When you apply for federal student aid, your answers to certain questions will determine whether you're considered dependent or independent for financial aid purposes. Students are classified as dependent or independent because federal student aid programs are based on the idea that students (and their parents or spouse, if applicable) have the primary responsibility for paying for their postsecondary education.
Dependent students are required to report their parent’s income and assets as well as their own
Independent and must report only their own income and assets (and those of their spouse, if they are married)
To be considered an independent student you must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- You were born before January 1, 1990 (for the 2013-2014 academic year)
- You are married
- You are enrolled in a program working on a Master's or Doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, or graduate certificate, etc.);
- 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, 2012 (for the 2011-12 academic year)
- You have children who receive more than half of their support from you
- You are an orphan or you were a ward/dependent of the court until age 18
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces that has served on active duty ("veteran" includes a student who attended a U.S. military academy who was released under a condition other than dishonorable).
If you claim to be an independent student, we may ask you to submit proof before you can receive any federal student aid.
If you think you have unusual circumstances that would make you independent even though none of the above criteria apply to you, talk to your Financial Aid Counselor. Your counselor can review your circumstances and change your dependency status if it is warranted based on the documentation you provide. But remember, the aid administrator won't automatically do this; extensive and verifiable information is required to complete this process. The decision is based on his or her judgment, and it's final--you can't appeal it to the U.S. Department of Education.