Professional Judgment/Special Circumstances
Have a special circumstance? The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship can use professional judgement to help eligible students receive financial aid.
Professional Judgment refers to the school's authority to make adjustments, on a case-by-case basis, to information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so that the Department of Education can recalculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is the number that the school uses to determine if a student is eligible for need based financial aid.
Please Note: The school does not have the authority to make direct adjustments to the EFC or to the formula used to calculate the EFC, just data elements on the FAFSA which may change the EFC.
The professional judgment process is an extensive process that requires a thorough review by the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to determine what, if any changes, may be appropriate based on your FAFSA application. It is a time intensive process that includes the following steps:
- If a Professional Judgment request is submitted, the student will be institutionally selected for Verification (if not previously selected). Be aware that during the Verification process, corrections to your FAFSA may be required which can result in a change to a student's aid eligibility.
- The file will then be reviewed to determine if all required documentation has been submitted. If additional documentation is required, the student will be notified by email.
- The Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid will determine if a student's Professional Judgment request meets the criteria to make data element changes to their FAFSA.
- If approved, appropriate changes will be made to the student's FAFSA and submitted to the Department of Education. The Department of Education will then recalculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the student's eligibility for need based aid. The student will be notified by email.
- If denied, the student will be notified by email.
In many cases, an adjustment does not increase the student's eligibility for grants or the total amount of aid awarded. Be aware that if a student receives Federal Pell Grant or a North Carolina Grant, it may be reduced or lost because it is based on the original EFC. The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid reserves the right to deny any appeals that would not increase a student's eligibility for aid. The decision of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid is final and cannot be appealed to the Department of Education.
Special circumstances are anything that differentiates the family's finances from those of other families. Below are examples to include, but not limited to, reasons to submit a professional judgment request:
- unusually high childcare or dependent care expenses
- changes to dependency status
- unusually high medical or dental expenses
- parent(s) enrolled in college at least half-time in a degree seeking program
- changes in a family's reported income
- death or disability of a wage earner
- separation/divorce of the student's parents
- one-time taxable income
Please note: Use of professional judgment is neither limited to nor required for the situations mentioned.
Situations that are not considered special circumstances:
- vacation expenses
- tithing expenses
- standard living expenses (e.g. utilities, credit card expenses, children's allowances, etc.)
- mortgage payments
- car payments
- lawn care
- credit card or other personal debt problems
- all other discretionary expenses
If a student would like to request consideration of special circumstances, please submit a Professional Judgment Request Form.
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