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Dependency Status Change Policy-Procedures

When a student completes the FAFSA or CADAA, they are asked questions to determine if they must include their parent’s income information or not. These questions determine if you are a dependent or independent student. 

For the 2022-2023, academic year, you are automatically independent for federal student aid if you meet one of the following criteria: (Documentation for most is required.)

  1. You were born before January 1, 1999
  2. You were married on or before the date you completed the FAFSA or CADAA
  3. You will be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, or Ph.D., etc.) at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year
  4. You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  5. You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  6. You have or will have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023
  7. You have dependents (other than your children and spouse) who live with you and who will receive more than half of their support from you, between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022
  8. At any time since you turned 13, both your parents were deceased, you were in foster care or were a dependent/ward of the court
  9. You are/were an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your legal state of residence
  10. You are/were in legal guardianship as determined by a court when you reached the age of majority in your legal state of residence
  11. On or after July 1, 2021, your high school or school district homeless liaison determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.  Unaccompanied youth who are/were homeless are defined as:
    1. 21 years of age or younger or still enrolled in high school as of the day you sign the FAFSA application
    2. not living in the physical custody of a parent or guardian, or
    3. lacking fixed, regular and adequate housing
  12.  On or after July 1, 2021, the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless
If you cannot answer yes to the above or do not have the proper paperwork to verify then you are considered a dependent student and must provide your parents' income information. Sometimes students who must include their parent’s income information are unable to do so. The Financial Aid Office, under specific circumstances, may override this requirement to make a dependent student independent.
 
USE OF PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT 
The Higher Education Act allows a Financial Aid Administrator to exercise professional judgment to give an otherwise dependent student independent status if unusual circumstances can be documented. This determination is made on a case-by-case basis and must be supported by documentation provided by the student. 
 
WHAT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES 

Please note that not all circumstances are considered unusual.  The conditions listed below, singly or in combination, do not qualify as an unusual circumstance warranting a dependency override: 

  1. Parents refusing to contribute to the student’s education;
  2. Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or CADAA or for verification;
  3. Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  4. Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

PLEASE NOTE: Your living situation (whether or not you live with your parents, or they claim you on their tax return) does not impact your dependency status. If you do not satisfy at least one of the Federal criteria for independent status listed above, you are a dependent student for the purposes of Federal Student Aid.

Unusual circumstances may include:

  • Abandonment by parents
  • An abusive family environment that threatens the student’s well-being
  • The student being unable to locate their parents 
 
STUDENT PROCEDURES 

A student may have extenuating circumstances that warrant special consideration for independent status and therefore, the student should indicate there is a special circumstance preventing submission of parental information on the FAFSA. The student may wish to consider pursuing the 2022-2023 Appeal for Dependency Override process and submit their appeal to the Financial Aid Office. Based on the documents submitted, the Financial Aid Office will determine if your dependency override is approved. Students will be notified of the outcome via email. 

When logged into your Student Forms account, select the red "Request" button at the top right of the page.  A "Requests" window will open where you can add a "Dependency Appeal" for the 2022-2023 academic year.  Proceed to complete the necessary forms when prompted.  This process will ask for:  

  • A detailed statement from the student explaining the extraordinary circumstance(s) detailing
    • The relationship with both biological or adoptive parents to include why you are unable to provide parental information
    • Last time you lived with parent(s)
    • Last time you had contact with parent(s)
    • Last time you were supported by parent(s)
    • How you support yourself 
  • Two (2) signed letters of support from independent sources who can attest first-hand to the extenuating circumstances (at least 1 letter must be from a neutral 3rd party in a professional capacity)  
    • The signed statement should be submitted on letterhead from the person’s place of employment and include their full address and phone number  
    • You may submit police reports and/or court documents in place of one of the letters, if applicable 
 
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THIRD PARTY DOCUMENTATION

The information stated in the Dependency Override Appeal must be verified by a disinterested, professional third party who is aware of the student’s home situation and can verify the information the student has provided.  Examples of such a person include, but are not limited to: employer, clergy, social worker, attorney, court official, teacher, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, medical professional, law enforcement agent, etc.  Third party documentation must be a SEPARATE statement on official letterhead. Please include any information of which you have first-hand knowledge and that you feel best describes the student’s situation.  The following is a list of information to include in the letter:

  • How long you have known the student
  • Your relationship to the student
  • The last time the student lived with and/or received financial support from their parents
  • State your direct knowledge of when the student last had contact of any type with their parents (please include information regarding both parents)
  • Any knowledge of the student's current relationship with their parents
  • The steps that the student has taken to establish independence from their parents
  • Please include your professional title, name and type of business, business address, telephone number, and where to contact you should any additional information be required