Independent Status Policy

The following will be Buena Vista University's policy when use of professional judgment is requested to change dependency status from dependent to independent.


Currently, federal law states that a self-supporting student is one who:

  • Is (or will be) 24 years old by a pre-determined date
  • Is a veteran of the armed forces
  • Is a ward of the court or whose parents have died
  • Has a legal dependent (other than a spouse)
  • Is married at the time of application
  • Is a graduate or professional student
  • Is a court identified emancipated minor
  • Is or was in a legal guardianship as determined by a court
  • Is identified as an unaccompanied youth or homeless 

It is felt that the philosophy behind this definition is this: the parent has the primary responsibility to pay for their dependent child's education to the extent they are able. Their ability to contribute is determined by the federal needs analysis process. That parent responsibility is not eliminated by parent/student choice. Only in those situations where the student has met the federal definition does that responsibility shift from the parent to the student. Buena Vista University abides by and believes in this definition and philosophy. However, we do recognize that unusual situations do occur and individual consideration may be necessary to assess dependency status.


Financial aid professionals have been granted the right to override the federal definition of self-supporting status, provided documentation to support the decision is collected and kept in the student's file. The financial aid official (and the school he/she represents) then becomes responsible for the action taken. The following will be the general policy/procedures followed by Buena Vista University when a student has appealed the federal definition.

We request a letter from the student documenting their situation. In addition, it is almost always necessary for an interested, objective third party to become involved in the requirement for documentation. Examples of acceptable resource people that may be called on to assist in documentation may include, but are not limited to:

  • High school guidance counselors or other school personnel who would be familiar with the specifics of the case
  • Pastor, priest, or other church associations
  • Lawyer
  • Officers of the court - this may include Department of Human Services personnel
  • Unacceptable sources include the student and/or the parent(s).

Information that comes directly from the student must be confirmed by the resource who is documenting the situation.  The resource(s) must have first-hand knowledge of the family dynamics.  Two forms of documentation will be required from two unaffiliated sources.

The written documents should include the specifics of the case. It will be necessary to illustrate why it is not feasible that the parent(s)' should be expected to contribute towards college costs, to the extent of their ability. Examples of acceptable situations in the past include cases where the student had been withdrawn from the parent(s) home and placed in a foster home or where there has been self-induced (by either party) estrangement between the student and parent(s). A student's own prior level of income is not an acceptable reason to eliminate the parent(s) expected responsibility. Additional unusual situations not included in this policy will be reviewed and a response made on a case-by case basis.  Students eligible for dependency override consideration will not be covered by a parent health insurance plan.