Friday, February 1, 2013

Paying for College: Parental Income

Federal student aid programs operate on the basic principle that funding education is primarily the responsibility of the student and the student's family. Those who are supported by their parents are considered dependent students and must include information regarding parental income when filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

An assessment of family income is then used to determine how much the student's family is expected to contribute. Even in cases where parents are unwilling to pay tuition or other college expenses, financial aid eligibility is determined by the expected family contribution.

Independent students are not required to include parental income on their FAFSA. Parental income will not be considered when determining the financial aid eligibility of independent students. In order to be considered independent for the 2012-13 school year, students must meet at least ONE of the following federally determined criteria.

  • Born before 1989 (24 years old) 
  • Married (includes separated, but not divorced) 
  • Working on a master's or doctorate degree program 
  • U.S. Military Veteran 
  • Have at least one child who receives more than half their support from the student 
  • Have at least one dependent other than a spouse or child who receives more than half their support from the student. 
  • Parents are deceased 
  • Student was in foster care any time after age 13 
  • Student was a ward of the court at any time after age 13 
  • Court declared the student an emancipated minor 
  • Court declared that the student is in a legal guardianship 
  • Student has been declared an unaccompanied homeless youth at any time after July 1, 2011 
  • Student has been declared self-supporting and at risk of being homeless 

Note: Parents are not required to pay the expected family contribution. Providing income information on the FAFSA does obligate parents to support the student in any way. If parents refuse to provide financial information, students may submit the FAFSA without it, however this will severely limit the student's ability to use financial aid funding to pay for college.