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State Of Legal Residence And The Fafsa
by Surajit Sen Sharma

Questions 18, 19, and 20 of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) 2007-2008, deal with determining the state in which the applicant legally resides. As FAFSA authorities provide this information to relevant schools and state agencies, the applicant's chosen state of legal residence has a discernible impact upon his or her Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculation. This in turn determines the financial aid package that the applicant can receive from his or her school. Therefore, this is a decision on the part of the applicant that must be carefully considered.

On the surface, according to the FAFSA instructions and the FAFSA form itself, the applicant's state of legal residence appears to be the state where the applicant has his or her permanent fixed home, and where he or she had been residing at least for the past four years. However, each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia have similar or separate criteria in fixing legal residency for the purpose of educational financial aid.

Despite other requirements that may vary from state to state, two principal criteria that are checked by each state are:
  • Whether the independent applicant personally, or the dependent applicant's parents, have resided in the state for a sufficient duration for the applicant to qualify for subsidized education in the state, and

  • Whether the independent applicant, or the dependent applicant's parents, have the intention to continue to reside in the state and make foreseeable contributions to the state society and economy.
In spite of question No. 19 of the FAFSA, which asks whether the independent applicant or the parents of the dependent applicant have been residing in the state in question for the past four years or more, the reality is that most states-including the District of Columbia-have set one year as the minimum durational requirement for claiming legal residency for tuition purposes. In some states, this requirement is as low as six months, and Tennessee does not even require the independent applicant or the dependent applicant's parents to have ever stayed in the state. In some jurisdictions, the state of Washington for instance, a dependent student may claim legal residency even though his or her parents have moved away from the state but the student has continued to study in a state institution.

Therefore, the applicant must go through the relevant educational policies of each prospective state where he or she may wish to study, including the state where the applicant or his or her parents presently reside, and make a comparative analysis before claiming the state of legal residence on the FAFSA.

Disclaimer: This article is only for informational purposes and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. We do not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any of the information provided in this article.


Article Title : State Of Legal Residence And The Fafsa
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Schools Will No Longer Receive Paper FAFSA Forms
(September 20, 2007)

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