The primary responsibility to pay for college-related expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Education, resides with the student and, if applicable, the student's parent(s). The U.S. Department of Education determines whether a student is considered "dependent" or "independent" upon his or her parent's (parents') for financial purposes.
If a student is considered dependent, the parent(s) must provide their financial information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. A student considered independent is under no obligation to provide his or her parent's (parents') financial information, according to federal statue.
The U.S. Department of Education determines if a student is considered dependent or independent for financial purposes according to their answer to the following questions. If a student can answer "yes" to one or more of these questions on the FAFSA form, a student can be considered as independent for financial aid purposes.
Watch our video to help you determine whether you are an independent or dependent applicant.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to appeal your financial aid dependency status.
- Were you age 24 before Jan. 1 of the financial aid award year? Example: A student had to be born before Jan. 1, 1986, for the 2012-2013 school year FAFSA form award year.
- As of the filing date of the FAFSA, were you married?
- At the beginning of the award year, will the student be seeking a master's degree or graduate certificate degree?
- 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 biological or adoptive children who receive more than half of their support from you?
- Do you have dependents (other than your biological/adoptive children or spouse) who currently live with you now and who receive more than half of their support from you through June 30 of the award year?
- At anytime 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 at the time you received the determination?
- Are you, or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence at the time you received the determination?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2011, 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, 2011, 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, 2011, 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?