Friday, April 30, 2010

Student Aid Headache for a Two-Home Family

My teen daughter heads to college this fall, and we are busily dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on necessary enrollment forms. (My funny college application essay must have gotten lost in the shuffle, because she actually got into a good school!)

The biggest hurdle for us as parents is funding her education. As such, we’re filling out the FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Whether she gets Federal aid or not isn’t the issue; pretty much every university financial aid office expects the form to be filled out before you can even apply for a student loan.

Only problem – the online FAFSA hasn’t been playing nice, especially with our daughter’s two-home living situation.

It started earlier this year when I filled out the FAFSA4caster – an online form that helps you predict how much aid you might qualify for. When the real FAFSA goes live, you can transfer all your data from the FAFSA4caster. Pretty cool, right?

Um, not exactly.

As a divorced single dad with majority (by one day) custody of my daughter, it was my responsibility to deal with the forms. I spent hours filling out the FAFSA4caster, only to discover it could only transfer data to last year’s FAFSA form. I asked FAFSA online chat help operators to assist me, and they told me it should work fine. It didn’t. When I finally reached someone on the phone, that FAFSA person said it didn’t work, after all, and I’d have to input all the data again.

Oy.

When I filled out the actual FAFSA, it went a little quicker. Only problem, both the parent and student have to “sign” it with an electronic pin ID – which you apply for separately. I had mine, but my daughter didn’t have hers yet, and she was at her mom’s house when I filled all this out. When she finally applied for and received her pin, we went online to submit the form –

And all my financial data was missing. WTF? Hours of my time went wasted again.

Meanwhile, my ex-wife was looking into her part of the financial aid equation. Many universities want financial data from both divorced parents, no matter which claims the child on tax returns. It wasn’t clear to my ex that you only fill out the FAFSA once, for the student, and not twice (once for each parent). Who can blame her - is anything in a government process clear?

My ex-wife logged into the FAFSA system, reset her password – and all my financial data showed up in her FAFSA account.

W-T-F ?????!!!!!!!

Thankfully, she didn’t delete all that information, and I hadn’t yet input it a third time. She and I spoke on the phone and sorted it out. She tried changing the password back, but that made the data disappear again. We found by keeping her password, my data was there just fine.

So now we’re now using an online FAFSA form with my financial data and my ex-wife’s password for my daughter’s application.

The lesson: only fill out ONE FAFSA for your student. Period. Don't pass Go. Don't collect $200. And be sure to use your Get Out of Jail Free card whenever you like.

Before I fill out another government form online, I’d like to have a cocktail in hand. Can someone shake up my best margarita recipe? It’s nearly cinco de mayo, after all. Tequila should help those government forms go down, real good. Don’t you think?

And just in case, why don’t you shake up that margarita recipe for my ex-wife, too.

Follow Dad's House on Facebook. Or just go straight to his single parent blog. Or not. Hell, just have a margarita, and call it day!

6 comments:

Debbie(single;complicated) said...

what a process!!! There are so many ins and outs of two-home families! I realized this year that even though I have the kids full time, because dad and I split exemptions, his income is used for scholarships! NOT fair as he makes 6 times what I do! you live and learn! Glad I have learned this through you!!:)

peedee said...

Been there done this and just be glad you have a cooperating ex. My kid had an absent/non existent father her whole life and they, FAFSA wanted info on him. WTH??? The man never ever paid a penny for this child in 18 years and now you want to know his personal data?? I barely know where to find his ass. Ugh.
Good luck! And Congrats to the daughter.

TentCamper said...

All I can say is Holy-I-Feel-Ya!!!!!
But I don't really...It is Mariah that is going through this with our 18 year old right now and even the mention of financial aid, grants or scholarships has a tendency to send her into a nightmare.
The scary part is seeing how confused our "adults" are with how things work. (are they really ready to go off on their own?)

Mike Sullivan said...

I remember completing the FAFSA for my children. It nearly drove to thoughts of suicide and extreme violence.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I must have some kind of magic mojo because I've never had a problem with filling one out a fasfa form for me or my husband...but then again it wasn't for our child and we aren't divorced.

Crazy! I'm tired just reading that! Oy! Is right!

kathleen said...

Actually, I had an easy time with FAFSA. I claimed my daughter, as she lives with me (he's out of state) and they only went off of my income. You need to contact the schools and let them know that the information on FAFSA isn't a clear picture of the true financial situation. Let them know that there is a hardship, show your tax return or whatever they need. The school is the one that ultimately makes the decision on scholarships, grants, etc.

I applied for the pin for my daughter... Geeeshhhh... if I waited for her to do it, it would have never happened! LOL!

When I got laid off last year, I notified the school and they addressed it with FAFSA and such.

Holler if I can help... I am going to get married this June and dang it, FAFSA will take in my new husbands income... now that's now right. I will be going to the school and telling them the situation. Arghhh!

good luck... You just need to "work" the system... hee, hee...

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