An article “Parents Are Giving Up Custody of Their Kids to Get Need-Based College Financial Aid” on ProPublica has exposed potential fraud whereby affluent families are signing over custody of their high school-age children in order to qualify for need-based financial aid to attend college. As controversial as this might sound, it appears from their research that a number of families throughout the Chicago area already have been successfully utilizing this strategy.
On the heels of the “Varsity Blues” scandal, which uncovered a number of high-profile parents paying to have others take the SAT test for their children, it is fair to ask how we have reached this point in the college search process. Why are parents willing to go to such unorthodox and potentially illegal lengths to help their children attend a certain college?
I think it comes down to three factors:
- We are losing touch with the real purpose of college. It should not be about prestige or getting into the best possible college you can. It should be about institutional “fit” and finding the college that can offer the experiences and opportunities that will help develop your talents to the fullest. For each student that will be a very different type of school. Before searching for a college, it is important to understand what is important to you.
- We have a distorted view of the cost of attending college. Colleges come in all different shapes, sizes and price levels. I may not be able to afford a BMW or Porsche, but I can find a great car that fits all my needs at the Toyota dealership. Like any major life decision, you need to research wisely and factor in the cost of attendance to your decision. There is substantial financial assistance available through federal, state and institutional programs. Combined with an appropriate level of family support and the selection of a college where the tuition is affordable will make it possible. For every media story about a student going too deeply into debt while paying for college, there was a more affordable alternative available to them.
- The journey is as important as the destination. Striving to gain admission into a school that may be too difficult academically or financially unfeasible often adds a layer of pressure and angst to what should be four of the best years of one’s life. While many have been led to believe that a degree from “X” college is worth the sacrifice, I would argue that finding the best academic and financial fit college will enhance the total experience. In the end, you will be happier and more satisfied with your college years.