Paying for College

Must Stepfather's Income Be Part of Financial Aid Formula?

Question: My mother got remarried several years ago. My stepfather is the only one who works, and he makes too much money for us to qualify for financial aid. Can I just use my mother's information when filling out my financial aid forms?

Unfortunately, if your mother is your custodial parent and she is remarried, your stepfather's income will be included in your financial aid calculations, even if he isn't going to be the one paying for your education. So if your stepfather makes too much money, you will not qualify for aid, even if your mother herself has little or no income. I realize that this is a raw deal for many families, but that's how it works and you have no wiggle room to get around this rule.


If, however, you have a father who makes less money than your stepdad and he can be named as your custodial parent rather than your mother, then you might have a better shot at getting financial aid. Otherwise, I'm afraid you're stuck. You can, however, apply to colleges where you qualify for "merit aid," since these awards are usually not based on income.

(posted 1/4/2011)