Is There a Deadline For Making a Dependency Status Determination Or Dependency Override For Certain Students?

Award Year: 2023-24 KA-36437 Helpfulness Rating 3,020 page views

This guidance is specific to the 2023-24 award year and later.

This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on October 24, 2023 to include additional clarification on how to apply the 60-day deadline.

Yes. Effective with the 2023-24 award year, changes to Section 479D(c) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended, [20 USC 1087uu-2(c)], state a school must make a determination of a student’s dependency status under certain circumstances as follows:

Section 480(d)(2),(8),(9) of the HEA, [20 USC 1087vv(d)(2),(8),(9)] states the 60-day deadline applies to dependency status determinations for a student who:

Applying the Deadline: According to the Better FAFSA Better Future Q&A Session 1 presentation, "There are really two 60-day clocks. If a student requests a determination of independence on or before they enroll, the school has 60 days from when the student enrolls to review the request. That's clock #1. Now, if a student requests a determination later in the award year, the school has 60 days to review the request from the date the student made the request. This applies even if the student made the request past 60 days from the date they enrolled. That's your second clock."

According to guidance NASFAA has received from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), this does not mean a school can deny all such requests from students who make requests more than 60 days after they enroll, since some requests will come in at all different times throughout the award year. Per Dear Colleague Letter GEN-22-15, the timeframe in the law is intended to encourage financial aid administrators to make determinations as quickly as practicable. It is not intended to inhibit aid administrators from making such determinations later in an award year.

If the school requests documentation to support the student's request, that documentation still must be received within that same 60-day timeframe, or the aid office can deny the request. Therefore, the school should explain this urgency in its communication with the student.

Definition of Enrollment: The term "enrolled" is defined in 34 CFR 668.2(b) as, "The status of a student who—

(1) Has completed the registration requirements (except for the payment of tuition and fees) at the institution that he or she is attending; or

(2) Has been admitted into an educational program offered predominantly by correspondence and has submitted one lesson, completed by him or her after acceptance for enrollment and without the help of a representative of the institution."

Note: This does not mean a school is required to verify the student's answers to the dependency status questions related to orphan, ward of court, or foster care. However, if the school does request documentation to verify the answers, or the student submits a request for consideration, the above guidance and deadline apply.

Denying Requests: The school may choose to deny such requests if a student does not provide requested documentation within the 60-day timeframe. Even when a school may decline a request, it remains a good practice (and probably is in the school's best interest for enrollment purposes) to consider late documentation.

Policies and Procedures: Effective with the 2023-24 award year, a school must have policies and procedures for considering all requests for professional judgment (PJ). This includes requests for determinations of independent student status and dependency overrides due to unusual circumstances. See GEN-22-15 for more information.

Legal Guardianship and Emancipated Minors: The HEA does not specify whether or not the aforementioned deadline would apply in the case of documenting the dependency status of a person in a legal guardianship or an emancipated minor. The Dear Colleague Letter repeats the circumstances in the HEA, but then says "all requests for a determination of independence"--language that seems to contradict itself. We are seeking clarification and will update this Q&A when we receive additional information.

Unusual Versus Special Circumstances: The 60-day timeframe does not apply to requests for PJ adjustments due to special circumstances. Changes to the HEA now differentiate between special circumstances and unusual circumstances. See AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A, Is There a Difference Between a Special Circumstance and an Unusual Circumstance?

See also GEN-23-06.

AskRegs Q&As represent NASFAA's understanding of regulatory and compliance issues. They are FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. While NASFAA believes AskRegs Q&As are accurate and factual, they have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). If you should need written confirmation of AskRegs information for audit or program review purposes, please contact your ED School Participation Division. NASFAA shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein; nor for incidental or consequential damages resulting from the furnishing, performance, or use of this material.