If you are a regular reader of the College Coach blog, you know that learners are not required to include information about their non-custodial parent (NCP) on the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). There are institutions, however , that do collect this information. Approximately 400 colleges and universities require students to complete another application called the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile , and most of these require students to have their NCP submit income plus asset information as part of the student’s help application.
Financial aid officers understand that getting this information may be difficult or impossible for some students. Since failure to complete the non-custodial parent’s part of an aid application may lead to the student losing institutional financial aid dollars, colleges have a process by which the student can request that this requirement to include NCP information become waived.
Here’s what to do if you are unable to meet a college’s NCP requirement:
- Contact the financial aid office at each of the schools asking for this information to determine what they need from you to waive this part of the app.
Most private schools have a described process, and each institution will likely have got its own set of required documentation that this student will need to provide.
- Gather documentation which will support your case.
Schools may ask for letters from people outside the student’s family who can explain the type of the relationship between the student and/or the custodial parent and the NCP. This third party might be a assistance counselor who can explain that she gets never met the NCP at a parent event, a clergy associate who can discuss the student’s family situation, an attorney who can explain issues the custodial family has had acquiring child support, or a mental health professional discussing the impact the NCP has had on the student.
- Third party support might not be necessary if the student would be positioned at risk by contacting the NCP.
Some colleges may view restraining orders restricting the non-custodial parent’s access to the student or the student’s custodial parent, or that the NCP had been arrested or faced felony charges for domestic violence since enough documentation. Court records that put together the circumstances whereby the non-custodial parental rights were terminated also may be part of this process. The student will need to offer copies of protection from abuse orders, social worker reports, or law enforcement records. Even if there is no current danger, students are encouraged to submit past paperwork, as colleges do not want to place their candidates at risk as part of a financial aid application.
Colleges that require the NCP Declaration are including the non-custodial parent simply because they want to treat all parents equally. They recognize that parents do not end their relationship with their children when they divorce and that all parents have a responsibility to provide for their children. These colleges do not think it is fair to ask students who have two married moms and dads to pay more for college than students with two parents that are not married to each other.
Schools are careful to safeguard the privacy of all families and will not allow one parent to see the details submitted by the other. All schooling records, including financial aid applications plus supporting documentation, are protected from the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Families need to remember that both the federal government and the schools consider it the family’s primary responsibility to pay for the kid’s education and will not determine financial aid eligibility until they have assessed the family’s ability to pay.