Skip to main contentSkip to main navigationSkip to footer content

Professional Judgement

Federal financial aid is based on a formula created by the U.S. Department of Education to determine a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) uses prior-year income information to determine your EFC and eligibility for federal financial aid (grants, loans, work-study).

Special Circumstances

After filing the FAFSA, some families realize that their EFC may not adequately reflect the family’s current financial situation due to extenuating circumstances. The federal government allows schools to review a family’s unique circumstances beyond the student’s/family’s control to determine if the situation warrants special consideration.

Please note that a request for consideration of a special/unusual circumstance appeal does not guarantee approval. Even if approved, a recalculation of FAFSA data does not always result in increased eligibility for the student.

Special/Unusual circumstances may include, but are not limited to:

  • Loss/Change of employment
  • Death of a parent/spouse
  • Divorce/Separation
  • Dependent student marries after the FAFSA was filed
  • Declared state of emergency (COVID-19, Tornadoes, etc.)

If you believe you qualify for a special circumstance, follow the steps to request a professional judgement.

Dependency Appeal

Your dependency status is determined when you complete the FAFSA. If you are considered dependent, your financial aid eligibility is based on your income and assets plus your parents’ income and assets.

A student considered dependent may have family circumstances that warrant evaluation so that the student can be considered independent. The basis of a dependency appeal must be rooted in circumstances that are unusual. These circumstances may include:

  • Abusive home environment
  • Abandonment
  • Student is homeless
  • Student is unaccompanied
  • Parent death after FAFSA was completed

The following situations do not, by themselves, qualify as unusual circumstances in order to grant an appeal:

  • 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
  • The student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
  • Students and parents “don’t get along”
  • The student is a single parent or pregnant

If you believe you qualify for a Dependency Appeal, please follow the steps to request a professional judgement for your dependency status.

Contact Financial Aid at or 479-788-7090 for more information.