Dependency Status & Federal Financial Aid Eligibility

Financial Assistance Office

How Dependency Status is Determined

Dependency status for the purpose of federal financial aid eligibility is determined by information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  It is NOT determined by the IRS tax filing status of the parents or student.

Why Parents Must Supply Income and Asset Information

Under Federal law, a student's family is primarily responsible--to the extent they are able--for paying for their child's college expenses. To determine how much a family can afford to pay towards college expenses, the FAFSA application must collect the student's financial information, and, if the student is a dependent student, also the parents' financial information.

One question parents often have is, "If my child is genuinely independent and I'm not paying for their college expenses, why do I have to supply my income and asset information?"

The Higher Education Act of 1992 clearly states which students will be considered independent of parental support for educational costs. Independent students must be able to document at least one of the following criteria:

  • 24 years old by Dec. 31 of the award year
  • Orphan or ward of the court
  • Veteran of the Armed Forces of the U.S.A.
  • Enrolled in a graduate or professional program (beyond a bachelor's degree)
  • Married
  • Student has legal dependents other than spouse

If your child does not qualify under these rules, the financial aid administrator or Financial Assistance Committee may consider exceptional circumstances that would allow your child to be independent. However, the unwillingness of a parent to provide support or the choice of a student not to accept support is NOT an acceptable reason to be considered independent.  A copy of FHSU's Independent Status Appeal Form can be found on our Forms page  or by contacting our office.


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