Weighing Responses to Latest Higher Education Scandal

  • Illinois House lawmakers are reviewing claims that affluent families’ are trying to game the student
    financial aid system.
  • Lawmakers called a joint hearing of two higher education committees after ProPublica Illinois and
    The Wall Street Journal reported dozens of affluent families in Chicago gave up legal guardianship of
    their children before they turned 18 to allow them to declare financial independence which qualifies
    them for more aid money.
  • There is little evidence so far that other institutions in the state have had similar cases.
  • College officials recommended the legislature could give colleges more discretion to block state
    need-based grant aid when students improperly pursue legal guardianship. Some lawmakers, are
    unsure about taking such a step and suggested they re-evaluate legal guardianship laws and
    consider regulating independent college consultants.
  • One lawmaker, State Representative Carol Ammons, said the rising costs of higher education should
    not be overlooked. “A system that drives families to cheat is a broken system,” she said.
  • Financial aid offices have some tools at their disposal to respond to misrepresentation and if they
    suspect a student is falsifying legal guardianship solely for the purpose of financial aid, they are well
    within their rights to ask if the student received financial support from parents.
  • NASFAA issued new guidance on how to proceed if guardianship is being relinquished solely for
    financial aid purposes and discouraged colleges from requesting additional documents from any
    student who reported legal guardianship status, as it considers the majority of cases to be
    legitimate.