Belmont College

Dependency Status Override Policy and Procedures

The basic premise of federal financial aid is that student and parent(s) have the primary obligation to finance postsecondary education to the extent they are able.  The Belmont College Financial Aid Office supports this premise and the current federal dependency definition.  It is our policy to override the federal determination of dependence with extreme caution and only when it is clearly demonstrated and supported with third-party documents, that an otherwise dependent student’s parent(s) is no longer available to participate with the student in applying for federal assistance.

When a student completes the FAFSA they are asked questions to determine if they must include their parent’s income information or not.  Sometimes students who must include their parent’s income information are unable to do so.  Belmont College Financial Aid office under very specific reasons may override this requirement and make a dependent student an independent and not require the parent’s information.

When you complete the FAFSA you are asked questions to determine if you are a dependent or independent.  If you can answer yes to any of the below questions you are considered an independent.  Documentation for most is required.

For the 2012-2013 academic year, you are automatically independent for federal student aid if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You were born before January 1, 1989;
  • You were married on or before the date you completed the FAFSA;
  • You will be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, or Ph.D., etc.) during the school year 2012-2013 (this is not applicable to students attending Belmont College);
  • You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training;
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • You have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013;
  • You have dependents (other than your children and spouse) who live with you and will receive more than half of their support from you, between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013;
  • At any time since you turned 13, both your parents were deceased, you were in foster care or were a dependent/ward of the court;
  • You are/were an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your legal state of residence immediately prior to that state’s recognized adult age;
  • You are/were in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your legal state of residence immediately prior to that state’s recognized adult age;
  • On or after July 1, 2011, your school district homeless liaison determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless;
  • On or after July 1, 2011, the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless;
  • On or after July 1, 2011, the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determined that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.
    • *Unaccompanied youth who was homeless is defined as:
      1. 21 years of age or younger or still enrolled in high school on the FAFSA filing date,
      2. not living in the physical custody of a parent or guardian, and
      3. lacking fixed, regular and adequate housing

If you cannot answer yes to the above or do not have the proper paperwork to verify then you are considered a dependent student and must provide your parents income information.

USE OF PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT: Federal regulations permit a financial aid officer to exercise professional judgment to give an otherwise dependent student independent status if unusual circumstances can be documented.  This determination is made on a case-by-case basis, and must be supported by documentation provided by the student.

WHAT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Belmont College maintains that certain circumstances cannot be considered unusual.  For example, a parent refusing to provide data, a student who does not want to ask parents for information, a student who has been “on his/her own” for several years, and/or a student who does not want to communicate with his/her parents will not be considered unusual circumstances.

PLEASE NOTE: Your living situation (whether or not you live with your parents or they claim you on their tax return) does not affect your dependency status.  If you do not satisfy at least one of the Federal criteria for independent status listed above, you are a dependent student for the purposes of Federal student aid.

Unusual circumstances may include:

  • Abandonment by parents.
  • An abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety.
  • The student being unable to locate his or her parents.

STUDENT PROCEDURES: If you are a dependent student by the federal definition, but you believe that unusual circumstances are present that establish you as “independent”, you can request a review of your situation by the Financial Aid Office.  The following procedure is required:

  • You must complete the Dependency Status Appeal Form.
  • Explain in detail why you should be considered an independent student.
  • Provide documentation such as legal documents if applicable.
  • You must provide written documentation from Two disinterested professional, third party and/or agency confirming the specifics as described by you in (A).  This documentation must be in writing, on the appropriate letterhead, and must be signed (see below for instructions).  Provide Two third party documentation letters
  • Submit a signed copy of your 2011 federal tax return transcript and all related W2 forms.  If you did not work you must provide a written explanation of how you were supported during the calendar year of 2011.
  • A completed Verification Worksheet (available online at www.belmontcollege.edu or at the Financial Aid Office.

The Financial Aid Office will determine if unusual circumstances exist based on the documentation submitted.  The student will be notified in writing of the decision.

Instructions for Third Party Documentation

In extraordinary and documented cases, the Financial Aid Office has the authority to use professional judgment to override a student’s dependency status.  An approved override would make a student independent for the purpose of applying for financial aid.  A student must be unable to obtain his/her parent’s information because of extenuating circumstances.  Parents are defined in this situation as biological or adoptive.

Parent’s unwillingness to provide the information or inability to help support the student are not acceptable reasons for an appeal.  Students must submit a Dependency Status Appeal Form and two third party reference letter to the financial aid office for consideration of a dependency override.

The information stated in the Dependency Status Appeal Form must be verified by a disinterested, professional third party who is aware of the student’s home situation and can verify from first-hand knowledge the information the student has provided. Examples of such a person include, but are not limited to: employer, clergy, social worker, attorney, court official, teacher, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, medical professional, law enforcement agent, etc.

Third party documentation must be a SEPARATE statement on official letterhead.  Please include any information of which you have first-hand knowledge and that you feel best describes the student’s situation.  The following is a list of information to include in the letter:

  • How long you have known the student.
  • Your relationship to the student.
  • The last time the student lived with and/or received financial support from his/her parents.
  • State your direct knowledge of when the student last had contact of any type with his/her parents.  Please include information regarding both parents.
  • Any knowledge of his/her current relationship with his/her parents.
  • The steps that the student has taken to establish independence from his/her parents.
  • Please include your professional title, name and type of business, business address, telephone number, and where to contact you should any additional information be required.

The Dependency Status appeal form along with letters and any documentation should be provided to the Financial Aid office for review.  Students will receive a letter in the mail if their appeal is accepted or denied.

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Financial Aid Office Hours

Monday - Friday
8:00a.m. - 4:30p.m.
Saturday - Sunday
Closed

Contact Information

Financial Aid Office
Belmont College
120 Fox-Shannon Place
St. Clairsville, Ohio 43950

email: financialaid@belmontcollege.edu
Phone: 740.695.8510
Fax: 740.699.3033