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Financial Aid Appeals for Special or Unusual Circumstances

Financial aid regulations authorize staff in the Office of Financial Aid to use “professional judgment” on a case-by-case basis, if supported by the documented appeal of a student. More information about three types of appeals is provided below. To submit an appeal, students must log into their FinAid Forms account and then click the “Request” button in the top right corner of the screen. Submitted appeals will be reviewed in the order they are received and within 10 business days. 

Family Contribution Appeal

When data that is required to be reported on the FAFSA does not accurately portray a family's financial circumstances, students can submit a Family Contribution Appeal. Approved Family Contribution Appeals result in adjustments to a student's FAFSA data and a recalculation of the Student Aid Index (SAI), which may in turn result in increased eligibility for need-based financial aid. Common examples of situations that might warrant a Family Contribution Appeal include:

  • a recent change to student/family income (compared to what was reported on the FAFSA)
  • significant and unusually high medical or dependent care costs (the FAFSA already has an allowance for typical costs, but adjustments can be made for unusual circumstances)
  • Concurrent K-12 private tuition or college expenses for other family members

Cost of Attendance Appeal

Each student has a cost of attendance (COA) budget, which estimates the student’s educationally-related expenses for an academic year. Generally, the COA budget includes cost estimates for tuition, fees, housing, meals, transportation, books/supplies/course materials, professional licensure/certification costs (if applicable) and other personal expenses. A student’s COA budget can be viewed in Financial Aid Self-Service. A student’s total financial aid may not exceed their COA budget. Students with actual educational costs that exceed their COA budget can complete a Cost of Attendance Appeal. Approved appeals will result in increases to a student’s COA budget, which may result in increased financial aid eligibility. 

Dependency Appeal

Students who are classified as a dependent student on the FAFSA (requiring parent information) and who wish to appeal for independent status (parent information not required) can appeal for a dependency override. The law allows for dependency overrides in specific, limited situations. These situations could include:

  • when a student is a victim of human trafficking
  • when a student has been granted refugee or asylee status
  • when a student's parent(s) are incarcerated
  • a history of parental abuse or abandonment
  • when a student is homeless or at risk of being homeless

The following situations do not warrant a dependency override.

  • Parent(s) are unwilling to contribute to a student's education costs or to provide information on the FAFSA
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • A student demonstrates total self-sufficiency


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