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Clarifying the FAFSA Process

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fafsa-faqsCompleting the FAFSA is one of the first steps you will take when applying for Federal Student Loans and/or the PELL Grant and with it come many questions. One common question is: I am considered a dependent, how do I get my parent to complete the parental portion of the FAFSA when I have no contact with them?

Answer: The first thing you should do after completing the FAFSA is contact your Financial Aid Office for assistance on how to handle this. There are special circumstances where you may be able to exclude your parental information on the FAFSA. Some of these are:

The following information is from the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Website.

  • Your parents are incarcerated.
  • You have left home due to an abusive family environment.
  • You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them (and you have not been adopted).
  • You are older than 21 but not yet 24, are unaccompanied, and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.

In such special situations, the school may require you to complete additional paperwork, so it is important to contact them for assistance.

What if my parents just don’t want to complete the FAFSA? If your parent is just unwilling to cooperate, then the steps are as follows:

 The following information is from the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Website.

  • When FAFSA on the Web asks you whether you are able to provide information about your parents, say no.
  • On the next screen, select the option that says you don’t have a special circumstance but you still can’t provide parent information.
  • The FAFSA explains that if your parents don’t support you and refuse to provide their information on the FAFSA, you may submit your FAFSA without their information. However, you won’t be able to get any federal student aid other than an unsubsidized loan–and even that might not happen. The decision is up to the financial aid office at the college or career school you plan to attend. If you agree to this, you may submit your FAFSA without parent information.
  • Your FAFSA information will be sent to the colleges you list, but you won’t get an Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
  • You must immediately contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss the possibility of getting an unsubsidized loan. The financial aid office may ask for a written statement from your parents, indicating that they refuse to provide their information on the FAFSA and that they no longer support you. (Forms of support include allowing you to live in their home, including you on their car or health insurance, providing a car to drive on a regular basis, and payment of your tuition or fees.)
  • The financial aid office will look at your situation and decide whether you may receive an unsubsidized loan. That decision is final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.

The important thing to remember is to reach out to the Financial Aid Department at your school so that they are aware of your situation and can give you the best course of action to take. This is what they are qualified to do; you may have options you are not aware of. So take advantage of the help!

By Michelle Robbins
Default Prevention and Compliance Specialist at American Public University

Edge relies on the valuable input of many different authors and contributors. Sometimes the final article is a result of a collaboration between various individuals. Rather than credit an individual writer, the "Edge Staff" account was created to distribute credit to all the people who contributed to the article's success.

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