Eligibility for a Scholarship Grant: Independence and Dependence
For purposes of establishing eligibility for the Federal Direct Loan and the Federal Work-Study programs, all graduate-level students are considered independent. This means that the FAFSA you submit does not require parental information, and that your eligibility for Federal Direct Stafford Loans and/or Federal Work-Study will be determined on the basis of your resources, and those of your spouse (if applicable).
However, for consideration for institutional funds, such as grants and Columbia University loans, and for establishing priorities for the Federal Perkins Loan Program, complete family and parental information is required on the Need Access application. If your parents have separate households (unmarried, separated, or divorced), you must provide complete financial information for both parental households on the application, using passwords for each section if desired. In this era of scarce resources, our guiding policy is to assist students from the neediest families. Our institutional funds are distributed primarily to students with limited personal and family resources. Regardless of your age, marital status, or dependency status for tax purposes, our grant decision will be based on an analysis of your family’s financial strength.
If parents refuse to give information, our policy is that no grant may be awarded, out of fairness to families that cooperate with our requirements. A student in such circumstances may apply for loans (Federal Direct Stafford, Federal Direct Graduate PLUS, private) to cover educational expenses within the limits of the standard student budget. Eligibility for these loans is based upon the terms of the programs and upon the credit-based educational loan program’s evaluation of the borrower’s credit history.
Decisions to exempt individual students from the requirement to provide information from both parents are made on an individual basis, and only in rare and extreme cases. If you wish to be considered for this exemption, please submit a written appeal to the Director of Financial Aid as early as possible, explaining the circumstances and requesting a waiver of the requirement. To strengthen your appeal, supporting documentation (i.e., court documents, letter from an attorney, social worker, member of clergy, etc.) should be included.
For admitted students, we review the financial aid application once we have received the complete Need Access application and all required forms. Award letters are sent beginning in late March or early April.
For continuing students, renewal award letters are sent in June and July, once the Financial Aid Office has processed a student’s loans.