Federal financial aid programs are based on the idea that parents have the primary responsibility for paying for their children’s education.
The terms “dependent” and “independent” have specific definitions as used for federal financial aid. For the 2018-2019 academic school year, you are automatically considered an independent student if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You were born before January 1, 1995. (You are at least 24 years old.)
- You are married.
- You are working on a master’s or doctorate program (already have a bachelor’s degree).
- You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces or will be by June 30, 2019. A veteran is one who has engaged in active duty for purposes other than training or was a cadet or midshipman at one of the service academies and released under a condition other than dishonorable.
- You have legal dependents other than a spouse. Legal dependents are those who live with you, get more than half their support from you, and will continue to do so during the academic year. Also, your children who do not live with you can be legal dependents if you provide more than half their support. NOTE: If you know you will have a legal dependent (other than a spouse) during the academic year but not until after you apply for aid, you may include that person as a dependent. For example, if you or your spouse are pregnant and the child will be born by June 30, 2019, you may count that unborn child as your dependent.
- At any time since age 13, both of your parents were deceased, you were in foster care or you were a dependent or ward of the court.
- You are/were an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence.
- You are/were in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence.
- At any time on or after July 1, 2017, your high school or school district homeless liaison determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless.
- At any time on or after July 1, 2017, the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined 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, 2017, the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.
If you do not fit any of the above categories, you are classified as a dependent student. If you classify yourself as an independent student, Southeast Arkansas College is authorized to ask for proof of independent status before awarding your federal financial aid.
If you feel you have unusual circumstances that qualify you as an independent student, even though you do not fit any of these categories, talk to a Southeast Arkansas College Financial Aid Officer. You can be classified as an independent student if the Financial Aid Officer feels that your circumstances warrant the change. However, the Officer will not do this automatically; you must request it and be able to supply official documentation supporting your request. Also, the decision is based on the Officer’s professional judgment and is final – you cannot appeal it to the U.S. Department of Education. Unusual circumstances include an abusive family environment or abandonment by parents. The circumstances must be documented by a third party that knows of the student’s situation, such as a teacher or member of the clergy.