Must Stepdad Shoulder College Costs?

Please help!! I am having trouble getting this question answered. My son will be a senior in high school and is applying to colleges. His father and I are divorced. We are both remarried. I was told that I need to fill out the FAFSA forms since he lives with me. My husband, his stepfather, makes a lot of money. We have always filled joint tax returns. We claim my son every other year. His dad is unemployed. Can I get any kind of financial aid or is my husband going to be responsible for the whole tuition?

I can answer your question but you’re not going to like my answer. 🙁 Colleges will look at your household income … so, unfortunately, this does include your husband’s, which may mean that your son doesn’t qualify for need-based financial aid. Is this fair? Probably not. In fact, I frequently hear from moms who remarry just a year or two before their kids are ready for college, and even though the marriage is new, the stepdad’s income is factored into the aid formula, even if he’s already paid for several of his own kids to finish college, and he thought he was finally done!

So, if you don’t want your husband to shoulder the burden of your son’s college costs, you may want to direct your son toward schools where he is likely to receive merit scholarships. The majority of these are not based on financial need. Obviously, if your son is a very strong student, he will have more merit money opportunities than if he isn’t, but even so-so students can often find merit money if they search for it. There are many threads on the College Confidential discussion forum about good places to find merit money. For instance, see: and

Your son should also register at, if he has not done so already. It’s a free place to find scholarships for which he may be eligible.

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news!