Category Archives: Dependency Status

Resources for Students Experiencing Homelessness & Other Special Circumstances

Going to college is a great step in the right direction for financial self-sufficiency, but it can be a tough path if you’re a homeless student or have a special circumstance. According to Federal Student Aid, a homeless student is someone who lacks “fixed, regular and adequate housing.” This may be anyone who is sleeping on a teacher’s couch or staying with a different friend each night. Your situation doesn’t have to stop you from pursuing your dreams, however. Applying for financial aid to help pay college expenses should be one of the first things you do. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the form that students and their families must complete annually to apply for federal and some state financial assistance for college. When completing the FAFSA, you will be asked a series of questions to determine if you will or will not have to provide parental information. Students who qualify as homeless will not have to report their parent’s data, but will need to contact their college’s financial aid office with documentation of their living arrangements. Talk with your high school counselor about your situation. Counselors can work with a campus homeless student liaison to provide the appropriate documentation.

Other students who are not homeless, but are also unable to provide parental information, will need to indicate they have a special circumstance on their FAFSA. This step will allow those students to skip the parent demographic portion of the application and proceed to the student section. A special circumstance may include escaping an abusive home environment, inability to contact parents, incarcerated parents, or parents who refuse to provide their information. When students indicate they have a special circumstance, they may only be eligible to receive unsubsidized student loans. An unsubsidized student loan is one that accrues interest while the student is in school. Once repayment begins, the student will repay the principal and the interest that has accumulated. In contrast, the interest on a subsidized student loan is paid by the government while the student is in school at least half-time. Students are encouraged to contact their campus financial aid office to explain their situation. The financial aid office will notify you if additional information is required.

As you move to the next level of education, there are resources available to help you succeed in college. Below are a few programs that may be helpful to you.

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY): This program connects students with resources that will help them be successful throughout every year of school. Learn more about the program at NAEHCY.org.

National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE): NCHE offers an educational helpline for students experiencing homelessness. See how their helpline can guide you at NCHE.ed.gov.

Local Family and Youth Services offices: Family and Youth Services agencies provide living arrangement resources for homeless students. Find your local Family and Youth Service office at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/fysb.

Campus resources: Many college campuses have resources to help students’ access year-round housing, food banks and academic support groups. Check with the Office of Resident Life on your campus to discover available resources.

Call 2-1-1: This hotline helps students locate assistance with shelters and food and other support groups.

FAFSA Homelessness Status

Are there any special instructions for homeless students who are filling out the FAFSA?

While completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you may be asked three different questions about homelessness.

At any time on or after July 1 [in the year prior to the academic year covered by this FAFSA], did an official* determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

*This determination can be given by:

  • A high school or school district homeless liaison,
  • A director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or
  • A director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.

As always, you should contact the financial aid office at your school(s) of interest if you need help answering any of these questions. If you answer yes to any one of the ‘homelessness’ questions, you’ll be considered an independent student and will not be required to provide your parents’ income and tax information on your FAFSA. Later on, though, you may be asked by a financial aid administrator to provide a copy of the homeless youth determination. If you did not receive a determination provided by one of the officials listed above, you’ll be considered a dependent student on the FAFSA, but you may ask a financial aid administrator to consider making their own determination. The administrator will probably ask you for additional documentation before reaching a decision.

A student is considered unaccompanied if he or she is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. A student is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular, and adequate housing. This includes students who are living in shelters, motels, cars, or parks, or who are temporarily living with other people because they have nowhere else to go. Students are also considered homeless if they are fleeing an abusive parent who would otherwise provide the student with financial support and a place to live.

Which street address should a homeless student provide on their FAFSA? According to the U.S. Department of Education, “You must provide a mailing address where you can reliably receive mail. Your mailing address can be the address of a relative or friend who has given you permission to use it, or it can be your college’s address. If you want to use your college’s address, you must contact the school for permission and instructions to ensure that your mail reaches you.” Don’t forget to update your FAFSA later when you find more permanent housing.

