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FAFSA / CADAA FAQ: Who is the Parent?

FAFSA / CADAA FAQ: Who is the Parent?

Once the dependency status of a student has been determined (see previous blog), those who are required to provide parental income information often struggle with what should be a simple question of “who is the parent?”

The Simple Answer:

In the world of college financial aid, the “parent” is the student’s (1) biological mother and/or father or (2) adoptive mother(s) and/or fathers(s).  

The Complications:

Simple Complications

  • Divorced, separated or non-married parents: In most cases the student only needs to report information on the parent with whom they live.
  • Incarcerated, missing or deceased parents: Students in these situations will be granted a dependency override (this will be explained in another blog).

Complicated Complications

For students who do not live with their parents and/or do not have contact with their parents, providing parent information can be a daunting task. They quite often default to thinking things like:

  • Well, I live with my grandma so should I put her information?
  • But my uncle claims me on his tax returns so should I put his information?
  • My mom left a year ago and I’ve been living with friends, can I just leave the parent part blank?
  • …and countless other situations/scenarios.

The answer to all of the above is NO. In order for students in these situations to receive all of the financial aid that they are eligible for, they will need to provide parental financial information. Completing this task can be a long, cumbersome, emotional journey and not all students will succeed. Unfortunately for students who are required to submit parent information and ultimately do not, they most likely will not receive all of the financial aid they are entitled to. Of course, this will vary by student and by college.

Bridging Tip: 

Don’t get caught in a trap of “what ifs?”; always default back to the question being asked.