The Catholic University of America

Dependency Status

The financial information reported on the FAFSA will be used to determine need for financial aid, the type of need-based student aid, and if eligible, the amount of financial aid a student will receive. Students will need to determine whose information to report on the FAFSA - theirs alone, if they are an independent student; theirs and their spouse’s, if an independent and married student; or theirs and their parents’, if a dependent student.

The answers to dependency questions on the FAFSA determine whether students are considered dependent or independent.

Dependent students must report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA as well as their own. Parents of dependent students are expected to contribute toward the cost of their college education. Federal student aid programs are based on the concept that a dependent student’s parents have the primary responsibility for paying for their child’s education.

If you are an undergraduate student and the Department of Education has determined you to be considered independent for any reason other than your age, The Catholic University of America will select your aid application for dependency and federal verification. Your aid application will not be processed until you provide third-party documentation to substantiate your “yes” response to any FAFSA dependency question.

Dependency Override

Dependent students must report their parents’ income and assets on the FAFSA as well as their own. Parents of dependent students are expected to contribute toward the cost of their college education. Federal student aid programs are based on the concept that a dependent student’s parents have the primary responsibility for paying for their child’s education.

Sometimes extraordinary circumstances make it impossible for a student who does not meet the definition of independent to obtain his or her parents' financial information. In extremely rare cases, The Catholic University of America may authorize a Dependency Override. If the university grants a Dependency Override, the student can apply for aid in the same manner as an independent student, using only the student's income and asset information.

The Catholic University of America will only consider documented cases of child abuse or the current and continuing incarceration/institutionalization of the custodial parent as being extraordinary circumstances.

Note: In most cases the non-custodial parent would than become the custodial parent.

The Catholic University of America will not grant a Dependency Override when the sole basis for the request is that parents do not claim the student on income tax return, parents do not wish to provide income and tax information, parents simply do not wish to contribute to educational expenses or the student is self-supporting.

Students who wish to apply for a Dependency Override must submit the following documentation:

  • A letter of explanation, written by the student, explaining the extraordinary family circumstances that led to the student leaving the parent household. The letter must include information on the student’s means of support since leaving the parent household.
  • Letters (on letterhead) from three professionals detailing their first-hand knowledge verifying the family circumstances as described by the student. Professionals may include guidance counselors, clergy members, teachers, doctors, family counselors, mental health professionals and law enforcement personnel. The letters must include the professional’s name, job title and contact information. In most cases, court documents will be requested.
  • Copies of the student's federal income tax return transcripts for the current and preceding year.

The letter of explanation requesting a Dependency Override along with all required documentation should be sent to the Office of Student Financial Assistance. The Office of Student Financial Assistance will respond in writing within 10 business days of receiving all documentation.