The Federal Student Aid Programs are based on the concept that the student and parent(s) are primarily responsible for meeting a student's educational expenses. The U.S. Department of Education generally defines unmarried undergraduate students under the age of 24 as dependent. For such students, aid eligibility is determined by reporting their parents' income and assets, as well as their own, on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If, however, you are unable to provide either of your parents' information on the FAFSA due to unusual circumstances, you may request consideration of a dependency override from NDSU Financial Aid and Scholarships.
Dependent or Independent?
It's important to understand what makes a student dependent or independent for federal aid purposes. According to the Department of Education, an independent student must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- 24 years of age or older
- Enrolled in a master's or doctorate program
- A veteran or active duty member of the armed forces
- An orphan or ward of the court
- Supporting at least one legal dependent other than a spouse
- An emancipated minor, ward of the court, in foster care or under legal guardianship of someone other than a parent prior to age 18
- Homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
That's a fairly broad definition that covers multiple unique scenarios. For a list of the specific questions used to determine a student's dependency status, refer to Step Three at https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2023-24-fafsa.pdf.
What is a Dependency Override?
A dependency override occurs when a financial aid counselor exercises professional judgment to override the standard dependency criteria based on extenuating family circumstances. An override may only be granted on a case-by-case basis for students who show compelling reason for excluding parental information, and must be backed up with documentation to demonstrate the dissolution of any student/parent relationship.
NDSU Financial Aid and Scholarships is not bound by a dependency override that was approved at another college or university. Federal law requires the financial aid office at the college the student plans to attend or is currently attending to determine whether a dependency override is approved.
Dependency overrides that are approved by NDSU do not automatically carry over from one year to the next. NDSU Financial Aid and Scholarships must reaffirm each year that the unusual circumstances persist and that dependency override is still valid. Students are required to submit an appeal for a dependency override along with year specific documentation each year for reevaluation of their dependency status.
What circumstances may warrant a Dependency Override?
The following are some examples that may warrant a dependency override if the student is able to provide the required documentation. This list is not all-inclusive and the presence of one or more of these situations does not guarantee the approval of a dependency override.
- Abandonment – parents voluntarily left the student or were absent in the student’s life for an extended period of time.
- Unsafe living environment as a result of physical, emotional, sexual or substance abuse by a parent.
- Parental incarceration
- Parental mental incapacity/institutionalization
- Death of custodial parent and no contact with other biological/legal parent.
- Parents do not reside in the U.S. and cannot be contacted because of political policy, war or civil unrest
- Parents disowned or ended contact/support because of conflicting beliefs or practices related to race, religion, education, health, gender, sexual orientation, cultural expectations, etc.
A student's dependency status is not based on their ability to demonstrate self-sufficiency, nor is it based on their parents' inability or unwillingness to assist them financially. By federal law, the following circumstances DO NOT warrant a dependency override, individually or in combination:
- Parent(s) do not claim you as a dependent for income tax purposes;
- Parent(s) file late or do not file federal income taxes even though they are legally required to;
- Parent(s) are financially unable or unwilling to contribute to your education;
- Parent(s) refuse to provide their information on the FAFSA, or if needed to complete the Verification process;
- You’re unwilling to ask your parent(s) to complete the FAFSA;
- You’re completely self-sufficient (have a job, pay your own bills, etc.).
I have a relationship with my parents, but they won’t complete the FAFSA?
We recommend having a candid conversation with your parents to ensure they’re well-informed about the impact their decision will have on your future. Here are a few noteworthy items to tell them:
- Providing their information on the FAFSA does not obligate your parent(s) to pay for college. However, their refusal to provide their information will exclude you from all types of need-based federal and state aid, which could result in your not being able to attend college at all.
- If privacy is a concern, be assured that income and other personal information is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Schools will not disclose parent information to anyone, and if they use the IRS data retrieval process when completing the FAFSA, the figures will not be visible; it's simply transferred to the FAFSA from the IRS.
- If your parents choose to help you with your educational costs, they may be eligible for a credit that allows them to reduce their taxes after paying for tuition, fees, books and housing/meal plan.
If your parents refuse to complete the FAFSA, did not claim you on their most recent federal income tax return, do not and will not provide any financial support (including insurance coverage) for you through June 30th, a FAFSA Override may be an option. A FAFSA Override is different than a Dependency Override. With a FAFSA Override, your dependency status remains unchanged, but you can be awarded the maximum amount in the Unsubsidized Direct Loan for your grade level ($5500 for freshman, $6500 for a sophomore, and $7500 for a junior or senior). While the FAFSA Override option allows you to submit the FAFSA without parental information, the maximum Unsubsidized Direct Loan funds may not be enough to cover all of your educational costs. If you would like more information about a FAFSA Override, contact Kristie at 701-231-8061 or Kristie.Myers@ndsu.edu.
How and when do I request a Dependency Override?
First, submit your FAFSA without your parent's information. Then you may initiate the request for a dependency override by clicking on the appropriate link below and logging in with your NDSU credentials. Answer all questions and attach the required documentation to successfully submit the form. Appeals submitted without supporting documentation will be denied. The availability of the dependency override form and the submission deadlines are as follows:
Forms for the 2022-23 and the 2023-24 academic year are currently available:
Dependency Override Form: Initial Request
(requires NDUS login credentials)
Dependency Override Form: Renewal Request
(requires NDUS login credentials)