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College Fin-aid help - death of parents...

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Take2 posted 7/15/2013 22:39 PM

Does anyone here college financial aid advice, or intel on the Fafsa for unusual circumstances?

A student I tutor had lost her mom to cancer last year. With her father's financials she applied for college, fafsa, got some financial aid, some scholarship money. But quite suddenly, her father just died too! The girl is 18 and alone. Life insurance Money is tied up, not even sure if he had a will or if all will go through probate.

Any advice on how to help this girl get further assistance? Should she submit a revised Fafsa? Any other advice? Or assistance she can get to stay on her feet till some money comes through for her? I am totally out of my depth here.

Thanks for any and all suggestions! Take2

I think I can posted 7/16/2013 07:24 AM

She should go straight to the college financial aid office and sit down with them (make an appointment, don't just email or talk to the first person who answers the phone) and discuss the issue. She can provide new numbers.

Is this a small college, a state school, a community college?

Who was going to be her caretaker before she turned 18?

Undefinabl3 posted 7/16/2013 08:04 AM

I would also have her call and make an appointment for financial aid.

I would also get her hooked up with your local Medicare office so that she can get insurace for herself. It is a process and takes time, so it needs to happen before she would need it and not after.

After that, i think it would depend on your relationship with her.

I think a support group or counceling would be in order.

You may call local shelters or (i know this sounds funny) but your local parole department and explain your situation. They may have access to help that you might not have even thought of. They have access to job and housing information that is hard for the common public to access.

You could also contact churches, local womens shelters, and other community outreach programs that could give her help. Our church will help with gas cards, food cards, and we have a local pantry that helps the parishners that fall on hard times.

Its all about communication and networking, you may strike out places, but you would be suprised at where you can find help.

jo2love posted 7/16/2013 09:05 AM

I don't have any advice, but wanted to say I am so sorry for her losses.


ajsmom posted 7/16/2013 09:10 AM

She needs to get to the Social Security office pronto. She was probably qualified for survivor benefits when her mother passed. Now, she most assuredly would be.

Is there any other relative - aunt, uncle, cousin - that you can reach out to? How about her BFF's parents?


KVille posted 7/16/2013 12:02 PM

I remember very little of when my husband died ( think I zoned for 6 months) but we called the colleges to let them know what happened. This sometimes affects grades and the colleges will help with that too. There is lots of help and SS is the first place to go.

Poor child

kernel posted 7/16/2013 17:50 PM

I worked in Financial Aid for 10 years. She should contact her Financial Aid Office immediately. They can review "special conditions" to see if she qualifies for additional grants and loan funds. In the meantime, she definitely should pursue Social Security survivor benefits. Does she have any close relatives or friends that can help her out in the short term?

Thanks for trying to help her out. Many people would just turn away because it's awkward.

Kajem posted 7/16/2013 17:57 PM


If she just graduated HS, have her contact the guidance office at her HS. They know of resources for kids who are considered homeless (she might fit the criteria and it doesn't mean homeless it is more not living with parents) and can help her with other resources.

The financial Aid office at her college of choice should be able to help her with special circumstances application for additional or special aid.

I am so sorry for her loss... and Hugs to you for helping her with this... it isn't easy to navigate without problems.



Take2 posted 7/16/2013 18:24 PM

Taking notes guys thanks!!

For now she is in the house, but I don't know the status of that. She won't end up homeless, and is welcome to come live with me... so nothing critical on that front. Just looking for the proper way to approach school finances.

She was living with her Dad and planned on boarding at school (large private) prior to this going down, but that was going to require loans secured by Dad, I believe. Now...?

She has IC, some help from family but they are now back home across the country.

Any other thoughts? Thanks again!

eta: (homeschooler - I'm probably the closest she has had to a high school counselor and this is totally new territory for me!)

[This message edited by Take2 at 6:27 PM, July 16th (Tuesday)]

solus sto posted 7/16/2013 18:40 PM

With my oldest, we never qualified for any aid--income was always too high. (My, oh my, has that changed.) She went to a very well-endowed private university---and a letter to the Financial Aid office describing special circumstances (despite the income, there were few resources; my ex has astronomical medical bills). They always managed to find her grants, scholarships, and (a few small) loans to cover all of her expenses. She left this $58k/year school with less than 2/3 of a single year's tuition in debt--the rest was covered by grant and scholarship.

So yes--definitely discuss with the school's financial aid office. If they have the resources to offer, they will work hard to do so.

I think I can posted 7/17/2013 07:33 AM

If the school can't find her money to replace the loans, she may have to take a gap year and reapply next year to other colleges. She can postpone enrolling in this college for a year to save her place as well.

She can only take $5500 out in loans the first year, up to I think $7500 her senior year. She might be eligible for a little more because she has no parents, but we are still talking only about $10,000/yr.

