This is currently happening to a friend.

She is 19 years old and doesn't qualify as an 'independent' on the FAFSA. Her parents refuse to apply for the Parent PLUS loan and also refuse to cosign for a private loan through a credit union. She doesn't have anyone else to cosign a loan.

She can only afford to take 6 credits with the financial aid she received and because rent is so high, she would barely be able to afford that working 25 hours per week.

What can she do to have enough money to pay for tuition and rent?

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    At 19 years old I assume this friend hasn't started school yet. Something else to consider but may not be worth a full answer is look at different types of schools, not all jobs require a full college degree, you can look at community colleges that tend to be cheaper, or look at technical schools that are MUCH cheaper and give you skills to learn a trade to get a job that pays well. Most if not all of these schools also provide financial aid, so it's at least worth looking into. Aug 18, 2016 at 21:51
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    If you're in a state that has a community college system, the standard way to deal with this kind of financial barrier would be to go to a community college for 2 years, then transfer to a 4-year school.
    – user13722
    Aug 18, 2016 at 23:15
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    Enlist, see the world and get college paid for with a GIBill?
    – WernerCD
    Aug 19, 2016 at 2:17
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    REMINDER: Talk to the school's Financial Aid office. There may be work/study programs, loans, other scholarship funds, decently-paying on-campus jobs, or other ways to raise a few more dollars per term. If you're going to considet military, the ROTC program followed by service may be a better option than enlistment followed by GI Bill.
    – keshlam
    Aug 19, 2016 at 3:53
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    @keshlam My friend did, and I didn't think they did a good job of it. Then I went in there, and the only option left is a private loan, for which you almost always need a cosigner unless you want a 20% APR loan. I should also note that "Work Study" is need-based, meaning you can essentially only get it if your parents are dirt poor (I've been on both sides of the coin in my 7 years of college). Her parents aren't, so she doesn't qualify. The only available jobs around here for undergraduates are almost always minimum wage fast-food or other. Thus the dilemma! Aug 19, 2016 at 3:57

5 Answers 5


Smart parents not wanting to get stuck with a student loan or co-signing on a loan.

because rent is so high

Are you able to live with your parents? Is there anyway to reduce the cost of rent like renting a room? Can you move somewhere where the rent is cheaper?

working 25 hours per week

Working 25 hours per week and taking 6 hours is a pretty light schedule. It is not even 40 hours per week. What is stopping you from working 40 hours and paying for school from your salary?

In my own life I created a pretty crappy situation for myself when I was a young man. I really wanted to go to a prestigious university, but ended up going to a community college, and then to a university that was lesser known in a less expensive area. I had to work like crazy, upwards of 50 hours per week. I also took a full load in a difficult degree program.

You probably don't have to go to the extremes that I went through, but you can work more. Most adults work at their jobs well more than 40 hours per week, then come home and continue to work (on the house, raising kids, trying to start a side business, etc...). So you might as well become an adult now.

There are ways to become independent from your parents for FAFSA like have a baby, get married, or join the military. I'd only recommend the last one as you will also receive the GI Bill. Another option is to try and obtain a job that offers financial aid.

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    Perhaps working hard will help with the stability. She sounds like a hot mess. I would recommend wishing her well and finding a new friend.
    – Pete B.
    Aug 18, 2016 at 18:10
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    Make like that movie Frozen: "Let it go"! The bottom line is that there are solutions. You can present them and move on. Its a good time to look in the mirror: why are you allowing her to suck you back into this unhealthy relationship? I'd recommend not having any contact with her at all. I'd also recommend exploring why you are allowing her, and more importantly future people like her, to do this to you.
    – Pete B.
    Aug 18, 2016 at 19:19
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    To do it right, 6 credit hours will require a minimum of 12 hours of study per week. Now look at it. 43 hours of classes and study and work. Add travel time in the middle (work-school or school-work) and you're likely in the 50 hour range, not counting morning and evening travel. Now you're looking at salaried job type hours, and I'm willing to be that you're not in working conditions that you enjoy. Those who carry higher load and still work as much as you, or work full time, are probably cheating themselves on the education end. And burning themselves out.
    – Xalorous
    Aug 18, 2016 at 22:45
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    @Jay and something that people forget to add to that 43 is the time between work and school. And that 'part time job' that you settle for can be brutal if you have a bad boss, unpleasant work environment. It's why I advise OP to find a job in his/her field of interest.
    – Xalorous
    Aug 18, 2016 at 23:15
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    @Nicholas What the numbers don't show, that apparently you were able to handle is: To successfully work while going to school, you have to consciously manage your time, and you have to choose school and study over lots of other uses for your time. And you have to manage your stress. Most efficient way of doing that is physical fitness and meditation/conscious stress relief. There's your third demand for your time. Yes, doing all three is doable. I did it, you did it, others have done it. If you do it, you learn about your capabilities, and you learn about time management. Far from easy.
    – Xalorous
    Dec 21, 2016 at 22:12

My son is in a similar situation where he is 21 and in college. My wife and I claimed him as a dependant on our taxes last year. He had still been able to get some student loans as a dependant as well as scholarships. I have told him that we will not cosign on a loan for him. It isn't because we don't like our son, it is simply because too many unexpected things can happen.

