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Independent Student Status


One of the biggest factors in determining how much aid each student is eligible for is their relationship with their parents. Because independent students are considered responsible for all of their education costs, they are often eligible for more financial aid than dependent students and the borrowing limits for federal loans are higher.

Many students applying for financial aid are considered financially dependent, meaning that they are dependent on their parents for most of their financial needs and are most likely listed as a dependent on their parents' tax return.

In order to be considered an "independent" student, one or more of the following characteristics must apply:

  • You're at least 24 years old
  • You're a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for other than training purposes
  • You're working on a master's or doctorate program
  • You're an orphan or ward of the court (or you were until you were 18)
  • You're married
  • You have children who receive more than half of their support from you
  • You have legal dependents other than a spouse or children who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you
  • Had no living parent when age 13 or older; were in foster care when age 13 or older; or were a dependent/ward of the court when age 13 or older
  • Are currently an emancipated minor (as determined by state court)
  • Are currently in legal guardianship
  • Were determined to be an unaccompanied homeless youth

If you do not meet any of these criteria, you must list your parent's financial information on their FAFSA form. Schools and the government assume that it is the parents' role to support dependent children in their education.

For financial aid purposes, a parent cannot simply say "no" to helping with college expenses, nor can they withhold tax information as a way of raising their child's eligibility for financial aid - that does not work. In fact, withholding parental income information makes the student ineligible for subsidized loans and federal grants.

The reality for some students, however, is that they really are financially independent but do not qualify for official independent student status. If you are classified as a dependent student but your parents refuse to help with college expenses, you should talk with a financial aid administrator for suggestions on how to deal with your specific family situation. For some situations, there are options for overriding dependent student status, but such overrides are rare and involve verification by the aid administrator that the parent refuses to provide the required financial information.

 Events for Families

FAFSA Updates-South Dakota Department of Labor

Monday, July 24 at 2:00 PM CST
Online Meeting
Host: Cathy Mueller

More Info

Sneak Peek for School Counselors on FAFSA Changes

Wednesday, August 30 at 3:00 PM CST
Online Meeting
Host: Cathy Mueller

More Info

T.F. Riggs High School Financial Aid Night

Thursday, September 7 at 7:00 PM CST
Online Meeting
Host: Cathy Mueller

More Info