The state of Illinois is investigating a loophole in guardianship laws that has allowed some students from wealthy families to qualify for financial aid packages. College admissions officers are calling it a scam where Chicago-area families give legal guardianship of their teenagers to a friend or relative, and the now financially independent student can qualify for tuition help and scholarships. Under Illinois laws, this practice is technically legal, but one college admissions official calls it “a scam.”
Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said,
“It’s 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.”
Illinois guardianship laws are governed by the Illinois Probate Act, which does not specify circumstances under which guardianship can be denied. intended
A financially independent student’s eligibility for tax-payer funded financial aid is based on family income and assets declared on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. An independent student only lists their own income, their parents’ and guardians’ assets are not considered in determining financial aid eligibility. The U.S. Department of Education website says,
“a student in legal guardianship does not need to report parent information on the FAFSA form because he or she is considered an independent student.”
The Illinois House Higher Education Committee and House Appropriations-Higher Education Committee is investigating “dozens of families in suburban Lake County gave up custody of their teenage children in their junior or senior year of high school, then transferred guardianship to a family friend or relative.”
Guardianship laws can be complicated. A knowledgeable Lombard or Chicago attorney can help you understand the legal process for guardianship cases, represent you in court, suggest alternatives to guardianship, or provide other assistance as you seek to protect you and your family’s legal rights. To set up an initial meeting, call the Estate & Probate Legal Group today at 1-630-800-0112.