Special and Unusual Circumstances
We recognize that the FAFSA may not always accurately reflect your financial situation and/or dependency status. Although considerations for specific situations are limited, we may be able to give additional consideration for certain situations as described below. The Department of Education does not permit processing special circumstance appeals past the period of enrollment. The descriptions below outline the appeal processes used by our office. We encourage you to contact our office with any questions you have regarding any questions.
Special Circumstances - Change of Financial Situation
Sometimes, the information and data provided on the FAFSA does not accurately reflect a student or family's current circumstances. Situations that impact a student or family's ability to contribute to the cost of education may be reevaluated. These special circumstances are listed below.
Eligible Reasons for a Change of Circumstance Request
- Change in employment status, income, or assets;
- Change in housing status (e.g., homelessness);
- Tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary school;
- Medical, dental, or nursing home expenses not covered by insurance;
- Child or dependent care expenses;
- Severe disability of the student or other member of the student’s household;
- Other changes or adjustments that impact the student’s costs or ability to pay for college.
Requesting a Special Circumstance Appeal
Students and families who have experienced one of the allowable circumstances listed above may contact the Financial Aid Office to schedule an appointment to meet with a Financial Aid Counselor to discuss your changed financial circumstances. The Financial Aid Counselor will assess eligibility for special circumstances and provide the Special Circumstance Appeal Form which must be completed and returned to the Financial Aid Office with supporting documentation. Special circumstance appeals are evaluated only after the original FAFSA and all supporting documents have been received.
Examples of documents we may request:
- Mortgage Statements;
- Tax returns;
- Letters from attorneys;
- Unemployment statements;
- Letters of separation;
Processing times will depend on when the appeal was submitted and whether or not we need additional documentation in order to process the appeal. Generally, it could take anywhere between 2-3 weeks for processing.
Other Special Circumstances
Cost of Attendance (Budget Appeal)
Each student is assigned a Cost of Attendance (COA), which is an estimate of expenses they may incur in an academic year. If a student’s COA does not accurately reflect their expenses, they may request a reevaluation by submitting a Budget Adjustment Form with supporting documentation.
Budget adjustments may be approved for:
- Disability-related expenses for the student
- Cost of Childcare/Dependent care
- Purchase of a computer/equipment needed for school
- Additional required educational expenses
- Room and board expenses
A COA Budget Appeal allows for but does not guarantee that additional financial aid will be awarded. Supporting documentation must be submitted with each appeal to verify the paid expenses and must be in the student’s name. If your request results in increased eligibility for aid, you may receive additional assistance if funds are available. Budget adjustment requests are evaluated only after the original FAFSA, and all supporting documents have been reviewed. Contact the Financial Aid Office for additional information regarding budget adjustments.
Unusual Circumstances - Dependency Override
The FAFSA will determine your dependency status based on a number of questions. If you answer ‘no’ to all of the dependency questions on the FAFSA, you are considered a dependent student for financial aid purposes and must provide your parent information on the FAFSA. In situations such as the ones below, you may be able to submit your FAFSA form without parent information despite being considered a dependent student:
- Your parents are incarcerated.
- You have left home due to an abusive family environment.
- You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them (and you have not been adopted).
- You are older than 21 but not yet 24, are unaccompanied, and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.
These circumstances must be documented by an objective third party (e.g., pastor, high school or college counselor, a social service agency official, etc.) in order to qualify for this professional judgment treatment.
We cannot override dependency in cases where:
- parents refuse to contribute financially to your education
- unwillingness of parents to provide information on the FAFSA
- student demonstrates total sufficiency
- parents not claiming a student as a dependent on their income taxes
Requesting a Dependency Override
Students who have unusual circumstances and cannot provide parent information may contact the Financial Aid Office to schedule an appointment with a Financial Aid Counselor to discuss their circumstances. The Financial Aid Counselor will assess eligibility for unusual circumstances and provide the Unusual Circumstance Appeal Form which must be completed and returned to the Financial Aid Office with supporting documentation. Unusual circumstances appeal are evaluated only after the original FAFSA and all supporting documents have been received.
Documenting an Unusual Circumstance
A signed and dated statement that includes a complete history of your relationship with your biological and/or legally adoptive parents, and the specific dates of events that caused your separation from your parents.
Additional information regarding your self-support may be requested such as utility bills, health insurance, or other documents that demonstrate a separation from parents or legal guardians.
Two signed and dated letters from professionals (on their letterhead) documenting their first-hand knowledge of your exceptional circumstance. The Financial Aid Office may contact these references for additional information or clarification of your situation.
- submission of a court order or official Federal or State documentation that the student or student’s parents or legal guardians are incarcerated;
- written statement, which confirms the unusual circumstances from a state, county or Tribal welfare agency;
- an independent living case worker who supports current and former foster youth with the transition to adulthood;
- a public or private agency, facility, or program servicing the victims of abuse, neglect, assault, or violence;
- a representative of a TRIO or GEAR UP program which confirms the circumstances and the person’s relationship to the student;
- a documented determination of independence made by a financial aid administrator at another institution in the same or a prior award year;
Processing times will depend on when the appeal was submitted and whether or not we need additional documentation in order to process the appeal. Generally, it could take anywhere between 2-4 weeks to process.