The Next Big College Scandal? Parents Giving Up Guardianship for Aid

July 30, 2019

An investigation by a watchdog journalism organization has discovered dozens of instances in which suburban Chicago parents have given up guardianship of their college-age children to friends or relatives so the children can qualify for federal or other financial aid as independents. ProPublica Illinois found several dozen cases of such petitions for guardianship in one county near Chicago, which an admissions official at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign described as a "scam … wealthy families are manipulating the financial aid process to be eligible for financial aid they would not be otherwise eligible for. They are taking away opportunities from families that really need it."

ProPublica said that none of the 15 parents or guardians it contacted had agreed to speak to its reporters about their actions, that some of the involved parents were lawyers and doctors, and that most of the identified cases appeared to be handled by two law firms.

The article also said ProPublica had no reason to assume that the practice is limited to the Chicago area.

Federal financial aid rules treat independent students differently from those who are still dependent on their parents.

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