Part: 3 - - Completing The FAFSA
SectionTitle: Section C "Student Status"
Section C "Student Status"
Purpose: The questions in Section C 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. An FAA 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 C.
Independent Student Definition
Questions 38-43 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, 1975;
- 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 1998-99;
- 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.
A student who answers "yes" to question 40 (Will you be enrolled in a raduate or professional program...?) is not eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. If a student incorrectly reports "yes" to question 40, he or she must submit a correction to be eligible for a Pell Grant.
The instructions explain each criterion in greater detail. The student should read them carefully, because they define some of the terms used, such as "veteran," "legally married," "orphan," and "legal dependent." The student should note in particular that the definition of veteran includes a student who attended one of the service academies and was released under a condition other than dishonorable. A student answering "yes" to any question in Section C will be classified as an independent student, even if the student is still living with his or her parents.
After Section C, the form asks for parental information and student/spouse information separately. An independent student is not required to provide any parental information.
A dependent student provides information about himself or herself in the white areas and about his or her parents in the blue areas. The dependent student and at least one 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 FAFSA.
Definition of "Parent"
The term "parent" is not restricted to a student's biological parents. There are several instances in which a person other than a student's biological 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 biological parents.
Foster Parent-is not treated as a student's parent.
Legal Guardian-is treated in the same manner as a biological parent, if the court has appointed him or her and if the court has directed him or her to use his or her financial resources to support the student. This legal relationship must continue beyond June 30, 1999. The income and assets of the guardian's spouse would not be reported unless the court directed that those resources be used to support the student. Even if the spouse's income is not reported, the spouse is still included in the applicant's household size.
If a student is living with his or her grandparents or other relatives, 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 should not be reported on the FAFSA. A student should see the FAFSA instructions for more information.
Stepparent-is treated in the same manner as a biological parent if the stepparent is married, as of the date of application, to a student's biological 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 biological parent has died and the stepparent survives, then the student is independent (assuming the student is not dependent on the surviving biological 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, 1997, must be reported even if the parent and stepparent were not married until after 1997.
In cases of death, separation, or divorce, a student must answer parental questions on the FAFSA as they apply to the surviving or responsible parent.
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 42, making the student independent. If the last surviving parent dies after the FAFSA has been filed, the student must use the 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. 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.