M.R. of Mineola, NY writes:

My daughter will be starting college this fall and has been offered a financial aid package conditioned upon "verification," a process through which I am asked to release, among other financial statements, my income tax returns. I didn't make $20 million dollars last year. I do not have any money hidden away in off-shore bank accounts. Can I simply pull a Romney and skirt the issue of tax returns?

The College Whisperer responds:

Your question is fraught with major political implications -- if not those that may seriously impact upon your daughter's financial aid award.

While we seek to stay far above the political fray (after all, it is bad for business to talk politics), since you opened the door, The College Whisperer is obliged to stick in -- and pay taxes on -- his two cents.

The simple answer to your question -- on releasing your income tax records for verification (the process by which some colleges and universities confirm the information provided by you on the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile) -- is YES. If you want the money being offered by the school as part and parcel of the award of financial aid, you must provide the financial information as requested, and do so in a timely fashion.

There is no luxury of skirting (your word) the issue as if you were running for, say, President of the United States. When the college asks, "Where are your tax returns?", you cannot respond by summarily asking, "Where are the jobs?" [They -- the jobs, not your tax return -- have been previously outsourced to India by Bain Capital.]

The pretext of your question aside, we're not really all that troubled about Governor Romney's tax returns -- or the absence thereof. Few believe that he's hiding anything untoward or illegal. In all likelihood, he has simply taken advantage of every loophole offered by the tax code to the uber wealthy, meaning that, notwithstanding some $20 million in income, Mr. Romney has likely paid, as a percentage of that income, far less in taxes than, say, someone earning $50,000. Not that there's anything wrong with that, supposing you could get away with it. It just would not sit very well with the average Joe and Jane, who take home far, far less and pay much, much more to Uncle Sam. Guess there must be at least some semblance of truth to the old adage, "the rich get richer..."

Beyond tax returns, there are far broader -- and more ominous -- implications of the Romney/Ryan candidacy, with the Republican ticket now at least tacitly endorsing, if not fully embracing the so-called Ryan Plan.

In a plan that calls for, among other things, a voucher program for Medicare, the privatization of Social Security, and an end to America's longstanding commitment to a safety net for the poor and middle class [Why? Because the rich don't need it, and they don't want to pay for it -- not that the ever have!], one has to ponder the fate of federal aid to education.

Now we're not only talking about federal aid to the states to fund elementary and secondary education programs, such as Head Start and No Child Left Behind, although there is clearly much at risk here. As The College Whisperer, the primary concern is the fate of funding for post-secondary education, and many or all of the programs and initiatives that keep colleges going (like the money made available under Title IX) and the very future of the financial foundation upon which many students rely in paying for college, to wit, federal aid (think, Pell Grants, FSEOG and TEACH Grants, Perkins Loans, Work-Study programs and the very lifeline for the college-bound of the middle class, Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans).

If the very social programs that have been the lynchpin of American society for the better part of half a century -- the great safety net for the poor and the ever-shrinking middle class -- are undermined, can the pulling of the rug -- not to mention the purse strings -- out from under America's next great generation be far behind?

Medicare as we know it. Decimated! Social Security as we know it. Now a stock market game of chance! Money for college by way of federal grants, loans and work-study. Gone!

Not that all of this -- or any of this -- would come to pass under a Romney/Ryan administration, somewhat more restrained and centrist heads prevailing in Washington when measures actually have a shot at passing. Without sounding alarmist, dare we take the chance?

Surely, we've opened a veritable can of worms here. The discourse is necessary, if not imperative. All of us must engage in the dialogue and participate in the debate that will inevitably lead up to "go time" in November. There is simply too much at stake for our seniors -- those who are Medicare eligible and collecting Social Security, and those who are in high school and college -- to sit in silence on the sidelines!

The views expressed represent the opinions of The College Whisperer.

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

Got College Questions? Ask The College Whisperer. Write us at info@TheCollegeWhisperer.com.
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