Changes in FAFSA could save some money

There were some significant changes in the FAFSA with regards to dependent/independent status of students. This is very important considering independent students are often eligible for much more financial aid than dependent students.

Previously, the FAFSA had a very hard 7 question test to determine whether or not the student was a dependent or independent student.

  • Is the student older than 23?
  • Is the student working on a graduate level degree?
  • Is the student married?
  • Does the student have children that they support more than 50%?
  • Does the student have other dependents living with them?
  • Are the student's parents deceased, or is the student a ward of the court?
  • And finally, is the student a veteran?
The questions were virtually impossible to get around. Although the student may have been a position of recieving no support from their parents, they could not be an independent student unless they could answer "yes" to one of the above questions.

Now let's look at the new set of qualifying questions FAFSA is using for 2009...

  1. Are you older than 23?
  2. Are you married?
  3. Are you working on a graduate level degree?
  4. Are you currently serving in the US Armed Forces other than training?
  5. Are you a veteran?
  6. Do you have children you support more than 50%?
  7. Do you have other dependents you support more than 50%?
  8. At any time since you were 13 regardless of present condition... are your parents deceased, or in foster care, or a ward of the court?
  9. Are you or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court?
  10. Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court?
  11. At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did your high school or district determine you to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  12. At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did the director of an emergency shelter or federally funded transitional housing program determine you were a unaccompanied, homeless youth?
  13. At any time on or after July 1,2008, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth center you to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting at risk of being homeless?

If the student can now answer "yes" to any of the above questions, they are considered independent and typically eligible for much more financial aid.

The question that is likely to get a lot of attention from many parents is #9 -- Are you an emancipated minor as determined by a court. Over the years, I have had a number of people ask me if it would make any difference if their student was declared emancipated. Previously, the FAFSA had no means of indicating emancipation. Obviously, that has changed. This could mean the potential of thousands of students seeking emancipation.

My concern is what are the hidden ramifications of emancipating a minor. I asked Attorney Elizabeth Cervantes for an opinion. Here is a summary or her comments...

Emancipation in some states is not a cut and dry process. Some states have a defined process, others are vague.

Courts most often will require the minor to show they can support themselves.

Courts typically want to keep the family intact.

Eligibility for additional financial aid may not be a sufficient reason for the court to grant emancipation.


If you are going to investigate emancipation, I highly encourage you to seek professional, legal advice early in the process. You can contact Elizabeth Cervantes at the law firm of Katz, Huntoon & Fieweger in Moline, Illinois at the following email address -- ecervantes@katzlawfirm.com