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State Aid Eligibility FAQs


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State Aid Eligibility FAQs


The FAFSA does not reflect my current situation. What can I do?

Some students and families experience issues that may impact their ability to contribute to educational expenses. In these situations, a financial aid officer at your college can evaluate your circumstances and decide if a change in eligibility is warranted. Every school has their own change in family circumstances policies and procedures, however, only the following circumstances will be considered in determining your eligibility for state financial aid:

  • Unemployed – Parent (10 week waiting period) due to lay off/lack of work/lost job
  • Disability of a parent wage earner
  • Retirement
  • Death
  • Separation/Divorce
  • Loss of untaxed income or unemployment benefits
  • Student’s loss of full-time work

Changes in circumstances that will not be considered in determining your eligibility for state financial aid include:

  • Loss or change in amount of overtime
  • loss of second or part-time job
  • furlough
  • removal of cancelled debt
  • gambling winnings, or
  • a one-time occurrence of taxable income (exception: retirement savings withdrawal due to economic hardship, and form 5329 must be filed with federal tax returns).

Please note these lists apply for state aid eligibility only, and may not apply in determining your federal aid eligibility.

If a student or parent has experienced any of the circumstances that may impact your state financial aid, as listed above, please visit the financial aid office of the college you are attending for further instructions.

My parents do not live in New Jersey. Can I receive NJ financial aid?

A dependent student, as defined in N.J.A.C. 9A:9-2.6, is presumed to be a resident of the State in which his or her parent(s) reside. To be eligible to participate in State grant and scholarship programs, dependent students whose parent(s) do not reside in New Jersey must establish that they are a New Jersey resident notwithstanding the residency of their parent(s).

Establishing New Jersey Residency Notwithstanding Parents’ Residency

Dependent students who have been a resident of New Jersey for at least 12 months prior to the start of college and are not residing in New Jersey for the sole purpose of receiving an education, can request a review of HESAA’s preliminary decision of non-eligibility by providing HESAA with documentation including but not limited to:

  • Proof of graduation from a NJ high school or a NJ GED (currently enrolled New Jersey high school seniors can submit a high school transcript, New Jersey Dreamers also need to show they attended a New Jersey high school for three years);
  • A copy of the parent’s or student’s most recent New Jersey resident income tax return as applicable;
  • A copy of the parent’s or student’s New Jersey driver license or state identification as applicable;
  • Evidence of the parent’s or student’s home ownership or a long-term lease in NJ as applicable; and
  • Such additional documentation as may be deemed necessary by HESAA upon specific review of the student’s application.

The New Jersey residency requirements apply to all students: citizens, eligible non-citizens and New Jersey Dreamers

How does HESAA determine if a student is independent for the purposes of NJ financial aid?

There are 13 dependency questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that determine if a student is a dependent student (where parental information is required) or independent (parental information not required) as determined by federal guidelines. HESAA follows the federal guidance for dependency status outlined on page 22-27 of the Federal Student Aid Handbook, except for the following circumstances:

Emancipated Minor

A student who answers “yes” to this question on the FAFSA will not be considered independent for state aid purposes. The term emancipated minor in family court orders has relevance only as it relates to the computation of certain child custody and child support obligations. Due to this limited application of emancipation, HESAA does not recognize this designation in deeming a student independent based on emancipation, and students will be required to provide parental information.

Legal Guardianship

A student who answers “yes” to this question on the FAFSA must provide acceptable documentation of this status to HESAA. There are some guardianship statuses that are not valid for the purposes of State student financial aid and the student will be required to provide parental information. If a student is unable to provide acceptable guardianship documentation or parental information, he or she should consult with their financial aid administrator at their college. Please note that “legal custody” and “legal guardianship” are not the same designation for either Federal or State aid.

Homeless, Unaccompanied youth, or at Risk of being homeless

A student who answers “yes” to any of these three questions on the FAFSA must provide acceptable documentation of this status to HESAA. The acceptable documentation includes but is not limited to: verifiable letters from: School district or high school McKinney-Vento liaison, Director or designee of an emergency shelter, or Director or designee of a runaway or homeless youth basic center of transitional living program.

Any questions in regards to dependency status should be directed to a financial aid administrator at the college you are attending.

How can I change my status to independent for NJ financial aid?

Dependency Status Override for State Aid Eligibility

Students who feel their dependency status does not reflect their current circumstances should see their financial aid administrator to discuss a possible dependency override.

If a financial aid administrator determines that an override for New Jersey state financial aid is appropriate, the administrator must write a statement detailing the determination and include supporting documentation in the student’s campus file. The file must document that the fact was properly communicated to HESAA.

