Students entering college directly from high school, and who report their parents income on their FAFSA, are considered dependent students. This means that parents are expected to contribute to their child's education expenses.
In cases where your child can be considered an independent student, only your child's income and assets will be considered which could possibly result in a larger financial aid package.
As good as this sounds, specific rules govern whether a student is considered independent for the purposes of financial aid. In these situations, at least one of these conditions must apply to your child:
- Were you born before Jan. 1, 1990?
- As of today, are you married? (Answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.)
- At the beginning of the 2013–14 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an M.A., M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., graduate certificate, etc.)?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training? (If you are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee, are you on active duty for other than state or training purposes?)
- 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, 2013, and June 30, 2014?
- 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, 2014?
- 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?
- Has it been determined by a court in your state of legal residence that you are an emancipated minor or that you are in a legal guardianship?
- At any time on or after July 1, 2012, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison or (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development?**
- At any time on or after July 1, 2012, 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?**
* Answer No (you are not a veteran) if you (1) have never engaged in active duty in the U.S. armed forces, (2) are currently a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) student or a cadet or midshipman at a service academy, (3) are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee activated only for state or training purposes, or (4) were engaged in active duty in the U.S. armed forces but released under dishonorable conditions. Also answer No if you are currently serving in the U.S. armed forces and will continue to serve through June 30, 2014. Answer Yes (you are a veteran) if you (1) have engaged in active duty in the U.S. armed forces or are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee who was called to active duty for other than state or training purposes, or were a cadet or midshipman at one of the service academies and (2) were released under a condition other than dishonorable. Also answer Yes if you are not a veteran now but will be one by June 30, 2014.
**If you do not have a determination that you are homeless, but you believe you are an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, answer “No” to the FAFSA questions concerning being homeless and contact your financial aid officer.
As a parent, you may not simply say that you won't not support your child through college and have them classified as an independent student. If this were possible, there would be many more independent students.
In special or unusual circumstances, the FAA can change your child's dependency status by reviewing the documents you provided if they think circumstances warrant it. An override decision relies on the FAA's best judgment and is final — it cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.
A parent's refusal to provide financial assistance or the required FAFSA information is not a valid reason for such a determination.
Source of income
Learn how much your family's income affects how much you have to pay.