He has been working multiple jobs which is one thing I would suggest as well as donating plasma for extra money to have a social life. As an electrical engineering major he doesn't have much time to be social. He cuts rent by having roommates and does most of his own cooking to help with food costs. The main thing he does to keep his costs under control is attends a school that isn't outrageously expensive. An expensive school does not offer as much benefit for an undergrad degree as it might for a graduate degree.

Another option is to look for a job that had some sort of tuition assistance. Another option along that same line is look into military service either active duty or reserves as there is tuition help to be found there.

There are options that don't involve debt. As a side note my son used a student loan last year however, this coming year he has his budget figured out and he will not be needing one at all.

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    It sounds so bad to have to consider joining the military (putting your life on the line) or donating plasma to afford going to college. Aug 19, 2016 at 1:03
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    @AmaniKilumanga Welcome to the United States, where (ironically) our military budget us roughly 10x our higher education budget :D Aug 19, 2016 at 3:20
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    My son doesn't NEED to donate plasma for funds but does anyway on occasion so he has a cushion of extra money. To each their own. I went the military route, I think every able body should serve their country for a period of time. Aside from paying for my education it got me tons of experience in a field I wouldn't have been likely to experience otherwise and I still use much of what I learned there in my current job 20 years later.
    – homer150mw
    Aug 19, 2016 at 11:08
  • @Amani Kilumanga as an update he is using money from donating plasma to travel and attend an upcoming ComicCon not to far from where he is going to school. I'd say he hardly needs to donate to pay for his education.
    – homer150mw
    Aug 26, 2016 at 17:23
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    @homer150mw I see that he doesn't need to donate plasma. It sucks, though, that some might have to consider it to have fun while going to college. My biggest gripe, however, is with military service being used as a sane option to get college funding. Then again, my country has minimal involvement in any modern wars. Our culture is completely different. Aug 27, 2016 at 1:07

I was in a similar (but not quite as bad situation) a couple years ago, and I had a stroke of luck that helped me, but your friend might be able to force a similar situation.

My parents refused to take out the huge parent loan (understandably so), but my dad made enough money that I wasn't eligible for much aid. My stroke of luck came when they got divorced; I could refile my FAFSA with only one parent (using my mom with very little income), my aid shot through the roof and nearly covered my undergrad (this happened in California, I don't know if this works in other states).

My advice for your friend would be to take the 6 units/part time job option, but do what she can to earn enough to pay her own rent/food/other bills. I think the requirement for filing as an independent is that you supply >50% of your own income. It won't kick in right away, but for next school year this would end up getting her a lot more money from the state/federal governments. For me it was enough to cover my school, food, rent, gas, car payment, and still have a little left over.

(I don't know if this is still possible, and I know it doesn't work for graduate school, or if it applies to every state. It might be an option worth pursuing though)

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    Ha, stroke of luck indeed! My parents were also divorced, so I did the same - filed with the lower-income parent. I received the max Pell Grant and had the Parent PLUS loan denied, which got me more federal unsubsidized loans. Unfortunately, both her parents are already divorced and re-married, and they make enough money to not get her the Pell Grant at all; they also wouldn't be denied the Parent PLUS if they ever applied for it. So I think just working a bunch is about the only option. A sad one, but an option nonetheless. Aug 18, 2016 at 22:23
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    That is how I got through the first couple years, but my financial aid package included Work Study, so I got a job at my school, which combined with the grants gave me enough to be financially independent and I got that status on the last year. She might just have to do it a bit earlier than I did, but it is functionally the same. Obviously I didn't mean to imply she should split her parents up...
    – Cody
    Aug 18, 2016 at 23:10

If the 6 credits per semester working part time schedule includes no loans, consider this. Yes, it may take you twice as long to finish, BUT, you'll have a lot of working experience, AND zero student loans when you're done.

Compare this to someone who graduates in four years and has 20k in student loans. If they set up a 20 year repayment for the loans, they'll still have 16-18k left to pay and 4 years of job experience.

You'll have 8 years of half time job experience and zero debt. The key would be to find a job in your area of interest. More ideal would be one that pays for classes as a benefit. Then you might increase your class load and decrease the total time to graduate, AND have relevant job experience when you graduate.


I was in that same situation years ago with my parents. One way she could apply for a loan in her name without her parents is if she is not currently living with them she shouldn't need them to cosign if she doesn't have bad credit.

But if she isn't living with them and they aren't financing her room and board they can't claim her as a dependent so if she really wants to stick it to them she can go and try to politely explain how the loans work and tell them if they don't cosign for her then she will apply on her own (which she can only do while not living with them I believe but not sure) and they will HAVE to STOP claiming her as a dependent on their taxes. If they don't agree she can put her foot down and force them to stop claiming her and tell them she will file her own application anyway and if they continue claiming her and get in trouble for it it's their own fault cause she warned them to stop first.

They may agree to cosign rather than lose her as a dependent if it makes that big of a difference on their taxes, if they don't then she can forcefully punish them financially and their taxes will go up. Those were my choices when my parents refused to cosign for me to live at school but that was back in 1999-2000 and things may have changed since then, things also change state by state and I live in PA.

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    Moreover, the dependent child tax credit is only about $3,000 off of your gross income when you file for taxes, per child, so really for anyone making decent money (e.g. her parents), that's not a whole lot. Cosigning for a loan is a lot more scary than losing a tiny bit of money on their tax return. Remember, it affects their credit as well if she defaults. Aug 19, 2016 at 3:47

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