Financial Aid Professional Judgement for Unusual Circumstances
Professional Judgement is the process of reviewing an individual student's unique circumstances and exercising the option to change the data elements normally applied through the Department of Education Federal Methodology (FM) formula on the FAFSA application that helps compute a student’s family contribution. Professional judgment changes are made when the financial aid administrator judges the standards used to determine the family contribution are inappropriate for purposes of calculating eligibility for financial aid due to extenuating circumstances.
Potential Reasons for exercise of Professional Judgment
Students submitting requests to have their dependency status changed from dependent to independent are required to submit documentation that clearly indicates extenuating circumstances with the students and parental relationship. Students who were raised by family members other than their parents would also be considered for a dependency override. Documentation must be verifiable. Support letters should come from “independent” sources not associated with the student—such as a counselor, teacher, medical professional, social worker, or religious leader. All documentation needs to have contact information from the individual writing the letter—including their address and phone number(s).
Unusual Circumstances Include:
- Human trafficking, as described in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.)
- Legally granted refugee or asylum status.
- Parental abandonment or estrangement.
- Student or parental incarceration.
Unusual Circumstances Do Not Include:
- Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education.
- Parents will not provide information for the FAFSA or verification.
- Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.
- A student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
Contact the Financial Aid Office if there has been a significant change in your or your parent(s) income since the income year you reported on your financial aid application. You may appeal to have your financial aid eligibility re-evaluated. If the Financial Aid Office approves your appeal, corrections will be made that may result in an increase in your Pell Grant award.
- Loss of Employment
- Job Change
- Reduction in work hours
- Discharge from Active Duty
- Loss of benefits
- Unexpected medical expenses
- Parent passing away(if dependent)
- Retirement/early withdrawal of retirement
Students should avoid updating income or asset information to reflect changes to their family's financial situation if those changes took place after the FAFSA or Dream Act Application was filed. If you make corrections, it can delay the process.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
If you believe you might be experiencing an extenuating circumstance please contact the financial aid office to speak with a staff member. Once you submit the appeal and provide documentation to the Financial Aid Office, we will evaluate your documentation and situation. If approved, the Financial Aid Office will make the necessary corrections to reflect the change. If the change results in an increase in your financial aid, awards will be adjusted and funds will be disbursed to you.
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