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Students Of Same-Sex Parents Face FAFSA Challenges

October 19, 2011

Frustrated student filling out FAFSA onlineChildren of same-sex couples can encounter difficulties when filling out the free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA, form because there are no options for claiming the income of both parents, according to The New York Times.

Family income is crucial in determining the amount of financial aid a student can be awarded, and the FAFSA is the main document used in this determination.

As a result, children of gay parents must fill out the FAFSA as if their parents were divorced, according to The New York Times Bucks Blog. The parent who provides the greater amount of financial support to the child is the one who needs to fill out the financial information. The other parent's income and assets typically go unreported. However, claiming just the one parent's income can work either to the student's detriment or benefit.

"In some cases, [students] are robbed of aid they would have otherwise received, and in other instances they benefit from it," Crosby Burns, special assistant at the the Center for American Progress, is reported in The New York Times as saying.

A demographer with the Williams Institute, which studies law and policy matters related to sexual orientation, indicated there are more than 200,000 children under the age of 18 being raised by gay parents.

However, children of same-sex partners are not the only ones who experience difficulties when filling out the FAFSA. There are children with parents in jail and children who have parents who refuse to list their income or may be going through divorce proceedings at the time of application, pointed out The New York Times.

The specific difficulty that children of same-same parents encounter is that the federal government only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman, so the FAFSA form reflects that standard. The FAFSA form only allows for the names of a mother/stepmother and/or father/stepfather to be listed on the form, reported Business Insider. There is no room for the listing of any other types of parents.

Students of gay couples can experience distress about how to best fill out the 106-question form, with one even reporting she felt like she was lying, according to The New York Times. On top of that, they can become angered about not having choices to accurately reflect their living situation--with the sole option of listing gay parents who are, in fact, together as divorced coming across like a "stigma" or an "indignity," Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy at the Family Equality Council, said.

In cases where the children of gay parents are concerned about receiving a lesser amount of aid than needed, Business Insider recommended that these students should head to their school's financial aid office to see what can be done. By explaining their situation, they may find that the amount of their loan award can be increased, especially since school financial aid representatives have the ability to make changes based on financial need.

"The financial administrator has the authority to look at the student in question's financial situation and override their current financial aid, " an unnamed U.S. Department of Education spokesperson is quoted in the Business Insider as saying.


Compiled by Maggie O'Neill

Sources:

"For Children of Same-Sex Couples, a Student Aid Maze," nytimes.com, October 14, 2011, Tara Siegel Bernard

"How Gay Marriage Affects Your Tuition Aid," businessinsider.com, October 18, 2011, Vivian Giang

"How To File for Financial Aid If Your Parents are Gay," bucks.blogs.nytimes.com, October 14, 2011, Tara Siegel Bernard

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