Getting Married To Save Money On College Tuition?

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After seeing my Grandparents and 529s article, a reader sent me a link to, which is a matchmaking site that promotes the idea of getting a “convenience” marriage solely for the purpose of reducing your tuition bill:

The easiest way to obtain free tuition is to get out from under your parents financial umbrella, and fall into the college’s low-income aid category. Most colleges offer free tuition, reduced tuition and reduced fees. […]

The idea is to get married, remain married for the duration of your college years, then get a non-contested, no property divorce. The girl will keep her last name, you live separate lives, and no one will need to know you are married.

As long as both parties are US citizens, there appears to be nothing illegal about this. Certainly it seems a bit overboard, but so is giving any 18-year old with zero income the ability to take out $200,000 in loans. This NY Times article mentions several student-couples who have saved $50,000 or more by getting married and qualifying for in-state tuition:

Economically, in-state students have a huge advantage over non-Californians, for whom tuition costs an additional $22,000 a year (as of 2010-11). […]

A few years ago, a student from the Midwest believed she could not afford the annual $30,000 in student fees (including $20,000 in out-of-state tuition), so she posted on Facebook that she was looking for a husband. […] An out-of-state student whom she did not know responded to her post, and they married in 2007, the summer before her junior year. She graduated in 2009 and estimated that the marriage had saved her $50,000. The couple has divorced.

But being married has many potential pitfalls. This WalletPop article gets some opinions from a divorce lawyer:

“If you’re someone who is jumping through these hoops to save money going to college, at least be smart enough to get a prenuptial agreement,” he said.

Potential problems in not getting a prenuptual agreement, in addition to having to share earnings for life, include being responsible for the spouse’s debt and other issues that married couples face, such as inheritance if one person dies.

I know of people getting married for health insurance reasons, which outlines another societal problem. As the college tuition bubble also continues to grow, I expect more and more stories like this to pop up.

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  1. My wife and I got married in a Vegas drive-thru 6 months after meeting for the first time (best $100 I ever spent!) We’re still married 4 years later. We probably would have married eventually anyway, but our reason to jump the gun was to save money on college. I saved $20,000 in tuition at my state school by marrying a resident.

    One word of caution for young people who try the same. If you’re trying to get extra grants and aid for being married and “poor”, you can’t be claimed as a dependent on your parent’s tax return. Be sure to clear it with them before you rob them of their deduction!

  2. My fiancé and I got married a year before our actual wedding date. She is currently underemployed, so 1. I was able to to get her on my healthcare plan, saving a few thousand rather than buying a cheapo plan on the free market, and 2. I was able to save thousands on my taxes due to our income disparity.

    So basically I got married early to save less than $5000. I could totally understand getting married for tens of thousands in savings, with a pre nup in place! What a great idea!

  3. this is the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. Especially meeting someone online for this purpose, which opens you up to criminals and cons.

    Why not just go to community college while working in a job, and then transfer to a state college when you turn 24? They legally can’t use your parents income after 24. Chances are you’ll actually choose the right major at that age anyway, after having some time to think about it and work a bit.

    Also being in the military automatically makes you independent for the FAFSA (maybe even the Reserves or National Guard)

  4. I assume those who bother to use these methods to save tuition are Ivy materials, so they should have provided full scholarships to Harvard or Yale, hahaaaaa

  5. I find this post quite disturbing. Does the concept of “marriage” not mean anything anymore (other than a discount on tuition)? At least the first two responses to this post are from individuals who actually intended to consummate a long-term relationship. The idea of getting a paper-marriage to save on tuition and taxes is incredibly disappointing to me.

  6. Only one problem with this idea… it is called fraud.

    • Nope. Actually it isn’t. Joke’s on you . Love, honor, and cherish are just ‘promises’. According to my divorce lawyer marriage is just a business contract to the court. The whole wedding and love thing is just a ruse.

  7. Rick: Can you expand on how is this actually fraud? I could see if you were claiming to be married but weren’t really (nor is anyone trying to marry multiple people simultaneously). In this case you do sign all the paperwork needed for the state to recognize it. Maybe questionably ethical, but certainly should pass the legality test as much as the grandparents trick would.

    To those decrying the state of marriage, such pairings of convenience are hardly new. From marriages to formalize alliances between kingdoms to getting greencards nowadays, it’s hardly a sudden and new development. If anything the notion of getting married ‘for true love’ is new. It wasn’t all that long ago that women were largely regarded as their father’s or husband’s property in the Western world.

  8. I knew someone that did this to go to a state school in Pennsylvania. They were close friends initially during freshman year, but hated each other by their senior year. It just so happens that the guy actually fell in love with her, so he was pretty heart broken when it came time to get a divorce.

    Regardless, they use to brag about their tuition savings! My parents thought it was an assault on marriage, but hey, marriage has historically been about a lot more than love. It’s definitely an assault on the contemporary idea of marriage, but in the grand scheme, how long is that style of marriage going to last? Another five centuries?

  9. Ryan @ Your Stuff 4 Cash says

    Contract marriages are also rampant within the military. Soldiers will get married under the same circumstances as stated in the article to get a housing allowance and out of the barracks. When they’re military career is over, the ‘divorce’.

    Depending on your view of the sanctity of marriage, this may or may not be an immoral action. I personally would never do such a thing.

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