Eyes on your Own Paper: Why Not to Cheat on the FAFSA

Cheating on the FAFSAWhen turning to financial aid, wouldn’t you want to extract the highest amount possible?  Of course, this all depends upon your means for the biggest payout.  The #1 method: applying for the FAFSA.  However, when you punch in your earnings on the FAFSA4caster, the estimated aid falls far short of your expectations.  How do you remedy this situation?

What Not to Do

For one father, Joseph N. Fonge living in Massachusetts, he decided to take the lesser trodden (and lawful) path: cheating on the FAFSA.  Even more surprisingly: his plan worked… temporarily, at least.

We aren’t talking about a question or two marked incorrectly.  By producing illegitimate federal tax returns, he gained over $160,622 for his first child’s Harvard college fund, then $46,600 for the second.  But it was short-lived.  Harvard sensed fraudulent activity and retracted $55,450 of the offered aid for the 2012-2013 school year.

After pleading guilty, he may serve up to 20 years in prison coupled with a $250,000 fine.  It’s a tremendous price to pay for an otherwise noble intention to allow his children the best possible education toward their future careers and lives.

Financial Aid, the Legal Way

For any parents or students intending on bending the rules, adding an extra 0 here and there, or answering a question falsely, we urge you to stick to the truth.  Sure, you may find Mr. Fonge’s story extreme; a cautionary tale, if anything else.  Whether you pay a fine or end up serving time in jail, it’s not worth the consequences.

This Time article lists 7 legal means of maximizing your aid, and points out how lying may actually cost you.  They may offer parents with a lower education more aid, so stating that you or your spouse earned a higher degree of education would only hurt your gift aid.  Another common issue is that you may feel the need to stretch the truth about tax information because your taxes are unfiled, but that isn’t necessary.  If your earnings are similar from year to year, you can use your 2014 tax return numbers to estimate, then ask to be reminded via e-mail to update the exact information later.

Don’t get caught up in lies, particularly with the government.  Too many legitimate methods exist for your family to effectively pay for college.

Westface College Planning can help maximize your financial aid, answer FAFSA questions correctly considering your individual family situation, and navigate the financial aid process from start to finish.  To learn how we can help you, call us at (650) 587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Mr Stein

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