The FAFSA requires students to be classified as either dependent or independent for financial aid purposes. Dependent students must include parental data on the FAFSA, as well as a parental electronic signature. Independent students do not have to provide parental data on the FAFSA, but must provide spousal income if married.
Please keep the following in mind:
- Students are no longer considered independent simply because parents do not claim them as dependents on income taxes.
- Students are not considered independent simply because parents refuse to pay for college costs or to provide FAFSA information. (Please note: parents do not assume any financial obligation simply by providing data on the FAFSA. The Stafford Loans based from the FAFSA belong solely to the student, and refusal to provide information can prevent the student from receiving grants and scholarships.)
- Students are not considered independent simply because they filed their own income taxes.
- Students are not considered independent solely from maintaining a separate year-round address from their parents.
How to Determine Dependency Status
If a student can say YES to one of the following, then the student is considered independent:
- Are you 24 years of age or older?
- Are you enrolled in a master's or doctoral program?
- Are you married or separated as of the date of application, but not divorced?
- Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you?
- Do you have dependents (other than children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you?
- Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
- Are or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
- At anytime since 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
- 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? (A veteran includes students who have attended a U.S. Service Academy and who were released under a condition other than dishonorable.)
At any time on or after July 1, 2012, 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, 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
Appealing Your Dependency Status
If you cannot answer YES to any of the above questions, but you have other extraordinary circumstances (abuse, abandonment, irreconcilable differences, no relationship or contact with parents), you may appeal your dependency status. For more information, please see the Dependency Appeal web page.