A financial aid professional may exercise Professional Judgment and change elements in the federal need analysis to account for circumstances that he/she feels have not been adequately considered in the original FAFSA (see the regulatory citation at HEA 479A(a) and the guidance at DCL GEN 16-03, as well as the earlier Dear Colleague Letters referenced within DCL GEN 16-03).
All Professional Judgment determinations will be documented and will relate to each student’s special circumstances (not to conditions that may exist for a whole class of students).
As stated in DCL GEN 16-03, one specific circumstance under which Professional Judgment may be appropriate is when a student’s income information from two years previous is significantly different than the student’s income in more recent years. This type of Professional Judgment request has become more common starting with the 2017-18 FAFSA, now that the FAFSA uses income information from two years prior to the aid year. However, all Professional Judgment requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, not for students with income variance between two tax years as a general class.
To learn how to request this type of Professional Judgment, see here.
Circumstances for Professional Judgment
The following are the circumstances in which students may apply for Professional Judgment at City Vision University:
- Unemployment or change in employment which has drastically reduced your income (and/or your spouse’s, if you have a spouse).
- Unemployment or change in employment which you and/or your parent(s)’ income – dependent students only
- You have already completed the FAFSA and since that time your marital status has changed (Marriage, Separation, Divorce, or Death) – including if your change in marital status changed your Dependency status
- You have already completed the FAFSA and since that time your parent(s)’ marital status has changed (Marriage, Separation, Divorce, or Death) – dependent students only
- One-time income (examples: inheritance, IRA, or pension distribution)
Students may also request a Dependency Override, which is reviewed similarly to a Professional Judgment. More details on Dependency Overrides are provided below.
Instructions to Students/Parents:
All requests for Professional Judgment must:
- Include a completed Professional Judgment form. On City Vision’s financial aid office website, there are forms for Independent and Dependent students for the situations listed below. These forms indicate what documentation is needed in addition to the student Statement. The forms also may have additional information to fill in, such as anticipated income.
- Income Reduction
- Unusual Medical Expenses
- Change in Marital Status Affecting Dependency Status
- Include a written Statement describing why Professional Judgment is appropriate, in the belief of the student. This statement must be signed and dated in pen. It should give a full description of what has happened in the past year that affects the student’s ability to pay for college. Depending on the type of Professional Judgment requested, the statement may need to include additional information, such as whether you have received unemployment benefits.
- Include supporting documentation. The “Documentation Requirements” listed on the Professional Judgment form shows what is needed for each type of Professional Judgment request.
Before you can make a Professional Judgment request, City Vision will need to have a completed FAFSA on file for the current aid year. Follow the FAFSA instructions listed here.
If you have been selected for verification, we must complete that process before reviewing your Professional Judgment request (as stated in 34 CFR 668.53(c)).
Remember: A request for Professional Judgment will delay your receipt of financial aid, sometimes for a significant period of time. If you request Professional Judgment, the amount of financial aid that you can receive in an aid year may change. However, it will not change if your request is denied.
All Professional Judgment requests should be made to the Director of Financial Aid (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please fax any documentation to (816) 256-8471
Students are considered to be dependent unless they meet at least one of the criteria in listed in the table on this page. If you are considered to be a dependent student, then your parent(s)’ income is counted in your estimated family contribution (EFC), which typically would decrease the amount of federal and other need-based financial aid for which you are eligible. If you are an independent student, parental income is not counted in your EFC.
Below is a summary of the most common criteria to be an independent student, but there are a few others.
- Being over the age of 24
- Married or separated (but not divorced)
- Student has a child and the child receives more than half of their support from the student
- In foster care, ward of the state, or both parents were deceased any time after the age of 13.
- Student is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces (See link above for full definition)
A Dependency Override allows a student to be considered independent for income calculation purposes. It may be requested in the following circumstances:
- a) Special circumstances in the the family that prevent you from obtaining your parent(s)’s financial information, such as:
- Incarceration of the custodial parent (i.e., imprisonment of the parent who would otherwise be responsible for you)
- Abandonment by both parents
- Unable to locate parents
- History of parental alcohol or drug abuse
- Abusive home situation which is detrimental to your physical or mental well-being
- Students who are refugees from war-torn or turbulent countries
- b) Death of a parent after the FAFSA was filed using their information, and special circumstances, such as those listed above, exist with the surviving parent
- c) You are divorced and during the time you were married, living separately from your parents and ex-spouse’s parents. Additionally, you currently live separately from your parents and pay all expenses from your own income and assets
Students requiring a Dependency Override must complete the Dependency Override Request form available on the VFAO here. The supporting documentation below must accompany the form. All signatures and dates should be in pen.
- A personal statement explaining your special circumstances and how you came to support yourself. Include the amount of time that you have supported yourself. You must describe the events which led to your current separation from your family. Provide any
additional information that you believe will help explain your situation.
- A signed/dated letter (on letterhead that includes the contact information) from at least one authoritative third party that knows and can verify the circumstances described in your personal explanation. For example, this letter could come from a guidance counselor, clergy member, teacher or professor, doctor, family counselor, mental health professional, or law enforcement personnel.
- Attach a signed/dated letter from a friend or relative who can verify the circumstances described in your personal explanation. Include address and phone number for the relative.
The following additional documentation is required based on which type of Dependency Override you are requesting:
- Type A, Special Family Circumstances: if there is court documentation related to your situation, you must provide that in addition to the other documentation for Dependency Overrides
- Type B, Death of Parent: provide a copy of the death certificate or newspaper obituary
- Type C, Divorced and Living in Separate Residence: provide a copy of the mortgage or lease agreement for the period in which you were married
If you have been selected for verification, we must complete that process before reviewing your Professional Judgment request. All documentation must be provided within 30 days of a Dependency Override request, or the request will not be reviewed.
The Director of Financial Aid will make the final determination in requests for dependency overrides. Please note: Federal regulations do not permit a financial aid officer to perform a dependency override because of a parent’s unwillingness to pay for education, or refusal to provide information on the FAFSA.
All Dependency Override requests should be made to the Director of Financial Aid (email@example.com). Please fax any documentation to (816) 256-8471