For more information and a list of additional resources for homeless students, read Questions and Answers: Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth from StudentAid.gov.

Homeless Students and the 2018-19 FAFSA

Are you in a situation that has made you become homeless or at risk of being homeless? The U.S. Department of Education has provided a way to help students in these difficult situations.

In order to determine your dependency status on the 2018-19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will have to answer three questions related to homelessness. The first question is: “At any time on or after July 1, 2017, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?” The next two questions related to this subject are similar, but they ask if the determination came from a director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.

According to FAFSA guidelines, homeless means lacking fixed, regular and adequate housing. Also, if you are living in this situation and fleeing an abusive parent you may still be considered homeless even if your parent would otherwise provide a place to live. “Unaccompanied” means you’re not living in the physical custody of your parent or guardian.

Answering Yes to one of these questions can give you an independent status on your FAFSA, meaning you wouldn’t have to report your parent’s income information when applying for financial aid for college. If you do answer yes, be prepared to provide a copy of the determination that was made by one of the three people listed above in case the financial aid office at your college should ask you for one. If you haven’t been previously determined to be homeless or at risk of being homeless but believe you meet the qualifications, you should answer “No” and contact the financial aid office at the college, university or career technology center you plan to attend to explain your situation. The financial aid administrator will make a determination and advise you on how to proceed.

Contact your financial aid office if you have questions about homelessness or any other special circumstance that you believe justifies changing your status from dependent to an independent student.

DO I QUALIFY FOR FINANCIAL AID IF I’M HOMELESS?

Yes! If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, you can qualify for financial aid and should complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

A student is considered homeless if he or she lacks fixed, regular and adequate housing. This includes students living in shelters, motels, cars or parks, or who are temporarily living with other people because they have nowhere else to go. Students are also considered homeless if they are fleeing an abusive parent. (Students who are 22 and 23 years old who are unaccompanied and homeless or self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless qualify for a financial aid dependency override.) Homeless youth determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.

While completing the FAFSA, you will answer questions about your income, assets and personal demographics. One of those questions is, “At any time on or after July 1, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison, (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or (c) the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program?” If you already have a determination and answer “yes,” you will be able to submit the FAFSA without including your parents’ information. Your school might request documentation of the determination.

If you haven’t been previously determined to be homeless or at risk of being homeless but believe you meet the qualifications, you should answer “No” and contact the financial aid office at the college, university or career technology center you plan to attend to explain your situation. The financial aid administrator will make a determination and advise you on how to proceed.

Visit the links provided below for more information. If you have further questions or wish to speak to someone about your personal status, contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend or visit with your high school counselor.

Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth FAQs
Oklahoma School District Homeless Liaison Directory
McKinney-Vento Homeless Education FAQs
FAFSA Dependency Status Questionnaire for 2017-18

How to Finish the FAFSA, Step 2: Create an FSA ID

FAFSA Step 2If you’ve completed the first of the five (fairly fast) FAFSA steps and have gathered materials  needed to complete the FAFSA, then you are ready to complete step 2 and create an FSA ID.

“FSA ID” is just a fancy acronym for a username and password. To create an FSA ID, visit fsaid.ed.gov and follow the prompts onscreen. Parents of dependent students will need an FSA ID of their own for the FAFSA, too.

Once you have an FSA ID, save it somewhere safe! You will need your FSA ID to sign the FAFSA online and to access information about other financial aid programs as well.

How to Finish the FAFSA, Step 1: Gather Materials

FAFSA Step 1Did you know that you can finish the FAFSA in five (fairly fast) steps? It’s true, and the 2017-18 FAFSA will be available Oct. 1! So now would be a great time to complete the first step by gathering materials. In order to complete the FAFSA, students (and in many cases their parents) will need the following information and items:

  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • W2 forms and tax returns specified on the FAFSA
  • Current bank statements
  • Dependency status

Not sure about your dependency status? Our handy dependency questionnaire will help you determine your status.

