Independent Student Qualifications

Federal law and regulations state that a student is automatically considered self-supporting for financial aid purposes if the student is

  1. at least 24 years old before January 1st of the academic year

  2. an orphan, ward of the court, unaccompanied homeless youth, emancipated minor (before the age 18) or has a legal guardian other than a parent

  3. married

  4. has children or dependents other than a spouse (who receive more than half of their support from you)

  5. is a veteran of active duty military service or is currently on active duty (including enrollment in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, or Naval Academies)

Federal law also gives the Financial Aid Administrator the authority to make decisions, using professional judgment, outside of federal law or regulations, based on special circumstances. Regarding self-supporting status, situations in which such a decision would be appropriate include the following examples:

  • If a student were abandoned by his or her parents and was living with another relative, such as a grandparent or a third party.

  • If the student had been in an abusive family situation and was living with a third party, supporting documentation would be required.


A family’s unwillingness or inability to provide financial support for the student’s education is not considered a sufficient reason for the student to be classified as self-supporting.

Students who have high living expenses, such as single parents or married couples, should carefully evaluate their resources to avoid very high borrowing to cover these expenses.