To Slash cost of obtaining College Degree- Divorce, Disown, Marry; Tactics May Yield Many Thousands, But Are They Legal or Ethical?
WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 25, 2019) – In order to reduce the enormous cost of obtaining a four-year college degree, increasingly being seen as a ticket to a good job, people are using – or at least considering – a variety of extraordinary but also questionable tactics such as obtaining a divorce, disowning a child, having a child marry, or shifting assets, claims public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
He notes a growing incidence of on-line discussions about a variety of tactics to reduce the amount of money colleges assume parents should be able to pay in determining what financial assistance to provide each incoming student.
For example, if two very happily married parents are willing to go through a probably-temporary and perhaps-sham divorce, or perhaps even only a formal separation, only one parent's income may be considered in the calculation of the family's eligibility for scholarships and loans, thereby substantially increasing the aid amount, and slashing the overall cost of obtaining a degree.
In another questionable move, an investigation by ProPublica Illinois and the Wall Street Journal found some families were surrendering legal custody of their kids, thereby apparently making them eligible for financial aid that normally would be reserved for needy families, because they no longer seem to have parental family support.
Two students from different wealthy families might also be persuaded by their parents to marry each other, at least for a few years, since each would then probably be considered legally independent from their parents, and thus eligible for more financial aid.
Are these tactics to lessen cost of obtaining degrees legal?
Still another tactic may be to persuade a college-bound child who has substantial savings in his own name - even if it's called a "college fund" to which parents, friends, and relatives may have contributed in the past, to transfer them, at least on paper and perhaps only for a little while, to a younger sibling; thereby becoming poorer on paper.
Banzhaf suggests that there may be other even more questionable but less well known tactics which students and their patents may be using, but he declined to elaborate.
Many wealthy individuals, as well as large corporations, use a variety of questionable and often complex schemes to reduce - sometimes even to zero - the amount of taxes they must pay, and courts have too often said many such tactics, even if undertaken simply to save money, aren't necessarily illegal.
Perhaps the same will be true for using similar contrived tactics to reduce - sometimes even the zero - the amount colleges can reasonably expect parents to contribute to financially support their children's education.
However, colleges may see through - and thus give no credence to - such tactics, even if they are not technically illegal, and some are apparently already doing so to lower the cost of obtaining degrees, he says.