Remember to keep all of information you’ve gathered in a safe place until you’re ready to complete the FAFSA. If you complete your FAFSA in a public area, keep your documents hidden and safe to prevent identity theft.  Be sure to clear the browser on any public computer when you’re done to ensure no one is able to electronically access your information.

 

Updated FAFSA Tools Available!

We’ve been busy updating our FAFSA tools to help make the financial aid process as simple as possible for you and your family. Check out our updated tools in the resources section. Updates include:

Finish the FAFSA in 5 Steps breaks the FAFSA process into five simple steps and includes information about the materials needed to complete the form, tools available through online submission and more. It also provides information about additional financial aid resources.

FAFSA Facts offers students and parents must-know facts about the FAFSA including useful terms, when to apply and how to get the most assistance throughout the process.

Dependency Questionnaire lists the questions used to determine your dependency status on the FAFSA. If you answer “Yes” to any one of these questions, you’ll be considered an independent student and will not need to include your parents’ information on the FAFSA.

FAFSA Parent Flyer provides parents with helpful information about FAFSA completion.

Are You Looking for Money? provides helpful information about ways to pay for college including scholarships, grants, work-study and low-cost federal loans.

Who is My Parent on the FAFSA?

Financial aid eligibility can vary depending on whether you’re considered a dependent or independent student. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires dependent students to show their parent’s information on the form. Independent students are not required to include it. What if your parents are divorced or separated? What if you live with your grandmother? Whose information should be included?

The Department of Education provides these guidelines to explain who should be counted as a parent. Unless otherwise noted, “parent” means the legal (biological and/or adoptive) parent or stepparent. The rules below apply to legal parents regardless of gender.

    • If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
    • If your parents are living together and are not married, answer the questions about both of them.
    • If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
    • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent.
    • If your parents are divorced but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Unmarried and both parents living together,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
    • If your parents are separated but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Married or remarried,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
    • If you have a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting, you must provide information about that stepparent as well.
    • The following people are not your parents unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

If you’re still unsure, contact the Federal Student Aid Center at 1.800.4.FED.AID, 1.800-433-3243.

What’s New With You?

As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to start thinking about status changes that could affect your eligibility for financial aid when you renew your FAFSA for the 2016-17 school year.

  • How old are you? If you were a dependent student this year but you were born before January 1, 1993, you’ll be considered an independent student on your next FAFSA. That means you’ll only need to include your own income (and your spouse’s, if you’re married) on the application. You’ll no longer have to report your parents’ income.
  • Has your marital status changed?  If you married or divorced this year, your financial aid eligibility could be affected next year. Dependent students may also be affected if their parents’ marital status changed in 2015. Be sure to discuss this with a financial aid officer at your college.
  • Do you have a dependent child on the way? If so, you may be able to include your future “mini-me” in your household size, which might increase the amount of Pell grant and other need-based aid you’re eligible to receive. In order to include a new dependent on your FAFSA next year, he or she must live with you and receive more than half of his or her support from you through June 30, 2017.

There are many factors that can change your eligibility for federal and state financial aid from year to year. For more details, talk to someone in your financial aid office, or visit studentaid.ed.gov.

Attention Parents: Your High School Senior Needs You!

As the parent of a high school senior, you know your child will soon learn what it means to lead an independent life. However, when it comes to completing the FAFSA, unless they answer “yes” to any of the questions regarding student dependency, they’re probably considered “dependent” on your finances (though special circumstances may apply).

We understand the reservations you may have about providing sensitive information on the FAFSA; especially when submitting it electronically. However, refusing to complete your part of the FAFSA for your dependent student could prevent your senior from getting financial aid to help pay for college.

Keep in mind that electronic completion of the FAFSA can save you time and help prevent errors. And, FAFSA.gov goes to great lengths to secure your information. But, if you are uncomfortable with submitting your personal information online, you do have the option to mail a paper copy of the form. However you choose to submit the FAFSA, be sure to do so as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to help maximize your child’s potential sources of financial aid.

To learn more about your filing options, visit fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.