Filing as an Independent vs. Dependent

A student is independent if they meet any one of the following criteria from HEA Sec. 480(d):

  • Is at least 24 years old.

  • Is married as of the date they apply.

  • Will be a graduate or professional student at the start of the award year.

  • Is currently serving on active duty for purposes other than training.

  • Is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

  • Has dependents other than a spouse.

  • Was an orphan, foster child or ward/dependent of the court at any time since the age of 13.

  • Is an emancipated minor.

  • Is in legal guardianship or was determined at any time since July 1, 2008, to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or was self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.

More About Dependents

If you are the student applying and you have a child and one or both of your parents are directly or indirectly providing more than 50% support in cash or other assistance to the child/grandchild, then you would answer “no” to the FAFSA question about legal dependents. “Indirect support” to the child includes support that a parent gives to you on behalf of your child. If you are living with a parent who is paying for most of the household expenses, your parent would usually be considered the primary source of support to your child, and you would answer “no” to the question about legal dependents.

Need to change your status? Only in extreme circumstances does the school have the authority to change your status. The Higher Education Act allows a financial aid administrator (FAA) to make dependency overrides on a case-by-case basis for stu­dents with unusual circumstances.

However, none of the conditions listed below, singly or in combination, qualify as unusual circumstances meriting a depen­dency override: parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education; parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification; parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes; or the student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

If you have questions about changing your dependency status, you can reach our office at (225) 526-1714 to discuss your family circumstances with a counselor. Should you have a valid case for a dependency override, your counselor will give you all appropriate forms to complete the process.

Note: It has no bearing on being able to be considered as “independent” whether or not your parents claimed you on their tax return. The Higher Education Act of 1992 established requirements for establishing independence. More information can be found on the FAFSA website Dependency Status page.

Selecting the Correct Marital Status

When completing the FAFSA, you’ll be asked to indicate your marital status. You must indicate your marital status as of the date you are completing the FAFSA. You cannot update your marital status once you have filed your FAFSA.

Understanding Loan Deferment, Forbearance and Discharge Deferment

A deferment is a period of time during which no payments are required, and interest does not accrue (accumulate) unless you have an unsubsidized direct loan. The most common loan deferment conditions are enrollment in school at least half time, inability to find full-time employment (for up to three years) and economic hardship (for up to three years).


If you temporarily can’t meet your repayment schedule, but you’re not eligible for a deferment, your lender might grant you forbearance for a limited and specific period of time.

Forbearance occurs when your lender or loan-servicing agency agrees to either temporarily reduce or postpone your student loan payments. Interest continues to accrue (accumulate), however, and you are responsible for paying it, no matter what kind of loan you have.

There are certain mandatory forbearances. Examples include borrowers who:

  • Are in a medical or dental internship or residency;

  • Have student loan payments that are 20 percent or more of their monthly income;

  • Have payments being made for them by the Department of Defense.

Contact your lender or loan-servicing agent for more information on the mandatory forbearance benefit.


Loan discharge refers to the cancellation of a loan, even one in default, due to school closure, false certification, your death or total and permanent disability.

Cancellation or sometimes “forgiveness” of a loan is based on the borrower performing certain types of service, such as teaching in a low-income school. A defaulted loan cannot be canceled based on qualifying service (e.g., teaching).

Loan Consolidation

Student and parent borrowers can consolidate (combine) multiple federal student loans with various repayment schedules into one loan: either an FFEL Consolidation Loan or a Direct Consolidation Loan. The result is a single monthly payment instead of multiple monthly payments.

However, there could be downsides to loan consolidation. For example, consolidation may significantly increase the total cost of repaying your loans; because you may have a longer period of time to repay, you’ll pay more interest. You might also lose some borrower benefits such as interest discounts and rebates. Always talk to a financial aid professional for advice when deciding whether or not to consolidate.

Default of a Loan

Defaulting on a loan is the failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to when you signed a promissory note. The consequences of default are severe. If you return to school, you’re not entitled to receive any additional federal student financial aid.