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Dependency Status for Financial Aid Purposes



Financial aid regulations assume that the student and the parents have primary responsibility for meeting the educational costs of post-secondary education. The level of contribution is based on ability to pay, not on willingness to pay.

If a student can answer YES to at least ONE question in Step Three of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the student is considered "independent" for financial aid purposes, meaning no parent information is to be reported on the FAFSA. Additional verification or documentation of independent status may be required by the financial aid office. The Step Three questions on the FAFSA include:

  • Were you born before January 1, 19XX (making you 24 or older)?

  • Are you married as of day you file FAFSA?

  • Are you working on a master's or doctorate program?

  • Are you currently active duty military personnel for other than training purposes?

  • Are you a veteran of the US Armed Forces?

  • Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?

  • Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?

  • Are both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward of the court after age 13?

  • Are you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?

  • Do you have a legal guardian? This is not a biological parent, but someone who has been appointed by a court to serve as your guardian.

  • Did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?

  • Did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?

  • Did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?

 

PARENTS RELUCTANT TO HELP?

What if your parents refuse to file the FAFSA with you or help pay for college expenses? Visit www.FinAid.org for a discussion on the subject.

 

IRRECONCILABLE BREAK WITH PARENTS?

Per federal regulations, a student may be considered independent if a financial aid administrator determines and documents the student's independent status based on unusual circumstances. Unusual circumstances are evaluated by a financial aid administrator using professional judgment.


In such cases as disinheritance, parents' refusal to file any information, or other unique circumstances, the student may not meet the usual requirements for independence, but have no parents' contribution on which to rely. A financial aid administrator may treat such students as independent if institutional policy permits and judicious review merits such consideration.

If a student fails to meet the FAFSA criteria for independent student status and can document an irreconcilable break in relationship with each of their parents, they should discuss the situation with a financial aid counselor.

 

WHAT IF YOU'RE GETTING MARRIED?

You must list your current marital status on the FAFSA at the time of filing. If you marry after you file the FAFSA, you must file as single. If you answer NO to all questions in Step Three of the FAFSA, you will be considered a dependent student and your financial aid package will be determined using parent's income information.

We suggest you contact our office and a counselor may be able to help determine the best way for you to file the FAFSA based on your situation.

 

 

Petition to be Independent must be filed and updated for each academic year.


Filing a Petition to be Independent:

  • The student must provide a signed and dated letter enumerating the reasons for the appeal.

  • The student must complete and sign the Petition to be Independent form available in the Forms.

  • The student must provide at least two letters signed and dated from persons who are aware of the student's status including a teacher, a counselor, or a member of the clergy.

  • The student must provide any documents pertinent to the their petition.

 

Unusual circumstances that may warrant a student to file a Petition to be Independent:

  • Abusive family environment.

  • Abandonment.

  • Unusual circumstances that do not preclude a student from answering "yes" to a homeless question, if applicable.

  • Irreconcilable and unusual circumstances that do not warrant a dependency override by themselves. 

 

Circumstances that Do Not Warrant a Dependency Status Appeal

  • Parents refuse to contribute to educational costs.

  • Parents unwilling to provide information on FAFSA application or for verification purposes.

  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.

  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

 

The following procedures outline what the financial aid administrator will do:

  • Upon receipt of the Petition to be Independent and all letters and documents from the student, the Financial Aid administrator will review the appeal and use professional judgment to approve or deny it. If it is determined that further clarification is required before making a decision, a conference with the student will be arranged.

  • The Financial Aid administrator will:

    • notify the student if the appeal was approved or denied.

    • make any required changes to the student's FAFSA application record and financial aid award.

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