There are number of effects on the eligibility of student loans depending on student's age and the employment status of the spouse. Some of them are positive and they give greater eligibility for student loans. Some effects are neutral and they do not make much change in student's eligibility for student loans. But mostly the eligibility decreases for student loans. In some cases, the marriage results in such a high penalty that it can be called a disincentive to marriage.
There is an assumption made that all students are married to some other students. Government has setup rule that require the spouses of married students to pay close to 90 percent of any income over $ 20,000 in taxes or contributions to their spouse. If the spouse contributes to this amount, the student will have to pay a funding shortfall that government is not liable for.
According to different surveys in US, average one out of ten students is married. Married students are usually older than the unmarried students. Nearly, two-third of all married students is older than 25 years of age.
Married students receive very less attention as a student sub-group. If they have children then they might be eligible for special grants ie for Students with Dependents and for higher student loans as well. Student loan programs treat married people very differently than the unmarried ones and they need extra inquiries. This separate treatment is to benefit the students.
Different options for student loans disbursement depending on the students' status are:
For Dependent Students:
If the spouse of a student does not work at all, then no changes will be made in student loans, if parents are low-income other eligibility increases. If the spouse works, then it depends on spousal and parental income but in most cases, the eligibility decreases.
For Independent Students:
If the spouse does not work so no changes apply to the eligibility criteria at all. If the spouse works then eligibility decreases in all cases.
So, the solution to all these problems due to marriage is that families should contribute to the costs of a student's post-secondary education. This principle is widely accepted in US student loans programs. But this does not mean that spouses should pay thousands of dollars more than parents at equivalent levels of income, for the very simple reason that no one in government actually believes that this should be the case.