What is a dislocated worker?

There are a couple of questions on the FAFSA that ask if either a parent, student, or spouse is a dislocated worker. While you may write off this question initially, don't!

The dislocated worker question is important for those who have either been laid off or have been struggling due to loss of income or underemployment.

How this Affects your FAFSA

The dislocated worker questions can have direct impact on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). By answering "yes", you may qualify for an automatic zero EFC, and therefore, be eligible for more aid, including Pell Grants. If you take the time to answer this question, you could receive a lot more money towards college expenses.

Dislocated Worker Qualifications

To qualify as a dislocated worker, you, a parent, or a spouse must be able to meet one of the qualifying criteria, as well as provide supporting documentation.

You may be considered a dislocated worker if you:

  • Receive unemployment benefits due to being laid off
  • Have been laid off or have received a lay-off notice
  • Are self-employed but are now unemployed or underemployed due to economic conditions or a natural disaster
  • Are a stay-at-home dad/mom who has lost spousal support. For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent who is widowed, you qualify as a displaced homemaker and are able to answer "yes" to the dislocated worker question

You are NOT a dislocated worker if you:

  • Quit your job
  • Were let go for misconduct

If you answer "Do Not Know", follow up with your school's financial aid office to help determine your status. it could mean the difference between qualifying for the Pell Grant or not.


If you are able to answer "yes" to being a dislocated worker, you'll need proof to back this up. The type of required documentation may vary by school, but in general, be prepared to submit one of the following:

  • Unemployment benefits documentation showing effective dates
  • Employer documentation showing termination or separation
  • Your previous year's tax return with any accompanying proof of income loss
  • Death certificates
  • Written, detailed explanation of your current situation

If your family has had a change in financial situation in the past 12 months for any reason, make sure to talk with a financial aid officer at your school. Making your advisors aware of the situation could help open the door for other types of financial aid based on family circumstances.

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