Dependent vs. Independent
The federal government has established criteria for classifying financial aid recipients as dependent or independent. If you are dependent (not self-supporting according to federal criteria), your parents' assets and income as well as your own are considered when determining your financial need. If you are independent, your need is evaluated solely on your own and your spouse's income and assets.
If you answer "YES:" to any of following items ("Step Three" on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Renewal FAFSA) you are considered "Self-Supporting" for financial aid purposes:
- Were you born before January 1, 1995?
- As of today, are you married? (Also answer "Yes" if you are separated but not divorced)
- At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, graduate certificate, etc.)?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
- Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
- Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018?
- Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2018?
- At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court.
- Are you or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
- Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2014, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2014, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
- At any time on or after July 1, 2014, 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 or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
If you cannot check "YES" to any item, you are considered dependent on your parents and must include their financial information on your financial forms. If you think you have extenuating circumstances that would exempt you from including parental information, contact a Financial Aid Counselor at the Office of Student Financial Services located in Stafford Center, Room #224.
Note that the government does not weigh in factors like:
- Parents do not financially support you
- Parents do not claim you as a tax exemption
- You do not live with your parents
- You live with other family or friends who pay for your needs
These items alone do not make you an independent student for financial aid purposes. If you have questions, come speak with the counseling staff at Student Financial Services.