If the financial aid office doesn't come through (do they promise to meet need? most don't), she should probably put them on hold for a year while she reconsiders her options. She should not take college classes during this year, as then she would be a transfer, not a freshman. Freshman get the best financial aid.

I am not a financial aid officer, so please double check all this. I think she would find lots of help in the Financial Aid Forum at College Confidential. There are many knowledgeable people there.

rainagain posted 7/17/2013 08:51 AM

I'm so sorry for her loss.

I don't think that's true that transfers get less aid, my kids have done both. Also, federal loans can be increased by either 4000 or 5000, I forget which, when parents can't qualify for the plus loans and loan amounts are different, larger, when a student is independent which is what she is now.

The advice to go to the financial aid office is good. My advice would be to go with her if you can/will becuase the fin aid process is overwhelming to most kids plus it's going to be hard for her to process right now.

kernel posted 7/17/2013 18:33 PM

If her financial aid office at the college of her choice can't help her finance her first year there, then she can always choose to start at a community college and take care of all her general education requirements there. It is not ideal, but it will be much cheaper. Some of them offer on campus housing as well. There are also many colleges with rolling enrollment and she could still apply elsewhere and get in, assuming she is a good student. Lots of options, but I would be surprised if her Fin Aid people can't figure this out. Her aid should be recalculated based on only her income, which I assume is minimal, so she should qualify for a lot. If she is going to inherit a ton of money, that would complicate things. It would also be a good idea for her to connect with the college counseling office - she will need support dealing with her grief.

Take2 posted 7/19/2013 13:00 PM

So... it looks like the insurance policy is due to pay out before school starts.

She went with her aunt to financial aid with that paperwork -- but the school said nothing will change for this year -- she is viewed as having the same financial status, because of the life insurance... and because it should pay out by Sept.

Doesn't seem right to me:

She also now has to carry the house bills, (being paid now by borrowed money) At least no mortgage, just taxes, insurance, utilities...
but still, the girl works for a part time for a retailer. The money is going to go quickly.

She said SS paid her survivor benefits after her mom until she turned 18, then she reapplied as she was still in high school. But once high school was done - there was no help to be had once she graduated high school.

Anyone know if that sounds right?

Any other ideas, avenues we can try. Seems to me that if the school can use the insurance money in their numbers - they'll give her less help next year and yet she is having to carry a house now too. Ugh, poor dear.

Next week I'm taking her to get tires - cause she has no clue how to do that... such a steep learning curve jumping for 18 years old and off to college - to completely responsible for every aspect of adult life...

Open to any other suggestions, and welcoming any and all prayers!

Take 2.

Kajem posted 7/19/2013 20:37 PM

It doesn't sound right to me. FAFSA does take assets into account . I do know of one school who told the parents (friend of mine) that they could utilize thief retirement to finance DS education. I thought that wasn't right, also. It seems to depend on the school how they interpret the information.

SS does sound right, unfortunately.

Prayers continuing.

kernel posted 7/19/2013 22:03 PM

It's hard to know if this is right without knowing all of the details. At the very least, they have to change her status as a dependent student to that of an independent student since she is an orphan. Her financial aid would then be based on only her financial information. In that case, she would have to claim the insurance settlement as an asset. Maybe that is what happened, and so there was no net gain. Doesn't seem fair to me, but that's the way the system works.

I hope her relatives are helping her figure out the situation with the house and everything. That insurance money won't last with all those expenses on top of college costs.

positively4thst posted 7/20/2013 00:17 AM

There are a couple different issues here. She needs to redo her fafsa because things have changed and her father is no longer alive. There are a bunch of questions that ask if you are an "emancipated minor", etc. By the fact that she does not have parents, if she has the grades to get her into a school, I'm pretty sure she's home free. My SIL was unfortunately in the same situation, both parents dying a few months apart in her junior year of high school . But she was very smart and studied hard and got her degree from BU in Elem Ed. I'm pretty sure she didn't have to pay for it.

If you are a slacker and haven't attended school, drifting, etc., that may be a different story.

As far as SS and all that stuff, that is a seperate issue.

Take2 posted 7/21/2013 01:05 AM

She's a great student, very good SAT scores, already has 16 credits and a 4.0 from community college from dual enrollment. The school had already awarded her a 4 year scholarship worth about 25% of attendance cost... but it is an expensive school.

I was wondering if revisiting the Fafsa wouldn't be worth a try, regardless of the schools take. I'll try to talk her into it. Right now she is shell-shocked, staring a house full of both her parents personal belongings, but not ready to change anything yet...

Kajem posted 7/22/2013 00:05 AM

A lot of the schools have deadlines. But I would call FAFSA and ask them how should she proceed. They are very nice to talk to. And are very helpful.

The school may not be able to do anything until FAFSA is y updated with the new info.

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