A Student’s Guide to Financial Aid: Criteria necessary to determine status

By Bonnie H. Chuen

Applying for financial aid can be confusing, especially when it comes to determining the status under which a student applies.

Applying as an independent student does not necessarily mean that a student will receive more financial aid.

There are slight differences between an independent student and a dependent student. Being an independent student means that “you receive direct benefits of your education, therefore all of the resources that you own or have go toward the cost of your education,” said Adeline Cardenas-Clague, dean of enrollment services.

Because of this, it is “not always a benefit to be independent,” said Cardenas-Clague.

In order to apply as an independent student, Section D in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students must meet one of the six criteria listed. They must have been born before Jan. 4, 1974, a veteran of the armed forces, enrolled in a graduate or professional program in 1997-1998, married, an orphan or ward of the court until age 18, or have other legal dependents.

According to Cardenas-Clague there are assumptions implied by the federal government.

For a dependent student, his or her parents get an indirect benefit from the student’s education, so the federal government gives more money to dependent students because their parents have other obligations. This holds true whether or not the parents contribute to the education. The philosophy is that parents still have a primary obligation to their children’s education.

The number of independent students is on the rise. According to Cardenas-Clague, the average age of students attending community colleges is 28. Many of those will transfer to four-year schools, raising the percentage of older students in these schools.

Student applying for graduate schools should also be aware of the fact that once you graduate from a four year university, the dependent status no longer applies. Once a person is pursuing a graduate degree, that person is then considered an independent student. Graduate students are also not illegible for grants. Instead, the only financial aid they will receive are loans.

Senior David Randall said it is both an benefit and detriment to filing as an independent student.

“On the student loans, I get unsubsidized loans, but on the other hand, I get more financial aid because they only consider what I make,” he said.

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