The override cannot be made on the basis of any one (or combination) of the following unusual circumstances:

  • parents’ refusal to contribute to the student’s education;
  • parents’ unwillingness to provide information on the FAFSA or in response to verification requests;
  • parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes;
  • student demonstrates self-sufficiency;
  • student is not living with parents.

For state financial aid purposes, the override must be made on the basis of some other unusual circumstance such as:

  • abandonment by parents;
  • an abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety; or
  • student is unable to locate his parents.

A dependency status override must not be made by an institution to enable a student whose parents live in another state or country to meet the New Jersey residency requirement nor may a dependency status override be made to enable a student whose parent(s) live in another country to not be subject to the U.S. income verification requirement.

To the extent that a student believes that he or she is a bona fide New Jersey resident notwithstanding the residency of his or her parent(s), he or she can request a review of HESAA’s decision that he or she is in New Jersey for the temporary purpose of receiving an education. Students should request such student reviews by sending a letter directly to HESAA.

Reminder: When the parent(s) lives outside of New Jersey and verification of parental income and assets cannot be completed because the parents do not file a U.S. Federal Income Tax return or have documented proof of taxable and/or untaxed income received through a U.S. federal or state agency, such as an IRS tax and wage transcript, unemployment, child support, alimony, welfare payments, Social Security benefits, or at least two benefits from any of the following federal programs: Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, TANF, WIC, etc., or receive documented state or federal aid refund, the student cannot be considered for state financial aid. Please note that this includes students whose parents filed a foreign tax return or whose parents were not required to file a foreign tax return and employees of the United Nations whose earnings are exempt from filing U.S. Federal Income Taxes.

Any questions in regards to dependency status should be directed to a financial aid administrator at the college you are attending.

What is the satisfactory academic progress requirements to receive NJ financial aid?

Maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress and Consequences of Withdrawing from all or some of your courses.

Satisfactory academic progress (SAP) is a requirement for all students receiving state, federal, or in some instances, institutional assistance while enrolled at any college. Financial aid recipients must meet both a qualitative and a quantitative standard to maintain eligibility for aid. In addition, the student must complete the program within the maximum timeframe. The qualitative standard is determined by the student's cumulative grade point average (GPA) at a specific grade level. The quantitative standard is based on a student's completion rate, or the successful completion of a minimum number of credits of the total credits attempted. Students should consult with their college’s financial aid office for more information on their college’s SAP policy.

If you are thinking about withdrawing from all or some of your classes, it is strongly recommended you contact your academic advisor or financial aid office at your college to discuss how a withdrawal will impact your academic career, and financial aid status. It is also very important to follow the appropriate withdrawal procedure established by your college.

If you withdraw from all or some of your semester courses:

  • all or part of your financial aid (State grants, Federal grants and Federal/state loans) may be reduced or canceled;
  • if a state aid recipient is due a refund in accordance with the college’s refund policy, the college must return a portion of the student's state award(s) to the state;
  • you may have a balance due on your account because your financial aid award will require an adjustment;
  • you may not meet the satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements for continued financial aid eligibility, so future aid eligibility may be jeopardized;
  • you may have to begin repaying your student loans if you remain out of school longer than six months; and
  • repeated withdrawals may cause you to reach loan aggregate limits more quickly and result in your ineligibility to borrow in future years.

Appeals for SAP must be submitted to the college financial aid office.

How does HESAA verify income and other information to determine NJ financial aid?

There are times when the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) may require students and parents to verify the information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application.

Verification requires the comparison of information reported on the FAFSA or New Jersey Alternative Application with information reported on U.S. Federal Income Tax Return(s), tax schedules, and related asset information. Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 9A:9-2.7, upon request parents and students (and/or spouses, if applicable), must provide federal income tax transcripts or wage and income transcripts for verification purposes.

If no tax returns were filed for the year requested, documented proof of taxable and/or untaxed income received through a U.S. federal or state agency, such as an IRS tax and wage transcript, unemployment, child support, alimony, welfare payments, Social Security benefits, SSI, or at least two benefits from any of the following federal programs: SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, WIC, housing assistance, etc., must be submitted in order to determine state grant eligibility. Verification of non-filing status may also be requested.

A dependent student whose parents are non-filer of an income tax return for the year requested, receiving no social services and whose income or support cannot be verified through documents as defined above, is not eligible to receive state aid.

An independent student who is a non-filer of an income tax return for the year requested, receiving no social services and whose income or support cannot be verified through documents as defined above, is not eligible to receive state aid.