Special and Unusual Circumstances
We recognize that the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) may not always reflect your current financial situation and/or dependency status. Financial Aid Administrators have the authority to use professional judgment on a case-by-case basis to consider a student’s unique circumstances. Although considerations for specific situations are limited, we may be able to give consideration for certain situations as described below.
- Special Circumstances refer to financial situations that justify an aid administrator adjusting data elements in the cost of attendance (COA) or in the expected family contribution (EFC) calculation.
- Unusual Circumstances refer to the conditions that justify an aid administrator making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status based on a unique situation, more commonly referred to as a dependency override.
A student may have both a special circumstance and an unusual circumstance. Financial aid administrators may make adjustments that are appropriate to each student’s individual situation with sufficient documentation through the following appeal processes.
Special Circumstance Appeals will be considered after May 1 for the upcoming academic year. A student must receive their initial financial aid offer before submitting an appeal. After reviewing the special circumstance documentation, the student’s aid package may remain the same, be increased, or reduced according to the financial information that has been submitted. Submitting a Special Circumstance Appeal does not guarantee an adjustment will be made to the student’s financial aid package. Decisions are final and will be communicated directly to the student. If approved, any additional funding awarded is only available for the academic school year for which the appeal is approved. Special circumstances must be reviewed annually.
Situations that will be considered include, but are not limited to, the following:
Special Circumstance Appeals
- Substantial loss or reduction of wage income
- Unusually high medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance
- Death, divorce, or separation of parents or spouse
- One-time income received during the FAFSA tax year that will not be repeated
- Private school tuition payments for minor children
- Loss of benefits such as unemployment, disability, social security, veterans, child support, or alimony
- Natural disaster affecting the home in which you live (fire, flood, etc.)
Cost of Attendance Appeals
- Dependent care expenses
- Required computer or software purchase
- Disability-related expenses
- Travel expenses related to program of study
- Program or course fees not already included in your cost-of-attendance
Please note that consumer debt, including credit card debt, car, and mortgage payments will not be considered.
The Special Circumstance Appeal and the Cost of Attendance Appeal forms are available by request only. If you feel you have a special circumstance, contact the Student Hub for further guidance after submitting your FAFSA and reviewing your aid package.
Unusual circumstances may be considered for a dependency override after you file your FAFSA and before receiving your initial award notification for the current aid year. After reviewing your unusual circumstance documentation, your aid package may remain the same, be increased, or reduced according to the information that has been submitted. A dependency override does not guarantee an adjustment will be made to your aid package. Decisions are final and will be communicated directly to the student.
Unusual Circumstances Appeals that will be considered include, but are not limited to, the following situations:
- Parental abandonment or neglect
- Abusive family environment (physical or mental)
- Parent(s) incarceration
- Parents cannot be located/no contact with any parent
- Victim of human trafficking
- Refugee or asylee status
Examples of circumstances that will not be considered for a dependency override:
- Parents do not claim you as a dependent on their tax return
- Parents are not helping you pay for college
- Parents refuse to complete or sign the FAFSA
- No longer living with parents (unless due to one of the unusual circumstances listed in the section above)
- Involuntary court ordered placement in a juvenile facility
If you believe you have an unusual circumstance that impacts your dependency status, please contact the Student Hub as soon as possible after submitting your FAFSA.