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Dependent or Independent Status?

Under the Higher Education Act, all persons applying for Federal Student Aid will be determined to be either dependent or independent students. The status basically determines whether or not your parental information will be required on the FAFSA. Dependency status is NOT determined by whether you are legally considered an adult or have moved out of your parent’s home, and there may be instances where students are surprised to need their parent’s involvement. The age in which a student would be considered an independent student if no other required criteria apply is 24. For the 2016-2017 award year, the student would have had to be born by January 1st of 1993 to be considered an independent student for age alone.

Female College Student Poses for Photo in Student Union Building


The student would also be considered an independent student if they are:

  1. Married as of the day the FAFSA is completed
  2. On Active Duty or a Veteran
  3. Pursuing Graduate Studies: Professional, Masters, Doctorate
  4. Supporting legal dependents
  5. An orphan, foster child, or ward of the court
  6. Emancipated or under legal guardianship
  7. Homeless

Students may be required to provide supporting documentation to their financial aid office for the qualifying criterion.

If a student does not meet any of these criteria, but feels strongly that they have just cause to be evaluated as an independent student, they can inquire with their educational institution’s financial aid office to find out if their special circumstances might warrant a professional judgment.

In extreme or unusual circumstances, a financial aid administrator may make a professional judgment to override the dependency status (http://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1415AVGCh2.pdf).

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