Determining Financial Need

Need-based financial aid includes most grants, many loans and part-time student employment through Federal Work Study. In making awards of need-based financial assistance, the Cost of Attendance and the family's ability to pay educational expenses are the most important factors.

The Cost of Attendance includes the average expenses a student will incur for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and necessary personal and miscellaneous items. The Cost of Attendance can vary, depending on a number of factors such as full or part-time enrollment, housing accommodations and the school in which a student enrolls.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an objective measure of the amount of educational assistance that is expected to be provided by the family. The formula is determined each year by the U.S. Department of Education and takes into account factors such as total income, federal taxes paid, family size and the number of family members in college at the same time. This assessment is made after a student completes a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once a student completes a FAFSA, the results are calculated by the processor for the U.S. Department of Education and sent to colleges and other agencies selected by the student.

In order to be eligible for need based financial aid, a student must demonstrate financial need according to the following formula:

student cost of attendance (COA) minus expected family contribution (EFC)= financial need.

The COA is determined by the Financial Aid Office and includes tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses such as laundry and entertainment. The EFC is calculated according to a federal formula.

Dependency Status

Your dependency status determines whose information you must report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

If you’re a dependent student, you will report your and your parents’ information.
If you’re an independent student, you will report your own information (and, if you’re married, your spouse’s).

The federal student aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily your and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. A dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, so the parents’ information has to be assessed along with the student’s, in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength. If you’re a dependent student, it doesn’t mean your parents are required to pay anything toward your education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner.

Am I dependent or independent?

Your answers to questions on the FAFSA® form determine whether you are considered a dependent or independent student. The questions change a little from one year’s application to the next year’s; for instance, the 2021–22 FAFSA form asks whether you were born before Jan. 1, 1998, while the 2022–23 FAFSA form will ask whether you were born before Jan. 1, 1999. Here are the questions that determine your dependency status,  

All applicants for federal student aid are considered either “independent” or “dependent.”


If you answer YES to ANY of these questions, then you may be an independent student. You may not be required to provide parental information on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.


If you answer NO to ALL of these questions, then you may be considered a dependent student and may be required to provide your parents’ financial information when completing the FAFSA form.

  1. Will you be 24 or older by Jan. 1 of the school year for which you are applying for financial aid? For example, if you plan to start school in August 2021 for the 2021–22 school year, will you be 24 by Jan. 1, 2021 (i.e., were you born before Jan. 1, 1998)?
  2. Are you married or separated but not divorced?
  3. Will you be working toward a master’s or doctorate degree (such as M.A., MBA, M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., etc.)?
  4. Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
  5. Do you have dependents (other than children or a spouse) who live with you and receive more than half of their support from you?
  6. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training?
  7. Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?
  8. At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a ward or dependent of the court?
  9. Are you an emancipated minor or are you in a legal guardianship as determined by a court?
  10. Are you an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

*If you don’t answer “yes” to any of the questions above, you’re still considered a dependent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid even if you don’t live with your parents, are not claimed by your parents on their tax forms, or are paying for your own bills and educational expenses.


Eligibility for need-based awards is determined based on financial and other family information submitted by you. This information is used to calculate an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on your FAFSA. In applying for and receiving need-based aid, you agree to provide any additional financial and other pertinent information to document your eligibility to this office if requested by an authorized University official. The University reserves the right to request and review this additional information, and if necessary, to reduce or cancel awards made based on updated or corrected financial and other information. You are responsible for the accuracy of all data submitted on your FAFSA, your University of Pittsburgh at Titusville Verification Worksheet, copies of Federal Tax Return Transcript and other relevant documents. Some additional paperwork that may be needed is as follows:

  1. The student's official IRS Tax Return Transcript, if filed.
  2. A copy of the student's (and spouse's) W2 form(s), if worked.
  3. An official IRS Tax Return Transcript(s) for your parents, if they filed.
  4. A copy of the parents' W2 forms, if they worked.
  5. A complete, signed copy of the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville Verification Worksheet.

You will be asked to mail these materials to:

University of Pittsburgh at Titusville
Office of Financial Aid
504 E. Main Street
Titusville, PA 16354

If our office does not receive these documents, you will experience delays in receiving your financial aid. If inconsistencies or errors are found, we will make corrections to that information before your financial aid application is processed and funds are disbursed to you. Please be aware that the above listed items are not the only items you may be asked for if we need clarification or to resolve conflicting information.