The law governing the federal student aid programs is based on the premise that the family is the first source of the student’s support, and the law provides several criteria that decide if the student is considered independent of his or her parents for aid eligibility. Note that a student reaching the age of 18 or 21 or living apart from their parents does not affect their dependency status.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks questions that are used to determine whether a student is considered dependent or independent for Title IV Federal Aid consideration. For a listing of these questions, please see the “Do I need to use my parent’s information?” section of the Completing the FAFSA FAQ page. The school may require documentation of the student’s reported independent status.
The Higher Education Act allows a financial aid administrator (FAA) to make dependency overrides on a case-by-case basis for students with unusual circumstances. However, none of the conditions listed below, singly or in combination, qualify as unusual circumstances meriting a dependency override:
- Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education;
- Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification;
- Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
- Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.
Unusual circumstances do include abandonment by parents, an abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety, or the student being unable to locate his parents. In such cases, a dependency override might be warranted.
Please contact the Financial Aid Office if you have questions or think your situation may qualify for a dependency override. An independent appeal form will be made available, if appropriate, and documentation will be required before a professional judgment (PJ) can be made.