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Changes in Household Size and Dependency Status

Per 34 CFR 668.55, applicants are required to update household size and the number of household members attending postsecondary educational institutions unless the change results from a change in the applicant's marital status. Changes in household size and number in college may only occur if the applicant is selected for verification. (The updated household size and number in college should be accurate as of the verification date.) Changes in dependency status occur regardless of whether the applicant is selected for verification.

This can lead to anomalous situations in which a student becomes independent by virtue of a change in their household, but the household size on the FAFSA is not updated. For example:

  • A student discovers that she is pregnant after the application date. This student becomes independent by virtue of having a legal dependent other than a spouse (i.e., unborn children count if the child will be born during the award year and the student intends to provide at least 50% support to the child during the award year). But unless she is selected for verification, her household size does not change.

  • A student's girlfriend/boyfriend moves in after the application date. The student is providing more than half the girlfriend/boyfriend's support and will continue to do so throughout the award year. (Alternately, replace girlfriend/boyfriend with the student's child.) This student is independent by virtue of a dependent other than a spouse. But unless he or she is selected for verification, the household size remains unchanged.

Most financial aid administrators would resolve this situation by selecting the student for verification, ask for documentation relating to the support of the girlfriend/boyfriend/child. The financial aid administrator may then change the dependency status and household size if the documentation supports the change. Since the change is the result of verification, household size may be updated.

See also Parent Remarries After Application Date for information about changes in household size due to a change in the parent's marital status.

Note that the restrictions on updates only applies to changes since the application date but before the verification date. It does not apply to corrections. If the financial aid administrator discovers that the information provided on the FAFSA form was not accurate as of the application date (i.e., the student was not in fact married on that date, but sometime afterward), the financial aid administrator should correct the information to reflect what the status was on the application date.

The restriction that household size and number in college can only be updated if the student's application is selected for verification is one of the reasons why some colleges do 100% verification.

 

 
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