February 6, 2009

Are you an independent student?

Posted in FAFSA, Graduate Students, Grants, Parent PLUS Loans, Saving for College, Stafford Loans, Student Loan News, The Financial Aid Process at 8:23 AM by Joe From Boston

Independent students receive consideration for more financial aid as it’s assumed they have no parents or family to help support them. The Department of Education has its own criteria about who is or is not an independent student, and answering these questions helps determine your status.

Claiming on yourself as an independent on your taxes DOES NOT COUNT.

If you answer Yes to any of these questions, then you will be considered independent, however you may have to provide additional documentation to verify your claim.

  • Are you 24 or older?
  • Are you married?
  • Are you pursuing an advanced degree?(e.g. Masters, PhD)
  • Are you active duty military or a veteran?
    • Reservists who have never served on active duty do not qualify
  • Do you have a child and provide at least half their support?
  • Do you provide someone else with at least half their support? For example, taking care of an elderly relative?
    • Just being roommates doesn’t count. You have to support them financially.
  • Were you a foster child or ward of the court after the age of 13?
  • Were you legally emancipated?
    • “Emancipated minor” is a formal legal status that must be declared by a court of law. Simply moving out of your parents’ household does not count. A judge must legally declare you emancipated. The court order must still be in effect at the time you file your FAFSA.
  • Are you in legal guardianship as determined by a court?
    • Like legally emancipated, this is a formal legal judgment by a court of law.
  • Are you homeless or at risk of being homeless?
    • The determination of homelessness can be made by one of three legal entities:
      • A high school or school district liaison.
      • A director of an accredited HUD homeless shelter
      • A director of a runaway/transitional living program or homeless youth basic shelter.
    • Homeless is strictly defined as lacking fixed, regular, adequate housing. This includes living in shelters, hotels, cars, or couchsurfing anywhere you can.
    • Unaccompanied means that you’re not in the physical custody or care of a parent or guardian. This status only applies to students under the age of 21.
    • This question adds an additional twist. A director of a runaway or homeless shelter can make the determination that you are self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, which means you’re living on your own, paying your own way, and are at risk of homelessness.
    • You will need to provide documentation of your homelessness from any of the entities listed above.