Can you Qualify for Federal Aid?
Back in 1990 the rules changed for students looking to qualify for financial aid - things havent gotten better since. The federal government has limited funding for students whose families have financial means, changing its guidelines for qualification as a dependant. These days to be qualified as a dependant, you must be over 24, a ward of the courts, married, or in graduate school.
That leaves you in a tough spot if you're officially "dependent," but your parents can't or won't contribute to college expenses. Even if you live on your own, schools will expect your parents to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any other required forms and will compute your expected family contribution (EFC) based on their resources. Financial aid officers have the leeway to grant an exception, but they seldom do, unless circumstances are dire"your parents are incarcerated, missing, or severely abusive, for instance.
If you think your own situation might warrant an exception, see a financial aid officer and be prepared to document your case with police records and/or written statements from social workers, guidance counselors, or clergy. If you do qualify as independent, only your income and assets will count toward the EFC, and you'll probably benefit from a hefty aid package.
These changes have made it more difficult for students to qualify for federal aid, which could contribute to why some colleges are seeing a decline in enrollment. Many students simply cannot afford to go to college with today's price of tuition, and a lower availability of federal aid.