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 unusual 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 

The Department of Education does not consider the following situations to be eligible for dependency appeal consideration:

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. You will initiate the process with Dependency Appeal Form.

To prepare to complete the the form, please be aware you will need to upload:

  • One (1) detailed personal statement from you that:
    • accurately describes your unusual circumstances
    • speaks to the nature of your relationship with both your biological or adopted parents
  • Two (2) letters of support, which may come from*:
    • an adult professional who can confirm the unusual family circumstance you described in your personal statement. Adult professionals include:
      • custodian(s), teachers, counselors, social workers, clergy members, law enforcement officers, physicians, mental health professionals
    • a neutral party such as a relative or close family friend who has first-hand/direct knowledge and can confirm your circumstances described in your personal statement
      • this does not include fellow students
    • letters must be signed with wet signature (not electronic) and dated by the individuals providing them on your behalf

*If you are unable to provide two letters of support, we may accept official documentation such as court orders, police reports, restraining orders, or social worker reports in lieu of one of the letters.

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

Submit 2024-2025 Dependency Appeal

If you are approved to be treated as an independent student, the renewal process is quite simple! You need to submit your FAFSA without parent information for the upcoming school year first. 

We will roll over your FAFSA independent student status each year moving forward and assume the circumstances that prevented you from providing parent information are still the same unless you indicate your circumstances have changed or if there is conflicting information on your financial aid application. Your initial submission will show as ‘rejected’ however, we will get it updated for you.

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 local educational agency homeless liaison, per the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act;
  • The director (or designee) of an emergency/transitional shelter, street outreach program, homeless youth drop-in center, or other program serving individuals experiencing homelessness;
  • The director (or designee) of a project supported by a Federal TRIO or GEAR UP grant;
  • A financial aid administrator at another institution who documented the student’s circumstance in a prior award year.  

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 meet the risk of homelessness criteria, you can view more information on the federal website, and then complete the form for the homelessness determination process.

Complete 2023-2024 Form


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 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.