Am I Dependent or Independent?
Federal financial aid applicants are classified either Dependent or Independent for purposes of qualifying for federal assistance. This classification has little to do with any 'dictionary' definitions of these terms. Nor does it matter whether a student 'believes' (s)he is independent or that a parent desires his/her student to be independent. Instead, the determination is based on a fundamental principle of the federal aid programs, and that is...a student's parents have the primary responsibility to pay for their child's post secondary education, to the extent they can. Therefore, parental income and asset information must be entered on the FAFSA for most applicants. Why? To calculate the amount of money a student's parent(s) are expected to contribute toward his/her educational and living costs. Federal assistance is then offered by the University of Central Missouri to supplement the family's financial 'contribution'.
Under certain conditions, however, parents are not expected to provide financial support to the student. For the 2016-2017 award year, as an example, an applicant who can accurately answer yes to at least one of the questions in Section 2 of the FAFSA does not need to include any parental information. Following are some of these questions for 2016-2017:
- Were you born before January 1, 1993?
- Are you legally married on the day you complete your FAFSA? If you're single, divorced, widowed, or unmarried living with a partner, you must answer no. If you're separated (but not divorced), you should answer yes.
- At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as MA, MBA, JD, PhD, EdD)?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
- Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces? This means having engaged in active duty (other than basic training) in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. Or...will you be a veteran by June 30, 2016? If you're an ROTC student, in the National Guard or a Reserves enlistee (but have never been activated for duty), you must answer no to this question.
- Do you have now or will you have children who lives with you and receives more than half of his/her financial support from you between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017? If your parent actually supports your child, you must answer no.
- Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their
support from you, now and through June 30, 2017?
- At any time since you turned the age of 13:
As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?
At any time on or after July 1, 2015, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an
- were both of your parents deceased (and no adoptive parent is still living)?
- were you in foster care?
- were you a dependent or ward of the court?
unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
At any time on or after July 1, 2015, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was
homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?
At any time on or after July 1, 2015, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living
program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of
An answer of no to all the questions in Section 2 means you'll be classified a Dependent federal aid applicant. Parental income and asset information must be entered on your 2016/2017 FAFSA.
On the other hand...special or unusual family, personal, or economic circumstances sometimes exist that justify the reclassification of an otherwise Dependent financial aid applicant to the status of Independent. In such an instance, a student may request consideration for a Dependency Override by submitting documentation to the UCM Office of Student Financial Services. It's best to submit such an appeal before your FAFSA is filed, however, a Dependency Override request can also be submitted if you've already submitted your FAFSA.
2016-2017 Dependency Override Appeal
2015-2016 Dependency Override Appeal
Definition of a Parent