Dependent vs. Independent Students
Unless you meet any one of the criteria stated under Independent Student Status or there are some exceptional circumstances, you will be considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes.
- Your last surviving parent died after you first applied for financial aid.
- You and your parents are separated and you have been granted refugee status by the U.S. Immigration Service.
Any of these circumstances can be considered, but do not automatically give you independent status. All circumstances must be documented. If you consider your circumstances to be exceptional, please make an appointment to see a financial aid counselor.
You should be aware that you are not automatically independent for financial aid purposes simply because your parents stop claiming you as a tax exemption or refuse to give you support for your college education. Unwillingness, inability, or reluctance of parents to help pay for your educational costs does not make you independent. Becoming emancipated and/or qualifying for in-state tuition does not mean that you are independent for federal financial aid purposes. In cases where you do not qualify as an independent student but you receive no parental support, counselors in the financial aid office can provide you with information about alternative financing and employment opportunities to help you pay for your college expenses.
Students are classified as dependent or independent because federal student aid programs are based on the principle that students (and their parents or spouse, if applicable) are considered the primary source of support for postsecondary education.
For the academic year, you’re an independent student if at least one of the following applies to you:
- You are 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year;
- you are married;
- you are or will be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program (beyond a bachelor’s degree) during the school year;
- you have children who receive more than half their support from you;
- you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you and will continue to receive more than half their support from you through June 30th of the school year;
- you are an orphan or ward of the court (or were a ward of the court until age 18); or
- you are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces (“Veteran” includes students who attended a U.S. service academy and who were released under a condition other than dishonorable.)
- you are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
January 1, 2009