Special or Unusual Circumstance Evaluations

Special Circumstance – Change to FAFSA

When you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you are required to enter income information from two years prior to the current year. If your family’s financial situation has changed in a subsequent completed tax year, you may be eligible for additional financial aid through a special circumstance evaluation.

Examples of these circumstances may include the following:

  • Your parent listed on the FAFSA lost their job;
  • There was a death to a parent or spouse;
  • Your family’s income decreased;
  • Your family had high out of pocket medical expenses;

If you are in one of the situations below, completing this process most likely will not result in an increase in your financial aid eligibility:

  • If you are already receiving the maximum amount of the Federal Pell Grant.
  • If you are in a graduate or professional program, including a law and medical program, and you are receiving the maximum loan amount you are eligible, this review would not increase your loan amount or eligibility.

Special Circumstance – Update to Cost of Attendance Budget

On a case-by-case basis, your cost of attendance may be adjusted to account for a special circumstance. An increase to your cost of attendance increases the amount of room in your budget for additional financial aid resources. This review does not increase the amount of financial aid you will be offered.

Special circumstances considered for a cost of attendance adjustment may include:

  • Tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary school;
  • Medical expenses not covered by insurance;
  • Child or dependent care expenses;
  • Severe disability of the student or other member of the student’s household.

Unusual Circumstance

If you are a dependent student, you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA. This is true even if your parent(s) refuses to contribute to your schooling, they do not claim you as a dependent for tax purposes, and you are self-sufficient unless you have an unusual circumstance.

If you have an unusual circumstance, you may qualify for a dependency override. A dependency override permits an aid administrator to make an adjustment to your dependency status, if you are unable to contact a parent or if contacting your parent poses a risk to you.

An unusual circumstance can include situations such as:

  • Parental abandonment or estrangement;
  • Parental incarceration;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Legally granted refugee or asylum status.

Students whose parents refuse to support them are not eligible for a dependency override; however, the student may be eligible to receive dependent level Direct Unsubsidized loans. To determine if this is an option, please call the Office of Student Aid to discuss your situation with an adviser.

Contact Us

Please call our office at 814-865-6301 for an evaluation of your circumstances.

If you are a parent contacting us because of a change to your financial circumstances:

  • Please ask your student to grant you delegated access to financial aid information;
  • Have your most recent completed tax documents available when you call
  • Be prepared to discuss the changes that occurred and the date in which these changes occurred.