The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requests income information from two year’s prior and does not give the student the opportunity to explain a circumstance that could affect their ability to pay for college. Therefore, under federal law, financial aid administrators have been given the authority through “Professional Judgment” to take specific circumstances into account, that may lead to data adjustments and/or updates to the FAFSA application. These changes may impact your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is what the college uses to help award financial aid.
The FAFSA Simplification Act distinguishes between different categories of professional judgment by amending 479A of the HEA.
What is a special circumstance?
Special circumstances can refer to any financial situation that is not addressed in the application process. All circumstances will require you to submit appropriate documentation before being considered.
The following list includes common special circumstances in which professional judgment may apply:
- One-time reduction in income such as a one-time IRA withdrawal
- Loss or reduction of employment, wages, or unemployment compensation
- Exceptional medical and/or dental expenses
- Divorce or separation that occurred after taxes were filed
- Death of a parent or spouse which occurred after the FAFSA was filed
- Marriage (if married between the date the FAFSA was filed and December 31st of the same year)
Please note that the financial aid office is not limited to these circumstances, nor are we required to use professional judgment for these circumstances. We highly recommend coming in or contact our office to speaking to one of our financial aid counselors.
If you believe you qualify for special circumstance consideration, please complete the information requested on the following form: Special Circumstance Form
What is an unusual circumstance?
Unusual circumstances refer to any situation where a financial aid administrator would need to adjust the dependency status of a student. Most students entering a postsecondary school straight from high school are considered financially dependent on their parents. This means their parents must provide their financial information on the FAFSA. In some circumstances, the financial aid office can change a student’s FAFSA status from dependent to independent in situations where providing parental information may be difficult for the student.
All circumstances will require you to submit appropriate documentation before being considered.
The following are examples of circumstances that may considered for a dependency override:
- An abusive family environment
- Abandonment and/or estrangement by parents
- Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
- Parents cannot be located
The following circumstances would not be considered for a dependency override:
- Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education
- Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification
- Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
- Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
Please note that the financial aid office is not limited to these circumstances, nor are we required to use professional judgment for these circumstances. If you are unable to provide parent data on the FAFSA and do not meet any of the criteria above, please come in and speak to one of our financial aid counselors.
If you believe you qualify for unusual circumstance consideration, please complete the information requested on the following form: Special Circumstance Form