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Federal regulations provide financial aid administrators with the authority to use their discretion or professional judgment to adjust, on a case-by-case basis, the cost of attendance, change to dependency status or the data elements used on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A professional judgment review does not guarantee additional funding.


Special circumstances refer to the financial situations that justify an aid administrator adjusting data elements in the cost of attendance (COA) or in the expected family contribution (EFC).

For EFC adjustments, examples of this may be (but are not limited to):

  • Loss or change of employment
  • Child Support change
  • Death of parent or spouse
  • Excessive medical expenses (must exceed 11% of adjusted gross income)
  • One-time taxable income (IRA distribution, pension distribution, etc.)

For COA adjustments, examples of this may be (but are not limited to):

  • Costs associated with a student’s disability
  • Childcare expenses for a dependent child of student
  • One-time purchase of a computer for educational use
  • Higher than already included costs of housing or transportation

If you think the information contained or captured on the FAFSA at the time of submitting does not accurately reflect your current income, submit the Special Circumstance Appeal Form.   

Note that the school's decision is final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.


When a student has unusual circumstances that prevents them from obtaining parental information and did not answer “YES” to any of the dependency questions on the FAFSA, a Financial Aid Administrator can conduct a dependency override on a case-by-case basis. .

Some situations (but not all) that would warrant an adjustment for dependency status:

  • Refugee or asylee status
  • Human trafficking
  • Abandonment by parents
  • An abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety
  • The student's inability to locate his/her parent

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.
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

If you feel that you have a situation or circumstance that warrants a professional judgment and would like to pursue a review, please submit the Unusual Circumstance (Dependency Override) form.


Contact the Financial Aid Office

101 Old Main, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, PA 17257 Phone: 717-477-1131 Fax: (717) 477-4028
Fall & Spring Terms: Monday - Friday 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM / Summer & Winter Terms: Monday - Friday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM