Dependency Status

There are strict guidelines set by both the federal government that govern dependency status. Almost all undergraduates are considered dependent for the purpose of awarding financial aid. All graduate students are considered independent for purposes of awarding financial aid.


The U.S. Department of Education considers a student a dependent up until the age of 24 except in certain circumstances. In order to be considered for an Independent status, a student must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Be at least 24 years old or turn 24 during the first portion of the academic year.

    (For the 2013-14 academic year, anyone born before January 1, 1990 is considered to be an independent student) 

  • Be married on the day you file your FAFSA

  • Be a parent and be able to financially support your child

  • Have dependents other than your spouse who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you at the time you apply

  • Have both of your parents deceased

  • Be (or were until age 18) a ward of dependent of the court

  • Be currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training

  • Be a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

  • Be a foster child after the age of 13.

  • Be an emancipated child as determined by a court judge.

  • Be homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison.

If none of the above criteria apply to the student, then the student is considered to be a dependent student – even if the student can claim themselves on their taxes. However, the Financial Aid Office has the authority, through Section 480(d)(7) of the Higher Education Act, to change a student's status from dependent to independent in cases involving unusual circumstances.


Circumstances that do not merit a dependency override

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education;

  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the application or for verification;

  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;

  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

Note that all of these circumstances are largely discretionary in nature. A student cannot become independent just because the parents are unwilling to help pay for the student's college education.

Although these circumstances are not sufficient for a dependency override, they do not preclude it.  Sometimes there are additional circumstances that occur in conjunction with these documented circumstances that do merit a dependency override.


Circumstances that DO merit a dependency override

  • an abusive family environment (e.g., sexual, physical, or mental abuse or other forms of domestic violence)

  • abandonment by parents

  • incarceration or institutionalization of both parents

  • parents lacking the physical or mental capacity to raise the child

  • parents hospitalized for an extended period

  • an unsuitable household (e.g., child removed from the household and placed in foster care)


Dependency Status Appeals

To petition for a change to your dependency status, submit a Dependency Override Form for the academic year in which you would like financial aid.

2014-15 Dependency Override Form

Please talk with our financial aid office if you have more questions or would like more information on your dependency status.