In what is being referred to as a “scam”, wealthy parents in the suburbs of Illinois have been giving up custody of their child in exchange for free financial aid.
A recent ProPublica Illinois investigation discovered that some suburban parents gave up custody of their kids in order to help them get college financial aid. The shady practice, however, is not illegal. ProPublica Illinois found several cases where parents, including some doctors and lawyers, gave up legal guardianship of their high schoolers to relatives or friends in order to get their children a free ride to college.
Illinois law allows for college applicants who can claim financial independence from their parents to gain access to federal, state and university financial aid that would otherwise be unavailable because of their parents’ high income levels. The report found that over 40 guardianship cases were filed between January 2018 and June 2019 in Lake County – Illinois’ second most wealthy county based on the 2010 census, WTTW reports.
The report found that nearly all of the cases were handled by two north suburban law firms: the Rogers Law Group in Deerfield and the Kabbe Law Group in Naperville. Attorney Mari Berlin of the Kabbe Law Group acknowledges that several of these cases involve parents who would couldn’t afford their child’s college tuition despite their high salaries.
“It’s a solution they have been able to find as college costs go up and they are unable to pay,” Berlin told ProPublica Illinois. “It is in the best interest of the minor, which is the statute’s purpose.”
Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, feels differently.
“It’s a scam,” Borst told ProPublica Illinois. “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.”
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