“This is a marriage of convenience, not a wedding,” student matchmaking website whypaytuition. com advertises. “The idea is to get married, remain married for the duration of your college years, then get a noncontested, no property divorce.”
The matchmaking service claims that a growing number of out-of-state students have entered “marriages of convenience” for economic benefits such as in-state tuition fees and additional eligibility for financial aid. However, Mike Miller, director of UCSB’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship, said the concept behind these fiscally- based relationships isn’t quite accurate.
According to Miller, marrying someone who resides in the state where you want to attend college does not automatically assure thousands of dollars in financial aid. “I cannot definitively say whether or not students at UCSB have done this,” Miller said. “One fallacy regarding this ill-advised practice is that getting married is better for a student’s financial aid eligibility and that simply is not true.”
However, there are some fiscal incentives for students to marry.
“The easiest way to obtain free tuition is to get out from under your parents’ financial umbrella, and fall into colleges low-income aid category,” whypaytuition.com states.
In California, there are three ways to establish residency. An individual can live in the state for over a year, establish residential ties in the state or become financially independent. A nonstate resident student who marries a California resident also establishes financial independence from his/her guardian. Additionally, married students do not need to include guardians’ income when filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, potentially increasing financial aid benefits. While the entire process is technically legal, some consider it a way to ‘cheat the system.’ In a marriage of convenience, whypaytuition.com said the couple has “no romance, no love, no sex, [do] not even [live] together.”
David Haynes, a first-year psychology major, said these tactics are unfair to people who are seeking financial aid through the appropriate channels.
“Although I can understand why students might do this if they are in desperate financial need, it is a loophole that is unfair for those students who are legitimately receiving financial aid,” Haynes said.
According to Julia Moore, a first- year economics major, a price break does sound attractive for students who come to UCSB from out-of-state and pay $23,000 annually in tuition, but it can be a costly risk. Moore said she has an acquaintance who entered into a ‘financial marriage.’
“It’s really a gamble,” Moore said. “Technically, you are giving a complete stranger the right to your financial assets and divorce can be a really expensive process.”
Whypaytuition.com recommends that each person find his/her own legal counsel and sign a prenuptial agreement.