office who would then have to go from there.

    I hope this is helpful, Benay

    Benay Rubenstein, Founder of the College Initiative

    College Initiative works with students who have criminal justice involvement. Many of them (under 24) have broken ties with their families and want to apply for financial aid independently. Please feel free to contact us anytime to learn our approach when facing difficult student situations.

  • Adrian

    I second Ms. Rubenstein’s suggestions. I formally worked with a community organization that unfortunately encountered this situation more than once. Fortunately one of our board members is the parent’s pastor who was more than willing to intervene on the students behalf. We set up a sit down with the parent and pastor and were able to resolve the situation. I know that this may not be applicable to all situations but it was very effective for us more than once using a different pastor. I hope this helps

    Adrian James Huaranca

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