Statement Concerning Dependency Status
Each year, a number of students ask us to consider them as independent for financial aid purposes, even though they do not meet the Federal definition of an independent student. These cases often involve delicate family situations, which we review individually to determine the merits of the case.
The student will sometimes state that the parents have simply decided that they no longer have a responsibility to support the student. A basic premise of all financial aid programs is that the parents are responsible for assisting the student with educational costs. This responsibility does not end at age 18 or 21. Currently, for Federal programs, a student must be 24 years of age before he can be considered independent based on age alone, and the institution still has the option of requiring parents’ data for use in determining eligibility for institutional aid. The United States Department of Education has informed us that a parent’s declaration of non-support is, by itself, not sufficient reason to declare a student independent. Consequently, Messiah College will not consider a student independent unless he or she meets one of the standard definitions or has extenuating circumstances beyond the parents’ declaration of non-support.
Students who get married during enrollment: Another common situation we encounter is the student couple who decide to get married during the period of their enrollment. Frequently, one or both of the couple will state that their parents will no longer be assisting them with educational expenses and they want the institution to award them institutional aid to replace the parent contribution. As stated previously, a student’s need-based institutional aid will stay about the same during their enrollment and the parents are responsible for assisting with college expenses. Students who decide to get married are making a personal decision and need to take responsibility for the consequences of that decision. The unmet financial need of the aid applicants at Messiah College is already far greater than the amount of money that we have to make awards. We do not feel that it is fair for students to ask us to fund their decision to get married when this does not change their parent’s ability to contribute, but would result in another needy student receiving a reduced award. For this reason, we will continue to ask for parent’s data on the financial aid applications of these students and use this data in determining eligibility for need-based institutional aid. As long as the student meets the federal definition of an independent student, the parent’s data will not be a factor in determining eligibility for federal aid.