Dependency & Risk of Homelessness

Dependency & Risk of Homelessness


For financial aid, your status as dependent or independent is based on your answers to the dependency questions listed on the FAFSA  

You are automatically independent if you are: 

  • 24 years of age or older 
  • Considered an orphan 
  • A veteran 
  • Married 
  • A graduate student 
  • Or have dependents 

If you do not meet the criteria above, you may appeal to be treated as an independent student if there are special circumstances that make it difficult or impossible for you  to provide parent income information on the FAFSA. Those reasons include, but are not limited to: 

  • Circumstances that threaten your health or safety 
  • Abandonment by parents 
  • Custodial parent(s) is/are incarcerated 
  • Both parents are deceased (and/or non-custodial parent is estranged) 
  • You are in the legal custody of a family member or other adult 

Being self-sufficient or your parent’s refusal to financially contribute or provide income information are not sufficient reasons for appealing to be treated as an independent student for financial aid. Please contact us if your parent is refusing to provide their information on the FAFSA or if you would like to submit an appeal and have questions. 

All appeals are considered by the Dependency Appeals Committee within OSSA. 

To appeal, please submit the following information in one PDF or word file using the document uploader tool. If your letters of support will come from other individuals, they can email their letters to Please be sure they include your first and last name and PID number. 

  • One (1) personal statement from you providing more detail about your circumstance. Specifically, personal statements should speak to the nature of your relationship with your biological or adopted parents. 
  • Two (2) letters of support from individuals with first-hand/direct knowledge of your situation. These letters can come from custodian(s), a teacher, counselor, social worker, community member, or any other neutral party who is aware of your circumstances. These letters should not come from fellow students. 

The appeals committee  may request additional information or documentation to make a decision. Once a decision has been made, your FAFSA will be updated and you will be notified by email. 

If you are approved to be treated as an independent student, the renewal process is quite simple! You need to submit your FAFSA for the upcoming school year first. A renewal form link will be sent to you at the beginning of the spring semester for the following school year.  

If your situation has not changed, you do not need to provide parent information on the FAFSA. This will show your FAFSA as “rejected” initially, but submission of the renewal form will allow us to make the correction. 

risk of homelessness

You may be considered independent if you are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In some cases, you may have received documentation from one or more of the following: 

  • a school district homeless liaison, 
  • a director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program,  
  • or the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program.  

If you do not have documentation from any of the individuals above, a financial aid administrator can also make the determination. 

If you feel you may meet this criteria, you can view more information on the federal website, or reach out to our office. 


You must have an approved Juvenile Petition for Emancipation from the NC court system  to meet the definition of an emancipated minor.  If you do not live in the custody of your parents and there is a special circumstance, you may want to consider submitting a dependency appeal. 

In North Carolina, legal custody is defined as the right for a court appointed individual to make major decisions on your behalf. Guardianship extends this a little further, and allows a court-appointed guardian to make major decisions and manage your affairs, property, or estate. You can view more information on the NC Courts website. 

If requested, you will need to present documentation that shows legal guardianship. We  cannot accept legal custody documents as proof of legal guardianship. 

As a first-year student, you can use documentation signed by a counselor or other homeless district liaison that indicates your status according to McKinney-Vento. In the following academic years, you can contact our office so that we can make the determination. 

You are considered homeless if you lack fixed, regular, and adequate housing. This includes living “on the street” as well as temporarily living with other people because you have nowhere else to go, living in substandard housing (no utilities), living in emergency or transitional shelters; or living in motels, camp grounds, cars, parks, abandoned buildings or any public or private place not designed for humans to live in. It can also include living in a dorm or apartment if you would otherwise be homeless. 

No. We treat your financial aid information as your own and parents are not able to receive information from our office if they have not been set up by you as a proxy. If your dependency appeal is approved, please check to make sure your parent is no longer assigned a PIN by which they can access information about your financial aid.