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Gaps in college grant: Wealthy parents transfer guardianship of their teens for help



CHICAGO – In the midst of nationwide excitement about the fairness of university admissions, the Education Department is investigating a tactic used in some suburbs where wealthy parents transfer legal guardianship to their relatives or relatives for their high school-bound children, giving them financial support claim, say the persons familiar with the matter.

The strategy caught the attention of the department in the midst of a flood of guardian transfers. This means that only the income of the children was included in the grant applications, not the family income or the savings. This has led to grants and access to federal grants for the poor, these people said.

Several universities in Illinois state that they are dealing with the practice, which is legal. "Our financial resources are limited, and the practice of wealthy parents transferring their children's guardianship to qualify for on-demand opportunity-based funding is taking away resources from middle and low-income students," he said Andrew Borst, director of enrollment at the University of Illinois. "That's legal, but we question ethics."

A woman from the Chicago area told the Wall Street Journal that she had transferred the guardianship of her 1

7-year-old daughter to her business partner last year. While her household income is more than $ 250,000 a year, she and her husband spend about $ 600,000, according to the Zillow real estate website, to send several older children to college, and they have no equity in their home at around 1.2 million dollars is estimated. She said that she has little cash available and has saved little for her daughter's education.

The transfer of her daughter's guardianship was largely a matter of paperwork, the mother said. Her business partner took part in a lawsuit with a lawyer. She, her husband and daughter did not even need to appear, she said. After the guardianship was transferred, the teen only had to claim the $ 4,200 income she earned from her summer job, the mother said.

Today, her daughter visits a private West Coast college, which costs $ 65,000 a year. The daughter received a $ 27,000 merit grant and another $ 20,000 in needy help, including a Pell state grant she does not have to repay. The daughter is responsible for $ 18,000 a year to pay her grandparents, the woman said.

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The Chicago-based woman and a parent who spoke to the Journal said they were following the strategy of a college consultancy called Destination College based in Lincolnshire, Illinois, and families have $ 40,000 per student each year saved up. The website does not specify how.

The owner of the company, Lora Georgieva, has not responded to requests for comments. Other people who said they were customers of the company and spoke to the journal were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement so as not to disclose their guardianship transfer strategy.

The Education Department examines such transfers through its investigative arm, the Inspector General, a person familiar with the matter said. The bureau has suggested that the Education Department add a clarifying language to the Federal Student Aid Handbook. The proposed language was: "If a student receives legal guardianship but continues to receive medical and financial assistance from his parents, he does not meet the definition of legal guardianship and continues to be considered a dependent student.

The review of the journal of more than 1,000 estate lawsuits filed in Lake County, Illinois in 2018 revealed 38 cases in which a judge assigned a teenage school grant to a teenager in his junior or senior year Families live in homes worth around $ 500,000, some of which have been valued at more than $ 1 million, according to real estate sites, including Zillow.

Court documents ask a petitioner why he or she should become guardian In nearly all of the 38 cases, a version of this language is used: "The guardian may provide the minor with educational and financial support and opportunities that her parents would otherwise be unable to provide."

Mari Berlin is one of the Chicago law firm's lawyers Kabbe Law Group, which has represented about 25 families who have transferred the guardianship to the Statu s of an independent student, which can lead to more financial support.

"The guardianship law was very broad," said Ms. Berlin. "The judges were given an immense discretion. The standard is the best interests of the child, and I think it's hard to argue that this is not in the best interests of the student. "

The University of Illinois communicated to the Education Department last year after a teenager declared the strategy to be their best-educator in a Chicago suburb. The counselor told the University of Illinois what the student had applied for, Mr. Borst said.

On her application for admission, the student stated that she lived with her parents in a wealthy suburb of Chicago, but on her grant application she said she was independent, a University of Aviation official noted. That made the students eligible for thousands of dollars in need-based assistance from the federal government, the state of Illinois, and the university, Borst said.

The admissions officers found 15 students who had accepted them and who had recently transferred legal guardianship. The school said it would likely withhold institutionally funded on-demand assistance "until we are satisfied that students who have transferred the guardianship have no other financial resources available," said Borst Everyone receives up to $ 11,785 in state and non-governmental funding Federal aid, he said.

"They play the system, whether it's legal or not, makes it no less unappetizing," said Justin Draeger, CEO and president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

A man claiming to be a Destination College customer said his mother became the guardian of two of his daughters, including one who will attend college in the fall. His daughter received needs-based help in some schools, but not others.

The issue of licensing of gambling schools had come to public attention this year when William "Rick" Singer, managing director of a homologation consultancy, was accused of running. A scam that helped students cheat on their college entrance exams and College sports coaches bribe to bring students to elite universities. Mr Singer has pleaded guilty to four offenses and is cooperating with the case, in which a total of 51 charges have been filed, including 34 parents.

Write to Douglas Belkin at [email protected]

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