On Monday, April 29th the Department of Education announced adjustments to the 2014-2015 FAFSA, influencing the future financial aid eligibility for children of gay parents. To qualify for all major forms of financial aid, it is necessary that students submit the FAFSA (free application for federal student aid.) The FAFSA is intended to assess a family’s financial strength, and translate that into a monetary value that the family is capable of supplementing toward their child’s education. That value is also known as their EFC or expected family contribution, and is directly related to the amount of financial aid they will receive.
The 2013-2014 FAFSA specifies that “...the word ‘marriage’ means a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife…” With this definition of “marriage,” current applicants are required to report the financial information of both parents only if they are a heterosexual married couple. Otherwise, applicants are to report the financial information of the parent who is responsible for more than fifty percent of their financial support. Because of this, the financial strength of families with two working same-sex parents is calculated inaccurately. Since income and EFC are inversely related, excluding one parent’s income artificially inflates their need.
The new FAFSA will refer to parents as “Parent 1” and “Parent 2,” as opposed to “mother” and “father,” and will include the new marital status “unmarried and both parents living together.” This new categorization will give students with gay parents the opportunity to represent both parents. This also applies to students whose parents cohabit the same home, even if they are divorced. In both cases they will have to report the income of both parents.
Though this is a step toward social equality and a more accurate portrayal of a family’s financial position, many people feel as if the process of allocating financial aid will continue to be unfair after this legislation is effective. For example: there are plenty of students who have divorced parents living separately, who are willing to equally contribute toward their education. There are also children of wealthy families whose parents supported themselves and expect their children to do the same. There are many unique situations out there, and only time will tell how the government intends on achieving fairness in the distribution of financial aid.
If you have questions regarding filling out the FAFSA, contact us or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).