Determining Dependency for FAFSA


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This section, will ask questions related to the Dependency Status

Take a look at the following example, for your better understanding

Suppose the gross income of a family is $100,000 and the expected family contribution of the family is $29,000, then the student will not be for financial aid if he plans to study in a public college. However, he can easily qualify for financial aid if he plans to study in an expensive college  that charges 60,000$ per year.

But if the same family has 2 children in college, then the expected family contribution for each child will be reduced to 50 percent and thus the student can apply for financial aid even at a public college.

As per the statistics 2011- 2012, 11.3% of the students having a gross family income of $100,000 or more were eligible for need based grant, whereas 18.9% received non- need based grants.

Therefore, unless your parents have a reportable assets worth millions or a gross annual income more than $400,000- you should never give up the idea of applying for the federal education loans, and must file the FAFSA.

The section will consist of 13 questions and the sole purpose of this section is to determine if the student is dependent or independent. There are genuine advantages for an independent student- Firstly, they don’t have to fill the parent information section, and secondly the independent status of a student will increase his/her eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Related:Significance of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Criteria for an independent student

To be recognized as an independent student, you have to meet any of the following criteria-

  • You should be at least 24 years of age
  • You have to be married
  • Should have dependent children
  • If you have legal guardianship (other than your parent or step parents)
  • If you are a youth who is homeless and support your own livelihood
  • If you have dependents other than your spouse
  • If you are a professional school student or a graduate
  • If you are an Emancipated minor
  • Orphan, foster child or ward ofthe court
  • If you are an active member of the U.S armed forces

Note-  After the section is completed, the FAFSA will determine whether you are a dependant or an independent student. However, if you answer No to every question- You are considered as a dependent student.

If a student answers yes to at least one of the 13 questions, He/she is considered as independent.

This leads to yet another question- What should the dependent students do, in order to increase their eligibility?

 Dependent students must seek help from their parents to complete the parent section of the FAFSA, but the independent students can skip section 4 and continue with section 5,

Note- if you are planning to get admission in a professional school, then it is mandatory for you to complete section 4, irrespective of your dependency status

Dependent students can be considered as independent under certain circumstances. If the student is not able to provide parental information- He/she should select “I am unable to provide parental information” and click” NEXT”

Then the student will be redirected to a new page, where the FAFSA will ask the student about the special circumstances that may qualify him/her as an independent student.

Related:How does the Income Estimator work?

But what may be considered as special circumstances?

  • If the parents of the students are unknown
  • If the parents of the student are not alive or inside the prison
  • If the parents have disowned their child or the student moved out of his family for genuine reasons like abuse, torture etc.

 Let us take a look at the image for your reference-

Note- The second option seen in the extreme bottom that states “I am unable to provide parental information and acknowledge that my FAFSA will be submitted without calculating an EFC. This option needs to be selected by the students who are dependent yet cannot provide their parental information. However, skipping the parental information will disqualify the student for federal student aid, but they   still have a chance of receiving aid from the school or state aid.

Related:Which untaxed incomes do I need to report on the FAFSA?


What do you understand by Unsubsidized Loan Only?
Students who are not dependent, but fail to provide parental information, because they are either disowned by their parents or their parents disagree to provide any kind of financial support, can take the money from the unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan program. If a student borrows from the Stafford loan program he/she limits his/her chances of availing other financial aid like- the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Perkins Loan, subsidized Federal Stafford Loan and Federal Work-Study.

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