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Dependent vs. Independent

When you apply for federal student aid, it must be determined if you are considered a dependent or independent student. The US Department of Education has specific criteria that determines your status. The FAFSA will ask a series of questions that will help you determine your status and will guide you through the application process. These questions have to do with:

  • Your age
  • Being in a graduate program (beyond a Bachelor’s degree)
  • Your marital status
  • Children you support
  • Legal dependents
  • Orphan or ward of the court status
  • Veteran status
  • Emancipation
  • Legal guardianship
  • Being an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or at risk of being homeless

Dependent Student: If it is determined that you are a dependent student, you must report parent(s) income and assets as well as your own. Living away from your parent(s) has nothing to do with this determination. It is determined only by your answers to the type of questions listed above and some, such as Ward of Court, will require additional documentation by the Financial Aid Office to confirm.
 

Federal aid programs are based on the concept that a dependent student’s parent(s) have the primary responsibility for their children’s education. If you do not meet the independent student criteria, parent information is required.
If your parent(s) refuse to fill out the FAFSA form, we encourage you to explain that your ability to receive aid is being harmed by their refusal to fill out this form. You might also assure them that providing parental information and signing the FAFSA does not make them responsible for any loans you may borrow.
 

Independent Student: If it is determined you are an independent student, you are required to report only your income and assets (and your spouse’s, if applicable).
 

Dependency Override information for extenuating circumstances: The federal government’s regulations on dependency overrides are strict; however, there may be extenuating circumstances when a student should be considered independent. Extenuating circumstances are situations of an abusive home environment or abandonment. These situations are considered on a case-by-case basis and must be documented. If you have extenuating circumstances that apply to you, please complete the Request for Independent Status form or contact Financial Aid if you have further questions. Please note that dependency overrides are NOT considered for the following reasons:

  • Parents’ refusal to contribute to student’s education
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information
  • Parents do not claim the student for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
Last Updated: 
September 3, 2014, 3:36 pm
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