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Special Circumstances and Professional Judgement

Professional Judgment

Professional Judgment is the process in which the University may consider, on a case-by-case basis, a student’s special or unusual circumstances to determine if they are eligible to have their financial aid adjusted. For those students selected for verification, a Professional Judgment cannot be processed for changes until the verification process is complete.

Requests for Special Circumstances

The following list includes the most common types of changes in circumstances in which a Special Circumstances Professional Judgment may apply:

  • Loss or reduction of employment/earnings
  • Child support or alimony reduction or loss
  • Death or divorce of student's parent or spouse
  • Change in student's marital status
  • Excessive out-of-pocket medical and/or dental expenses
  • Catastrophic loss, such as damage or loss from a natural disaster
  • One-time taxable income (e.g., pension distribution, IRA disbursement, back-year
    Social Security payments, etc.)

There must be a significant change to the household finances to be considered for a Special Circumstances Professional Judgment. Documentation will be required.

Requests for Independent Status

The following list includes the most common types of changes in circumstances in which an Unusual Circumstances Professional Judgment may apply:

  • Estrangement from parent or guardian
  • Homelessness or risk of homelessness
  • Incarceration of parent or guardian
  • Mental illness of parent or guardian
  • Relationship with parent or guardian is detrimental to the student

All requests for independent status appeals are required to submit a Petition for Independent Status form, a detailed letter of explanation (signed and dated) describing your reason for requesting additional financial assistance and supporting documentation to be considered.

Requests for Changes to Cost of Attendance

The following list includes the most common circumstances which may warrant a
Professional Judgment adjustment to your Cost of Attendance.

  • Travel to and from an internship or field placement
  • Housing expenses that exceed our estimated housing allowance
  • Childcare expenses for periods of educational-related activities
  • A computer purchase

All requests for a change to the cost of attendance are required to submit a Request for Budget Increase form. Supporting documentation will be necessary. An adjustment to your Cost of Attendance almost always, if approved, will result in increased loan eligibility.

Please Note: The Student Financial Services Office may request additional information to support your special or unusual circumstance. Please note that the submission of an appeal does not guarantee a change to your financial aid offer. All decisions are final.

If you or your family has experienced a life event that impacts your finances and this isn’t reflected on your FAFSA, please contact our office to discuss your situation in further detail. Our office can be reached at 413.565.1256 or at