Qualifying for Financial Aid as an Independent Student

When can a student be considered independent for financial aid purposes?

This is a question that a lot of families ask as they contemplate their huge college expenses. When I was back in St. Louis, my hometown, earlier this summer, my nephew Nick asked whether he could qualify for federal financial aid as an independent student.  It’s obvious what the advantages are for a student being on his own for financial aid purposes. Nick makes so little money delivering pizza that he’d surely qualify for financial aid if the formula didn’t consider his parents’ wages.

Nick, however, can’t be considered an independent student — at least not yet. His parents have been contributing to his education at a community college while he pays for his living expenses in an apartment. But even if my sister and brother-in-law stopped supporting him, it wouldn’t matter. Based on the federal student financial aid standards, he still wouldn’t qualify until he reached the age of 24.

Here are the actual questions that the federal government asks that determines whether a student  can qualify for college financial aid as an independent:

  1. Were you born before January 1, 1986?
  2. As of today, are you married?
  3. At the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, or graduate certificate, etc.)?
  4. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
  5. Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
  6. Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010?
  7. Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2010?
  8. At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
  9. Are you, or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
  10. Are you, or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
  11. At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  12. At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  13. At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.

Additional reading: You can learn more about financial aid by reading my book, The College Solution and by visiting my financial aid archive. Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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2 Responses to Qualifying for Financial Aid as an Independent Student

  1. Gregory Garcia Sr December 26, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    My daughter is in her 2nd year at Whittier College , its costing me $1600 a month…. Is there any way I can find her more grants ,financial aid ???? I need help !!!!!!!

  2. ABED GIBSON January 10, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    Request for financial aid for independent students wishing to study by distance learing.FAFSA Form University school code offer A.S Degree in Human resource management,and or CSS code and other information relates.I am a Burundian on employment.

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