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Special Circumstances

Federal, state and institutional regulations govern the administration of financial aid programs. Your eligibility is calculated based on all information submitted on your FAFSA. The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid recognizes that many families experience changes in income or have family situations that are not reflected correctly on the FAFSA. Under federal guidance, we can revise your FAFSA information to reflect your circumstances more accurately.

Dependency Status

Financial Reconsideration

Dependency Status

Are You Independent? Eligibility for financial aid is based on the premise that your family has the primary responsibility to pay for your education. There are specific guidelines for determining whether you are a dependent or independent student. This is different from your dependency status for tax purposes. To be considered an independent student, you have to be able to answer “yes” to at least one of the following questions (and provide documentation if requested):

  1. Are you 24 years old or older?
  2. As of today, are you married? (Also answer "yes" if you are separated but not divorced.)
  3. Will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an M.A., M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., graduate certificate, etc.)?
  4. Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
  5. Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
  6. Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you?
  7. Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you?
  8. At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
  9. As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
  10. As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?
  11. In the past year, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  12. In the past year, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  13. In the past year, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

If you cannot answer “yes” to any of the above, then you are considered a dependent student and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will require your parent(s) information in addition to your own.

Without your parent(s) information, you may still be eligible to receive $2,750 to $3,750 per semester (based on grade level) in a federal direct unsubsidized loan. You will not be eligible for other federal, state or university need-based aid. Your parent(s) must certify their refusal to provide you with financial support and provide the information requested on the FAFSA. To begin this process, submit a FAFSA with your information only, and the Certification of Parent Refusal Form.

If you have documentable, unusual or extenuating circumstances that affect your family situation, please visit the Welcome Center to consult with a financial aid advisor about a possible dependency override. Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to, an abusive family environment or abandonment by parents.

The following are not considered unusual or extenuating family circumstances:

  • You do not live in your parents' home
  • You are self-supporting
  • You are not claimed as a federal income tax exemption on your parents' income tax return
  • Your parents cannot afford or refuse to help with college or living expenses
  • Your parents are unwilling to provide their financial information to complete the FAFSA
  • You and your parents had disagreements resulting in a breakdown in your relationship

The financial aid advisor will provide you with further instructions if your circumstances warrant an appeal. Prior to visiting, please gather documentation that supports your circumstances. Your FAFSA information also will be subject to federal verification.

All information will be considered confidential and protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Official communications regarding the appeal decision will be sent via email to the address on file within university records.

Financial Reconsideration

If you or your family recently experienced unique, documentable circumstances that affect your ability to contribute toward your educational expenses, please visit the Welcome Center to consult with a financial aid advisor about a financial reconsideration appeal.

A financial reconsideration appeal will NOT allow you to receive additional grants, scholarships, or loans beyond federal, state and institutional limits.

Possible outcomes:

1. Reduce your Expected Financial Contribution (EFC).
If your appeal results in a reduced EFC, your eligibility increases for the following federal programs:

  • Direct subsidized loan (maximum $1,750 to $2,750 per semester, depending on grade level)

  • Pell Grant (In 2016−2017 the maximum was $5,815 per semester for 12 hours of enrollment)

2. Increase your Cost of Attendance (COA).
Your COA can be increased for federally allowable, out-of-pocket expenses, such as a laptop purchase, child-care or unusual medical expenses. More information about COA can be found here.

Special circumstances may include, but are not limited to:

  • Loss of employment or income
  • Sudden disability or illness
  • Separation or divorce
  • Death
  • Other catastrophic events
  • Out-of-pocket payments made toward unusual medical/dental expenses

The following lifestyle choices are not considered special circumstances, and financial reconsideration cannot be made:

  • Student or parent credit card debt
  • Mortgage or car payments
  • Early retirement (before age 65)
  • Elective cosmetic surgery
  • Elective housing choices
  • Receipt of cash settlements, inheritance, 401k or other taxable income that is used to pay other sources of debt
  • Other one-time taxable income that is reported on the tax return (i.e., lottery winnings, one-time payments, etc.)

The financial aid advisor will provide you with further instructions if your circumstances warrant an appeal. Prior to visiting, please gather documentation that supports your circumstances. Your current FAFSA information also will be subject to federal verification.

All information will be considered confidential and protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Appeal reviews begin 4−6 weeks after the 12th class day. Official communications regarding the appeal decision will be sent via email to the address on file within university records.