FAQ & Myths

The financial aid application, known as the FAFSA, asks specific questions to determine if a student should be considered “independent” for the purposes of financial aid. Independent students are only required to report their own income (and that of a spouse) and not that of either biological parents or other(s) who may be providing support, such as foster parents or relative caregivers. If you were in foster care or were a ward of the court at any point after the age of 13, or if you were in a legal guardianship, you are considered independent for the purposes of financial aid.
The financial aid office may ask you to provide a letter that states you were in foster care. You can request a letter from the child welfare agency that has or had jurisdiction over your case, the Independent Living Services Program (ILSP) or the Foster Care Ombudsman’s office by calling (877) 846-1602.
Even if you don’t meet eligibility requirements for federal or state financial aid, contact the staff at campus support programs or the financial aid office at colleges you are interested in to find what options may available.
If you are enrolled in Foster Care after 18, you do not have to report these payments as part of your income on the FAFSA. This means you may be eligible for more aid. You can click here to read the guidance from the U.S. Department of Education about this or click here for a summary of the guidance.
While the answer to this is complex and determined by individual circumstances, here are some guidelines. In general, the more money you earn, the less financial aid you will receive. However, there are important allowances that alter that simple equation. While the answer to this is complex and determined by individual circumstances, here are some guidelines. In general, the more money you earn, the less financial aid you will receive. However, there are important allowances that alter that simple equation.

  • On-campus work-study jobs do not count toward your taxable income.
  • Federal and state taxes paid are subtracted from your income to calculate your financial aid allowance.
  • An "income protection allowance" is used to provide for some basic living expenses. The "income protection allowance" basically defines the amount of money you can earn that does not reduce the amount of financial aid you will receive.
    • The actual amount of this allowance depends on whether you are single, married, or have dependent children.
    • The basic allowance for an unmarried independent student is $9,810 in 2016/2017. (This amount changes each year.)
    • An independent student with dependents other than a spouse may qualify for an "automatic zero EFC" if anyone in the household is receiving federal assistance (SSI, TANF, WIC, Food Stamps, Federal school lunch program ) and household income is less than $24,000.

NOTE: Financial aid eligibility calculations are complicated and depend on each individual’s personal situation. Be sure to seek assistance as soon as possible from the college’s foster youth liaison in the financial aid office to make sure that you get the full amount of financial aid you are entitled to.

You can go to FSAHandbook 1516AVGCh3 for a detailed explanation of the formulas and to review the worksheets used to determine financial aid.