--> divine angst: Financial Foolery

Monday, January 03, 2005

Financial Foolery

I mentioned in my last post some of my frustration with the financial aid process for law school.

Big frustration #1: Most law schools that I am applying to require my parents' income tax information as well as my own and that of my husband.

I am...well, just slightly shy of 30, how about that?...and married. My husband and I own a home. I have been completely and 100% on my own since I graduated from college. I bought my first car without parental help (except that my dad drove me to the dealership and sat with me while I argued with the salesman). I rented my first apartment without parental help. I pay my bills on my own, get into debt and pay it off on my own, and somehow (gasp!) manage not to starve or go without clothing—on my own.

This does not seem to matter to law schools. GW allows you to waive the parental forms if you are over 30, but, again, I am not quite there. Another school has an option which requires you to sign an affidavit that you have not received money or gifts in kind of more than a certain amount from your parents in the last three years. That's a nice thing, particularly for those who are perhaps estranged from their parents. But I am not estranged from my parents, and my parents are generous. My parents paid for most of my wedding. My parents offer to buy us plane tickets for family events we otherwise would miss. So I wouldn't be able to sign that affidavit.

All of this is sort of moot, anyway, because even if my parents were helping me out right now by giving me money and supporting me, I still wouldn't be able to apply for need-based aid from these schools because my parents simply will not fill out the forms. My mother might, if I ask nicely enough. But my father won't. He didn't when I was an undergrad, and I guarantee he won't now.

My frustration with this aspect of law school financial aid knows no boundaries. It's unfair in so many ways. It prevents students from even applying, whether or not they will actually qualify for aid. See, the fact is that, at least for next year, I probably wouldn't qualify for any need-based aid anyway, just because of our current income. But I am locked out of even applying for it because my parents will likely refuse to fill out the forms.

A little voice in my head says, "Everyone takes out loans. Everyone pays them off. You can too!" And that's a nice, reasonable statement. But another voice keeps whispering to me that debt is bad, and that anything I can do to reduce my debt or take on less debt, I must do. Oh, but the Catch-22? I can't. Because, remember? My parents won't fill out the forms.

And they shouldn't have to. I'm sure some people are saying, "Well, just convince them to fill out the forms." But, see, this is the real problem! That law schools require married, older, self-supporting, self-sufficient adults to petition their parents for their income tax information. It's wrong! The only purpose to it is to reduce the financial aid applicant pool, and that's wrong, too. Law schools should come up with some other way to weed out the students whose parents are going to pay for their education and stop requiring those of us whose parents won't to subsidize someone else's education at the expense of our own financial solvency.

I'm just getting warmed up here, and if I keep going, I'll land on the subject of exorbitant law school tuition. I don't really want to go there right now, so I'll stop ranting. But good golly, I get hot under the collar over this. It makes me sick to my stomach—with both anger and nerves.