Special Circumstances for Families


Special Circumstance Appeal - Income Adjustments

The income information provided on the FAFSA is for the previous calendar year.   What if your family’s income changes because of a loss of employment, an accident or an illness?  There may be a loss of benefits such as child support, a divorce or a disability that changes the family’s ability to pay for college. 

If a family’s income will change for the coming year, you may request a “Special (Unusual) Circumstance” application in the Financial Aid Office after you file your FAFSA and submit all requested documentation. The Financial Aid staff can use documented income changes to determine eligibility. Adjusted Gross Income can also be reduced because of unusual medical expenses, K-12 school tuition costs, the support of an extended family member that does not reside with the family or unusual debt related to a bankruptcy, adoption, divorce, etc. 

Students wishing to request an adjustment to their FAFSA will need to submit a completed unusual circumstance form to the financial aid office, along with supporting documentation.

Dependency Override Appeal

Federal Policy on Dependency:

Students are considered to be dependent until they reach the age of 24 – unless they:

    • are married (or)
    • are an orphan (or)
    • are a ward of the court (or)
    • are an emancipated minor (or)
    • are determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self- supporting and at risk of being homeless (or)
    • are currently serving active duty for purpose other than training (or)
    • are a veteran (or)
    • are in graduate school (or)
    • are dependents 

Federal Policy on Schools Overriding Dependency:

Federal guidelines allow schools to exercise “professional judgment” in overriding a student’s dependency status. The student would need to verify “unusual’ family circumstances before a school can change a dependent student’s status to that of independent. 

Examples of an “unusual” family circumstances:

There are no absolute definitions for “unusual” family circumstances. However, examples might include abusive family situations, severely dysfunctional families, or families who have broken up because of substance abuse. The parent’s unwillingness to assist a student, though, will not solely be used for a dependency override. 

To request an override of your dependency status by the Financial Aid Office you must submit (at least) the following:

    • The Dependency Status Change Request Form
    • A letter explaining your “unusual” circumstances
    • A letter from a teacher, counselor, clergy, or other professional who can comment on your “unusual” circumstances