Financial aid regulations assume that the family has primary responsibility for meeting the educational costs of attending college. If you are considered a dependent student, your aid eligibility is determined by using parent income and asset information in addition to your information. Dependent students are required by law to provide parental information and signatures to be considered for financial aid.

A student may be considered independent if he or she:

  • will be 24 or older by Dec. 31 of the school year for which financial aid is sought
  • since turning age 13, was in foster care, a ward or dependent of the court and/or an orphan (both parents deceased).
  • is a veteran of the United States Armed Forces or currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
  • is married or separated.
  • is providing significant financial support to dependents other than a spouse.
  • is determined by a court in the state of legal residence as being an emancipated minor or in legal guardianship.
  • are deemed to be a homeless unaccompanied youth or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.

Federal regulations allow the financial aid office to use professional judgment to change dependency status to “independent” on a case-by-case basis. The student must demonstrate that there is an unusual circumstance other than the fact that the student is self-sufficient or that the parents are unwilling to contribute to the student’s education. If you do not meet any of the above criteria but you believe that you should be considered independent because of truly exceptional circumstances making it inappropriate to expect a parental contribution, you may petition for a waiver of federal regulations requiring parental information. Examples of unusual circumstances are situations such as when a student’s parents cannot be located, or where an otherwise dependent student has been a victim of domestic violence or abuse and is no longer able to reside with his or her parents.

Federal Regulations have identified four conditions that, individually or in combination with one another, do not qualify as “unusual circumstances” and do not merit a dependency override. Those circumstances are:

  • Parents refusing to contribute to the student’s education;
  • Parents unwilling to provide information on the application or for verification
  • Parents not claiming the students as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrating total self-sufficiency.

In order to petition for independent status, please submit the Petition for Independent Status Form with supporting documents to the Financial Aid Office.

Learn more from the US Department of Education Financial Aid website.