Special Conditions/Professional Judgment
If you experience circumstances that are not reflected on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that affect your ability to pay for your education, you may be eligible for reconsideration of aid offered. In these situations, federal regulations allow financial aid administrators to use professional judgment on a case by case basis. When such circumstances are sufficiently documented, adjustments to the data elements on your FAFSA that may impact your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) can be made. These adjustments can help to more accurately assess your financial need and may increase your eligibility for federal need-based financial aid. Need-based federal financial aid includes Federal Pell Grant, Federal Direct Subsidized Loan, and Federal Work Study.
NOTE: Since a professional judgment review’s purpose is to determine whether you may qualify for additional need-based federal aid, students who already have a $0 Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on their FAFSA do not need to submit a Professional Judgment request as a review will not impact your financial aid eligibility. To view your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), log in to the FAFSA website and click “View or Print your Student Aid Report (SAR)” from the “My FAFSA” page. If your EFC is already $0, please reach out to your financial aid counselor so that we may determine any other options that may apply to your specific situation.
Special circumstances that might call for our office’s professional judgment include loss or reduction of income, changes in family dynamics not shown on tax returns, and unreimbursed medical expenses.
If there are circumstances not reflected on the FAFSA that will directly affect your family’s ability to contribute towards the cost of your education, we may be able to help! Students with extenuating circumstances should explain those details in writing with the Student Financial Services Office. You must include appropriate documentation of the circumstance.
Examples include: death of a parent, loss of job, retirement, loss of income, divorce, etc. Please include supporting documentation as applicable.
Appeals will not be considered for circumstances that include, but are not limited to:
- High consumer debt
- Expenses that have not yet occurred
- Other discretionary spending
- Educational expenses for parent, siblings and/or other family members
- Distributions from a pension, IRA, 401k, life insurance, capital gains, etc.
- Expenses for grandparents, relatives, siblings, children, and/or other expenses for non-immediate family members
- Lifestyle expenses (pets, cars, housekeepers, vacations, weddings, home repairs, sports, discretionary dental/medical procedures, etc.)
- Parent and/or step-parent unwilling to provide information on a financial aid application and/or assist in paying for college
- Families with prior Special Conditions who underestimated their income
The special condition appeal decision is based on the circumstances detailed in the appeal form and on the additional documentation provided. Appeals will not be reviewed until all documentation is received. Students will be notified in writing of the decision within two weeks of the decision. The deadline to submit the appeal for the fall is July 15 and December 15 for the spring.
For the sole purpose of Financial Aid eligibility, dependency status is strictly determined by the Department of Education. You can find information about what qualifies a dependent vs. independent student on the FAFSA help page.
The Department of Education has given financial aid administrators the authority to “override” a student’s dependency status from dependent to independent in cases involving extreme extenuating circumstances.
The following conditions do not qualify as unusual circumstances, either individually or in combination:
- Parents who refuse to contribute, are unwilling to provide information or do not claim the student as an income tax dependent
- A student who demonstrates total self-sufficiency
- A student whose parent(s) live(s) in another country
Situations that might warrant a dependency override include:
- The student’s voluntary or involuntary removal from the parents’ home due to an abusive situation that threatened the student’s safety and/or health
- The student’s abandonment by parents
- A student’s inability to locate the parents
Please note that a student applying for a dependency override will be asked to provide a personal statement along with documentation from two professional third parties confirming the circumstances.
Students who believe they may qualify for an override should contact their assigned financial aid counselor directly for more information.