Dependency in financial aid is significantly different than dependency for tax purposes. The criteria for what the Department of Education classifies as an independent student is as follows. If you do not meet any of these criteria, then you are classified as a dependent student for the purpose of your financial aid application. Note: Your FAFSA status is not the same as your tax filing status.

  • You will be 24 or older by Dec. 31st of the school year for which you are applying for financial aid
  • You are or will be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program at the beginning of the school year
  • You are married on the day you file your FAFSA
  • You are a parent
  • You have dependents other than your spouse who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you at the time you apply
  • Both your parents are deceased, or you were until age 18, a ward of dependent of the court
  • You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  • You’re a Veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • You were a foster child after the age of 13
  • You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge
  • You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison

Whether you believe you are independent or not does not change your dependency status on the FAFSA. Many students each year attempt to file as independent students because they are living on their own and are self-sufficient or their parents refuse to contribute to their education. However, under federal regulations, they are still classified as dependent students. You must file your FAFSA based on the dependency requirements listed above or you risk getting no federal financial aid.


Our Student Finance Department is required to refer for investigation to the Office of the Inspector General or to state or local law enforcement agencies any instance in which our review of Title IV aid applications indicates that an applicant may have engaged in fraud or other criminal misconduct in connection with the application.

The following examples are given in the regulations as instances that should be referred to the appropriate authorities:

  • False claims of independent student status
  • False claims of citizenship
  • Use of false identities
  • Forgery of signatures
  • False statements of income
  • Failure to file a federal or state income tax return when required

According to the U.S. Department of Education, simple errors resulting from omission or misunderstanding are not considered evidence of fraud.