Allow case-by-case evaluation of FAFSA dependency status for LGBT and non-LGBT potential college students who are estranged from their parents.
This petition had 7,265 supporters
The LGBT cause is advancing by leaps and bounds but we still have a long way to go. One of the most empowering things we can do for ourselves, our families, the LGBT community, and society at large is to get educated.
When students seek financial aid for college they have to complete the FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid). The outcome of this application determines whether or not one is eligible for such things as Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and other financial assistance for college. As part of this application, information is gathered to determine a potential student's "dependency status". One is not considered an "independent student" until certain criteria such as marriage, reaching the age of 24, being active or former military personnel, or emancipation are met. Part of this requires the student to submit parental or legal guardian's tax information. Without this information one cannot complete the FAFSA and will most likely be denied government financial assistance for college.
We are calling on the United States Department of Education to allow Financial Aid Officers to permit dependency status exceptions for LGBT students who have been estranged from their families, and to evaluate their financial situations on a case-by-case basis.
Wow... I 'm totally blown away by the support everyone has shown to this petition. I thought I would give an update as to some information that has come to my attention since I first posted this petition. The organization Seattle Education Access says it best in regards to the situation many LGBT people face.
"Problem: Federal financial aid law is based on the premise that families are primarily responsible for financing a student’s education until the student is 24 years old unless certain other, narrowly defined circumstances exist (e.g. the student is married, homeless, previously homeless, a ward of the state, previously in foster care, orphaned, or a parent). The law also allows a student under the age of 24 to be considered independent, “when a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of other unusual circumstances”. This decision is called a “dependency override.” The law allows considerable latitude to individual financial aid officers to make this determination.
The problem we are addressing is that this override is applied narrowly and inconsistently in colleges. Students are often not counseled about its existence and are not advised how to properly put together the case for their applications. Additionally, financial aid officers do not apply the override consistently to similar facts, nor do they know how to assess the circumstances of the students’ lives realistically. Finally, many of these schools do not have uniform procedures in place for applying this override."
There's a broader underlying problem with the system here. It extends beyond just the LGBT community. Some outside of our community have even expressed frustration with this problem in the comments. What about youth who have been neglected and abused? What about students whose parents are absent from their lives due to addiction or mental illness? This of course serves to illustrate the intersectionality of our shared struggles. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to ensure equal access to higher education.
One goal we would like to realize as a result of this petition is better training for Financial Aid Officers AND prospective students when it comes to dependency status overrides. They truly play a pivotal role in ensuring everyone has a chance to receiving funding for their education.Thanks for all of your support with the petition and I hope to hear your feedback.
Please check out this similar petition:
Petition | Allow for Adults Under the Age of 23 to Fairly Petition for Financial Independence | Change.org
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