Financial aid regulations assume that the student and the parents have primary responsibility for meeting the educational costs to attend school. The level of contribution is based on ability to pay, not on willingness to pay.
If a student can answer YES to at least ONE question in Step Three of the FAFSA, the student is considered "independent" for financial aid purposes, meaning no parent information is to be reported on the FAFSA. The Step Three questions:
- Were you born before January 1, 19XX (making you 24 or older)?
- Are you working on a master's or doctorate program?
- Are you married as of day you file FAFSA?
- Have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
- Have legal dependents (other than your children or spouse) that you support?
- Are you an orphan, or are you/were you (until age 18) a ward/dependent of the court?
- Are you a veteran of the US Armed Forces?
- Are you currently active duty military personnel for other than training purposes?
- Were/Are you under a legal guardianship?
Neither parent refusal to contribute to the student's education nor parent unwillingness to provide information on the student aid application or for verification are grounds to be considered independent. For more information about parents reluctant to help, please visit www.FinAid.org.
Per federal regulations, a student may be considered independent if the student submits documentation that the student's independent status is based on unusual circumstances. Unusual circumstances are those circumstances, which, in the professional judgment of the Financial Aid Office, warrant the student to be considered independent. Examples would include situations in which the student's parents are physically or mentally incapacitated. A Change in Dependency form must be filed also.
Although married students are considered independent, students that marry after filing the FAFSA cannot update their marital status to be considered independent. Students must list their current marital status on the FAFSA at the time they file the form. If the student answer NO to all questions in Step Three of the FAFSA, the student will be considered a dependent student and their financial aid package will be determined using their parent(s) income information.