Professional Judgment / Special Circumstances


Professional Judgment

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requests income information from two year's prior and does not give the student the opportunity to explain a circumstance that could affect his or her ability to pay for college. Therefore, under federal law, financial aid administrators have been given the authority through "Professional Judgment" to take some circumstances into account and make changes to data adjustments to the FAFSA application, impacting the official Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC will no longer be called the EFC after the 2023-2024 school year. EFC will be replaced by Student Aid Index (SAI) effective the 2024-2025 school year. 

If your EFC/SAI is $0 (or negative in the case of SAI), you may have already been awarded the maximum available aid. Please contact the financial aid office to discuss if a Professional Judgment would still benefit you.

Special Circumstances

Special circumstances can refer to any financial situation that is not addressed in the application process.

The following list includes common special circumstances in which professional judgment may apply:

  • One-time reduction in income such as a one-time IRA withdrawal
  • Loss or reduction of employment, wages, or unemployment compensation
  • Exceptional medical and/or dental expenses
  • Divorce or separation that occurred after taxes were filed
  • Death of a parent or spouse which occurred after the FAFSA was filed
  • Marriage (if married between the date the FAFSA was filed and December 31st of the same year)

Please note that the financial aid office is not limited to these circumstances, nor are we required to use professional judgment for these circumstances.  We highly recommend coming in and speaking to one of our financial aid counselors.

Unusual Circumstances / Dependency Overrides

Most students entering a postsecondary school straight from high school are considered financially dependent on their parents. This means their parents must provide their financial information on the FAFSA. In some circumstances, the financial aid office can change a student's FAFSA status from dependent to independent in situations where providing parental information may be difficult for the student.

The following are examples of circumstances that may considered for a dependency override:

  • Human trafficking
  • Refugee or asylee status
  • An abusive family environment
  • Abandonment and/or estrangement by parents
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • Parents cannot be located

The following circumstances would not be considered for a dependency override:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency

Note: If you are unable to provide your parents information on the FAFSA and do not meet any of the criteria above, please contact the financial aid office for additional information.

Special Circumstances / Unusual Circumstances Forms

The special circumstances / unusual circumstances form is available on the Financial Aid Forms page.

Processing Time

Please allow approximately three weeks once all documentation is received for a decision to be made. If additional documentation is requested the processing time may be extended.  You will be notified of the outcome at your UCCS email address.