Dependent vs. Independent Students

Dependent vs. Independent Students

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 unaccompainied 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.

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. However, if your parent(s) still refuses to provide FAFSA information, you may be eligible to receive a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan if certain criteria are met. To be considered, your parent must complete the Refusal to Provide Information and Support form. Be aware that you will still be considered a dependent student and therefore, not eligible for grants, work-study and/or subsidized loans.

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:

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 contact Financial Aid for further information. 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