Dependency for financial aid purposes is not the same as dependency for tax purposes.
Students are determined to be Dependent or Independent based on the information they provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). They must be able to answer "Yes" to at least one of the following criteria to be considered Independent:
- Will you be a graduate student in the coming year?
- Will you be turning 24 this year?
- Are you married?
- Do you support dependents of your own?
- Are you an orphan or ward of the court?
- Are you a Veteran or serving as active military?
Not supporting your child financially and/or not claiming them as a dependent on your federal tax return does not result in them being Independent for financial aid purposes.
One of the most common questions we are asked is whether students can ‘declare themselves independent.’ Unfortunately, unless you can answer "Yes" to one of the questions above, you will be considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes and will need to submit your parents’ income information on the FAFSA--even if they do not claim you on their taxes or provide any financial support to you. You may read more about the federal regulations regarding dependency status here.
Grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, aunts and uncles are not considered parents for financial aid purposes unless they have legally adopted the student. Students who are estranged from their parents should notify the Student Financial Assistance Office by filling out a Special Circumstances Appeal Form.