Ask The Panther
Ask any financial aid question and get answers right away!
View top ten »

Dependent or Independent Status

For financial aid purposes, the Department of Education classifies students as either dependent or independent. Dependent students file the FAFSA using their own and their parent(s) information. Independent students are required to provide only their own and their spouse's (if married) information. Dependency status depends mostly on age, but sometimes on other things.

Many students feel they should be considered independent because their parents do not claim them on their tax returns or help them with their education. Select the links below for details on how dependency status is determined as well as answers to questions regarding which parent's information should be reported and what to do if you aren't in contact with your parents.

http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out/dependency

Determining Your Dependency Status

Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding your dependency status or feel that your particular situation warrants additional review.

If you are a dependent student and have married since you completed the FAFSA, please contact our office to see if your eligibility has changed.

The U.S Department of Education maintains the following circumstances do NOT make a student independent:

  • Parents refusing to contribute to the student’s education;
  • Parents unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification;
  • Parents not claiming the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  • A student can demonstrate total self-sufficiency, has been working and “on their own” for several years.

Federal law allows some students with special circumstances that would otherwise be considered dependent to submit the FASFA without parental information. Some examples of special circumstances are: Your parents are incarcerated, you have left home due to an abusive family environment, or you do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them.  If you are unable to provide parental information, you need to contact a Financial Aid Advisor to discuss your situation and receive information on what additional documentation will be required.

In some situations, it isn’t so much that the student is unable to provide the parental information as it is the parents may simply refuse to provide it. In those cases, if the parent provides a signed statement to the Financial Aid Department that they 1) refuse to complete the FAFSA and 2) are no longer supporting their child, the student can be offered an unsubsidized loan, but nothing else. The amount of the loan would be determined by the student’s grade level ($5,500 for freshmen; $6,500 for sophomores; $7,500 for juniors and seniors).