Can Married Students Get More Financial Aid Money?

Married couples are expected to share the cost of college.

Married couples are expected to share the cost of college.

Unless you married for money, you may be concerned how tying the knot impacts your financial aid. You might receive more financial aid because married couples tend to have greater expenses. However, in some cases getting married can mean you will qualify for less financial aid money -- particularly if one of you earns a higher income.

Financial Independence

If you were considered a dependent student -- your parents' financial information was required on the financial aid application -- before you tied the knot, that has changed. Married students become financially independent overnight as far as federal student aid is concerned. While the maximum Pell grant is the same for dependent and independent students, independent students may be eligible to borrow substantially more in federal loans. For example, independent students can borrow a maximum of $57,500 for their undergraduate degree, whereas dependent students can borrow only $31,000.

Expected Family Contribution

The expected family contribution is what a student and his family -- your spouse -- is expected to pay out of pocket for educational expenses. This amount is calculated from the information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, using one of three formulas. Married students with no dependents other than a spouse no longer qualify for an automatic zero EFC even if you otherwise would have met the requirements. On the flip side, as a married student, a higher amount of your assets are protected than with a non-married student. Your EFC will be based on your combined income, assets and student status.

Higher Expenses

Married couples generally have higher expenses. That is the reason some financial aid such as federal loans have higher maximums for married students. Gone are the days of sharing a dorm room and eating from a meal plan. Married students pay more for suitable housing, which is generally off-campus and more expensive. The new responsibilities can quickly pinch your pocketbook, even if you are getting more financial aid.

Professional Judgment

Married students whose financial situation changes after filing their FAFSA can request a professional judgment from their school's financial aid office. The financial aid office can make adjustments to your need-based aid, including lowering your EFC and increasing your budget -- the amount your school says you need to attend class. Married students may need to make a request if there is a change in either spouse's income, a divorce occurs or you are paying for child care.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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