Some Students Submitting FAFSAs Without Parents

Compiled By Staff
November 23, 2009

Students whose parents are unable to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid may, under certain circumstances, be able to submit the form by themselves this year.

The Denver Post in Colorado reports that prior to this year, only students considered to be "independent" were permitted to submit the FAFSA without including information about their parents' financial status. According to federal guidelines, independent students must be at least 24 years old or meet other requirements, such as being married or having legal dependents.

But now students who are in unusual circumstances can apply for an override through their school without supplying information about their parents on the form. The FAFSA Web site includes examples of such special circumstances--which it refers to as "very limited"--including if one's parents are incarcerated, abusive or missing. Parents who refuse to contribute to college expenses are not considered an unusual circumstance. Students who believe they meet the criteria for extenuating circumstances must contact their schools' financial aid office and provide proof of status in order to determine if they are eligible to submit the FAFSA without parental data.

The Denver Post notes, however, that according to Colorado State University financial aid director Sandy Calhoun, universities generally discourage submitting the FAFSA without parental data because less aid may be offered as a result. One CSU student has so far been approved under the new eligibility requirements, while two have been approved at the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Other students are likely to benefit from the policy change as well. The Black & Magenta, the student publication at Muskingum University in Ohio, reports that Jeremy VanMeter recently returned to school after being granted an override to submit the FAFSA without his parents' information. In previous years, he was told that he could only do so by registering as an "independent," but since he was not at least 24 years old, a veteran or married, he didn't qualify, and was forced to drop out of school. This semester, the unique circumstances regarding his relationship with his parents allowed him to receive the dependency override.

VanMeter told the Black & Magenta that his situation is not unique. "There are thousands, probably tens of thousands more who have a similar story as mine," he said.

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