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Special Populations

Independent Students

What is an Independent Student?

The Student Aid Index (SAI) formula for a dependent student uses parental data, and the two formulas for independent students do not, the first step in calculating a student’s SAI is to determine his or her dependency status. A student is automatically determined to be an independent applicant for federal student aid if he or she meets one or more of the following criteria for the academic school year in question:

  • The student is at least 24 years old
  • The Student is Veteran/Member of Armed Forces
  • The student is consider a graduate or professional student
  • The student was determined as an orphan, a ward of the court, an emancipated minor, or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • The student is married or separated (but not divorced) as of the date of the application

For students who do not meet any of the above criteria but who have documented unusual circumstances, an FAA can override their dependency status from dependent to independent. An FAA can also make a determination of independence with documentation of special circumstances, even if the student initially filed as a dependent student. For more details, visit

Foster Youth

Did you know over 70% of youth in foster care want to go to college? While the road to actually attending college may seem daunting and challenging, it’s important to remember a college education will help you achieve your long-term dreams and prepare you for a great career. It’s also important to understand that there are many resources available to assist you along the way.

College campuses also support foster youth with assistance with the admission and financial aid processes. Once on campus, services such as academic advising, counseling, peer mentoring, and career services will support you during your college career and help you as you prepare for life after college.

Teen Workers

Financial Aid Implications for Teen Workers

Summer and part-time work is a great way for students to earn money towards books, supplies and spending money for college. If you're receiving need-based financial aid, it's important to understand how your income could affect future eligibility.

When determining your eligibility for financial aid, the Department of Education asks you to report information about your income and assets on the financial aid application called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It collects this information (and lots more) to determine the amount you and your family can afford to pay towards the cost of college. This amount is called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

The federal government formula is adjusted each year but for 2022-2023 it allows dependent student workers to make up to $7040 before income begins to impact financial aid eligibility. And, even then, students can expect to see their Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) only increase by .50 for every dollar beyond $7040.

Other Resources

Dependent or Independent?

Financial Aid for Special Populations

Unaccompanied Youth

Need Help?

NHHEAF’s Center for College Planning is dedicated to serving all students throughout their education and career planning journeys, for free!