Professional Judgement Options | ECTC

Professional Judgement Options

PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT/Special Circumstances 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is completed using income information from up to two years from the time the application is submitted to determine financial aid eligibility.  Often there are special circumstances that have occurred that will reduce the income for the student or family; when this happens, the student may work with the college Financial Aid Office to evaluate and adjust the income reported on the FAFSA to more accurately reflect the current situation.

Professional Judgment or Recalculation refers to the school's authority to adjust, 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.

Examples of special circumstances that may warrant a recalculation of the FAFSA are listed below, but not limited to;

  • Reduction or loss in Household Income due to layoffs, furlough, or job displacement.  In the case of a loss of employment the FAFSA Recalculation cannot be considered until the individual has been unemployed for at least 8 weeks.
  • Non-recurring income, such as early withdrawal from a retirement account or insurance payout, severance pay, or other one-time income reported on the FAFSA
  • Divorce or Separation following completion of the FAFSA
  • Death of a parent or spouse

The following are not examples:

  • vacation expenses
  • utilities, credit card expenses
  • mortgage payments
  • car payments
  • lawn care
  • personal debt

A student may complete the Special Circumstances Request form and provide necessary documentation for a review.  The financial aid office staff will review the submitted documentation and may request additional information in order to complete the review.  

The special circumstance reported will determine the required documentation, but most will require the following:

  • Special Circumstance/Recalculation form.
  • Recent Federal Tax Returns
  • Recent W2s
  • IRS 1099 forms

The purpose of the recalculation is to update your FAFSA with more accurate financial information which may change your financial aid eligibility.  There are no guarantees that the student will become grant eligible or have an increase in existing grant eligibility.

Once all documentation is received the college will update the FAFSA and notify the student of the outcome.  In cases where the recalculation will not change eligibility the FAFSA will not be updated.

Dependency Appeal

Dependency status is determined when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  If based on the information provided on the FAFSA you are a dependent student your financial aid eligibility will be determined by the income and assets of both the student and the parent(s).

A student considered dependent on the FAFSA may have family circumstances that warrant an evaluation.  In some situations, a dependency override can be used to make a dependent student independent for the purposes of awarding financial aid. 

The college financial aid office will review these special circumstances on a one on one basis and if an override is approved will update the FAFSA to change the dependency status to independent.

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

  • Abandonment by parents
  • Abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • Parents locations unknown

The following are examples of circumstances that do not merit a dependency override:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to education costs
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on FAFSA
  • Parents are unwilling to provide documentation for verification
  • Student is not claimed as dependent on parent taxes
  • Student is self-supporting

A student may submit a Dependency Override request form to the college financial aid office with appropriate documentation and a written appeal explaining the special circumstances.   The financial aid office staff will review the submitted documentation and may request additional information in order to complete the review.  

The purpose of the review is to update the FAFSA to change the dependency status from dependent to independent. There are no guarantees that the student will be approved, or will become grant eligible if approved. 

The student will be notified of the appeal decision and any subsequent changes to the FAFSA status.