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As you probably know by now, if you wish to apply for federal student loans or need-based federal and state aid, you must complete a FAFSA.

Federal regulations require certain students to provide their parent's financial data and signatures on the FAFSA form.

Independent Student Status

Independent students do not have to include their parent's financial information on their FAFSA. Unsure of whether you qualify as independent? Review the FAFSA Dependency Status Checklist below.

Note: All programs offered by AACC are considered undergraduate programs, including AACC Physician Assistant certificate program. No AACC student can achieve independent status based on the pursuit of a graduate/professional degree program (M.S., Ph.D. etc.). 

Dependent Student Status

If the FAFSA Dependency Status Checklist below indicates that you must provide parent data, then you must provide parent data unless you are able to document unusual family circumstances. FAFSA regulations never require parents to help pay for education, but they often insist on considering their financial resources when evaluating your financial need. If you were most recently supported by legal guardians, relatives or friends, you cannot list their data on your FAFSA.

Note: We can't make students independent simply because their parents can't afford to help. The standard financial need formula already evaluates each family's financial resources and determines the family's ability to contribute toward the student's educational expenses. If the financial resources are low enough, the student will show high financial need. We also can't make students independent simply because their parents stop claiming them as tax exemptions or choose not to help pay for college. 

Unusual Family Circumstances

If you have unusual family circumstances that weren't already listed on the checklist, you can appeal to our office for Independent Status. Unusual family circumstances include but are not limited to:

  • A guardian has cared for you because your parents were unable to provide proper care, but your guardian was never declared a "legal guardian" by the court
  • Your parents were physically or emotionally abusive toward you or your siblings
  • Your parents have substance abuse or other serious mental health problems

If you have other circumstances that you think might qualify, discuss them with us.

Dependency Status Checklist

Specific rules govern whether you are considered independent for the purposes of student financial aid. At least one of the following conditions must apply:

  • You are at least 24 years old by Dec. 31 of the award year.
  • You were married when the FAFSA was submitted.
  • You are or will be enrolled in a master's or doctoral program (beyond a bachelor's degree) during the award year.
  • You have at least one child who receives more than half of their support from you and will continue to receive more than half of their support from you.
  • You have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you and will continue to receive more than half of their support from you for the award year.
  • You are an orphan or Ward of the Court (or were a Ward of the Court until age 18).
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. (Veteran includes students who attended a U.S. service academy and were released under a condition other than dishonorable).
  • You have engaged in active duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • You are a National Guard or Reserve Enlistee who was called to active duty service for purposes other than training.
  • At any time since you turned age 13, both parents were deceased.
  • At any time since you turned age 13, you were in foster care.
  • At any time since you turned age 13, you were a dependent or ward of the court.
  • You are or were an emancipated minor as determined by your state of legal residence.
  • You are or were in legal guardianship as determined by your state of legal residence.
  • You are or were homeless, or at risk of homelessness, as determined by the director of a HUD-approved homeless shelter, transitional program or high school liaison.

Definition of Parent

For Federal Student Aid (FSA) purposes, a parent includes a biological or adoptive parent, or someone married to a biological or adoptive parent.

The following may NOT be considered as "parents:"    

  • Legal guardians
  • Foster parents
  • Grandparents
  • Other relatives

For information visit the USDOE Federal Student Aid page on Dependency Status.

Dependency Appeals

If you think you might be eligible to appeal for independent status, contact our office to discuss your situation. If we think you might qualify for an override, we will ask you to submit a Dependency Appeal form. Our policies and federal student privacy laws (FERPA) ensure that all your information will be kept strictly confidential. We will NOT contact your parents or share any information with them.

How does Dependency Status Affect the Financial Need Formulas?

Do not automatically assume that dependent students receive less aid. If your parents have high income or assets, you may show less financial need because of their resources, but some students show less financial need as independent students because the formula stops considering the cost of supporting your parents in the family household. If you have any questions about dependency status, please contact us.