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Self-Supporting Students

What is a self-supporting or independent student?

A student typically applies for financial aid as a dependent student, submitting the income and asset information of his/her parents. However, if a student meets one of the following Congressionally established criteria, s/he can file for aid as an independent student at Hope College (see the FAFSA for full definitions):

  • At least 24 years old at time of filing FAFSA or will turn 24 prior to
    January 1 of the award year for which s/he is applying for aid;
  • Married on the date of application for aid (see section on becoming independent by marriage below);
  • Has legal dependents other than a spouse;
  • Orphan, ward of the court, was in foster care, or adopted at or after the age of 13;
  • Veteran of the armed forces;
  • Is an emanicpated minor or an unaccompanied youth who is homeless.

Sometimes extraordinary circumstances make it impossible for a student who does not meet the definition of self-supporting to obtain parental information. In such cases, if well documented, the Office of Financial Aid may authorize a dependency override. If such an override is granted the student then reports only his/her income and asset information on the aid application.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances include documented cases of child abuse, incarceration of the custodial parent, or documented long-term estrangement from parents.

A dependency override will not be granted based on a student's parents not claiming him/her on their federal tax return nor if a student's parents are unwilling to contribute to his/her educational expenses.

Self-supporting students meeting the criteria above become eligible for higher loan limits in the Federal Direct Loan program. The following chart shows grade level maximums as of 2008-09.  

Grade Level
Self-supporting Students
Freshman Level
$9,500/yr (max $3500 subsidized)
Sophomore Level
$10,500/yr (max $4500subsidized)
Junior & Senior Levels
$12,500/yr (max $5500 subsidized)
Aggregate Limit
$57,000 (max $23,000 subsidized)

What scholarship funds are available specifically for non-traditional students?

The Linn Gann Non-Traditional Scholarship Fund, established in 1989 by Linn Gann, a non-traditional student who graduated from Hope College in 1988.

The Mulder Non-Traditional Scholarship Fund, established in 1992 by Larry and Karen Mulder, both graduates of Hope College.

What are the eligibility criteria for these two scholarship funds?

  • Applicant meets the definition of a displaced homemaker or single parent and does not currently possess a bachelor’s degree

  • Demonstrates significant financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Supplemental Application for Financial Aid (SAF).

  • Is defined as a non-traditional student either by age (23 or older), or if there has been a lapse of at least two years between his/her enrollment in high school and his/her enrollment in a post-secondary institution.

  • Enrolled at least four (4) hours during the semester(s) for which s/he is seeking assistance. While typically targeted to degree-seeking students, exceptions may be made for a student admitted to Hope College as a non-degree-seeking student (categorized by the Admissions Office as a “Special”.) If a non-degree seeking student is awarded funds under this program, eligibility is limited to one year under this status.

  • If the applicant is a first-time enrollee at Hope College there is no cumulative grade point average requirement. However, if the applicant is a continuing student at Hope, s/he must demonstrate a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or greater.

How do I apply for these scholarships?
If interested in applying for either of these scholarship, contact the Office of Financial Aid.

What about loan assistance?
Click here for more information regarding Private Educational Loan programs.

Other Resources
For a searchable database of assistance for adults, click here.

Students Becoming Independent by Marriage
When a dependent student's status changes because of marriage, the student's federal and State aid eligibility may increase. The student's eligibility for Hope Grant funds, however, cannot exceed the amount that the student previously received as a dependent student. Also, students cannot update the FAFSA for purposes of marriage once they have filed for an award year unless the Office of Financial Aid determines it is necessary to address an inequity or more accurately reflects the student's ability to pay.