While some students have resorted to using sugar daddies to avoid debt, others have opted for a more “traditional” solution: tying the knot.
Many students are reportedly getting married to receive in-state tuition and increased financial aid. Interestingly enough, the University of California-Berkeley seems to have earned a reputation in recent years for tuition-based marriages. This makes sense since the state of California has some of the strictest residency requirements, and Berkeley’s out-of-state tuition costs are completely unreasonable.
The New York Times and other publications have profiled students throughout the years who were fed up with inflated out-of-state tuition costs and chose to marry an in-state friend instead of taking out more loans. One UC Berkeley student went so far as to call marriage “a green card for California tuition."
In addition to the waiver of one’s annual out-of-state fee, which exceeds $28,000 for UC Berkeley students, married couples are considered “independent” from their parents, meaning their financial aid is determined by their personal income rather than their parents’ income. This could mean tens of thousands of dollars in grants, with virtually no questions asked.
“It all went much, much smoother than I ever could have expected of financial aid offices at UC Berkeley,” Berkeley senior Baela Tinsley said of his own experience.
While this loophole has been around for years, rising college costs have driven an increasing number of students to change their marital status. Back in 2008, someone even set up a dating site (whypaytuition.com) specializing in tuition-based marriages. The site is no longer in service.
Although college administrators claim the scenario is rare, it’s unknown how often students are actually using marriage to reduce their tuition fees. The average student debt for college graduates reached $38,000 in 2017, which is a hefty price for today’s underemployed graduates. Students are desperate to escape college debt by any means necessary and as costs continue to soar, marrying a friend for tuition benefits is quickly becoming a “reasonable” solution.
Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is a freelance journalist in California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America's Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.