Part: 3 - - Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
SectionTitle: Section D "Student Status"
PURPOSE: The questions in Section D determine whether a student
is considered a dependent student or an independent student under
the law for purposes of calculating an EFC. This section is important
in determining a student's EFC under the federal need analysis
formula. An independent student does not report parental
information on the FAFSA. A student's income and assets are always
included in the EFC calculation. A financial aid administrator may
override a student's dependency status in individual cases if he or
she decides that a student should be considered an independent
student, regardless of the answers to the questions in Section D.
INDEPENDENT STUDENT DEFINITION
Questions 40-45 ask a student whether he or she meets any of the
criteria that would establish him or her as an independent student. A
student is automatically considered independent if he or she meets at
least one of the following criteria:
- the student was born before January 1, 1973;
- the student is a veteran of the U. S. Armed Forces (Army, Air
Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard);
- the student will be enrolled in a graduate or professional program
(beyond a bachelor's degree) in 1996-97;
- the student is legally married on the date the student signs the
- the student is an orphan or a ward of the court (or has been a
ward of the court until reaching the age of 18); or
- the student has legal dependents other than a spouse.
The instructions explain each criterion in greater detail. The student
should READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS carefully, because they
define some of the terms used, such as "veteran," "legally married,"
"orphan," and "legal dependent." Note in particular that the
definition of veteran now includes students who attended one of the
service academies and were released under a condition other than
dishonorable. A student answering "yes" to any question in Section
D will be classified as an independent student, even if the student is
still living with his or her parents.
After Section D, the form asks for parental information and
student/spouse information separately. An independent student is not
required to fill out any parental information, although some aid
programs for health professions study beyond the bachelor's degree
level may require the information.
A dependent student gives information about himself or herself in
the WHITE AREAS and about his or her parents in the red areas.
The dependent student and a parent must sign the FAFSA.
An independent student gives information only about himself or
herself and about his or her spouse (if married) by filling out the
WHITE AREAS and GRAY AREAS. The student must sign the
DEFINITION OF "PARENT"
The term "parent" is not restricted to a student's natural parents.
There are several instances in which a person other than a student's
natural parent is treated as the student's parent. If this person is
considered a parent to the student, as defined by the list that follows,
then the parental questions on the application must be answered as
they apply to that person.
ADOPTIVE PARENT--is treated in the same manner as natural parents.
FOSTER PARENT--is not treated as a student's parent.
LEGAL GUARDIAN--is treated in the same manner as a natural
parent, if he or she has been appointed by the court AND if he or she
has been directed by the court to use his or her financial resources to
support the student. This legal relationship must continue beyond
June 30, 1997. If a student is living with his or her grandparents, the
same principle applies. Unless the grandparents have adopted the
student or are the student's court-appointed legal guardians and are
required by the court to use their resources to support the student, the
income of the grandparents cannot be reported on the FAFSA. See
the FAFSA instructions for more information.
STEPPARENT--is treated in the same manner as a natural parent if
the stepparent is married, as of the date of application, to a student's
natural parent whose information will be reported on the FAFSA or
if the student has been legally adopted by the stepparent. THERE
ARE NO EXCEPTIONS. The federal need analysis system does not
recognize prenuptial agreements. If the natural parent has died and
the stepparent survives, then the student is independent (assuming
the student is not dependent on the surviving natural parent), unless
the stepparent legally adopted or is the legal guardian of the student.
Note that the stepparent's income information for the entire base
year, 1995, must be reported even if the parent and stepparent were
not married until after 1995.
In cases of death, separation, or divorce, a student must answer
parental questions on the FAFSA as they apply to the surviving or
DEATH OF PARENT. If one, but not both, of the student's parents
has died, the student will answer the parental questions on the basis
of the surviving parent and will not report any financial information
for the deceased parent on the FAFSA. If both the student's parents
are dead when the student fills out the FAFSA, the student must
answer "yes" to Question 44, making the student independent. If the
last surviving parent dies after the FAFSA has been filed, the student
must use the STUDENT AID REPORT (SAR) to update his or her
dependency status and all other information as appropriate.
DIVORCE OF PARENTS. If the student's parents are divorced
or separated, the student should report the information of only one
parent, the parent that he or she lived with the most during the past
year. IT DOES NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHO CLAIMS THE
STUDENT AS AN EXEMPTION FOR TAX PURPOSES. If the
student did not live with either parent or lived equally with each
parent, then the parental information must be provided for the parent
from whom the student received the most financial support or the
parent from whom the student received the most support the last time
support was given.
SEPARATION OF PARENTS. If a separation has occurred, the
same rules as for a divorce should be used to determine which
parent's information must be reported. The separation need not be
a legal separation--the student's parents may consider themselves
separated when one of the parents has left the household for an
indefinite period of time and no longer makes a substantial
contribution to the finances of the household. However, if the parents
still live in the same house, they would not be considered separated,
and information for both parents must be reported.
COMMON-LAW MARRIAGE. If the student's parents are living
together and have not been formally married but meet the criteria in
their state for a common-law marriage, they should report their status
as married on the application. If the state does not consider the
situation to be a common-law marriage, then the parents should file
the FAFSA as if they are separated. Check with the appropriate state
agency concerning the definition of a common-law marriage.