“The financial aid office can increase the cost of attendance to include disability-related expenses, but the family will need to ask for this as part of a financial aid appeal or professional judgment review,” he said. “It is not automatic.” 

There are multiple tax-advantaged ways to save money for children with disabilities and it’s important to become familiar with how they work. ABLE accounts, which may hold up to $100,000 without exceeding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) limits, aren’t reported as an asset on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), noted Kantrowitz, but 529 college savings plan accounts owned by a dependent student or the student's parent are reported as a parental asset on the FAFSA. 

A number of scholarships are open only to students with disabilities, said Kantrowitz, who encourages searching free scholarship databases to find relevant scholarships. The application process for these scholarships is separate from the FAFSA.

Students with special needs may require more help applying for and succeeding in college, but privacy rules may limit the information colleges can share with parents. To be able to stay more involved, parents should ask for the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) waiver form and have the child sign it, said Kantrowitz. Dependent children with or without special needs can sign this waiver.

Kantrowitz also encourages parents to teach children to self-advocate before they start college. Students should learn that when a school fails to repair handicapped-accessible accommodations, “you need to become a thorn in their side until they do,” he said—which sometimes requires filing an Americans with Disabilities Act violation.

First « 1 2 » Next