At Salem College we recognize that, due to extenuating circumstances, the FAFSA may not always accurately reflect your financial situation and/or dependency status. The U.S. Department of Education permits financial aid administrators to exercise Professional Judgment, and possibly give additional consideration, to those students and their families experiencing certain limited specific situations as described below.
Special Circumstances refer to the financial situations that justify an aid administrator adjusting data elements in the Cost of Attendance or in the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) calculation on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Unusual Circumstances refer to the conditions that justify an aid administrator making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status based on a unique situation, more commonly referred to as a dependency.
A student may have both a special circumstance and an unusual circumstance. Financial aid administrators may make adjustments that are appropriate to each student’s situation with appropriate documentation.
Please note that if a student already has a 0 EFC, there is no need to request a “second look” of FAFSA data. This is because a student with a 0 EFC is already receiving the maximum amount of financial aid available. Additionally, there is no need-based financial aid currently available for graduate students. Graduate students at Salem College are only eligible for unsubsidized federal Direct Loans. Therefore, a Professional Judgment request will not benefit a graduate student by providing need-based grant funding.
Special Circumstances: Professional Judgment Request
Professional Judgment based on Special Circumstance can be requested after the student receives their initial award notification for the current aid year. Before the special circumstances can be considered, the college will verify the accuracy of the information that the student provided on their current FAFSA through the federal verification process. Salem College utilizes Inceptia, Inc. (Verification Gateway) to complete verification. Salem will manually select the student for verification and Inceptia will send a “welcome e-mail” to the email address the student listed on their current FAFSA. The email will list the necessary documentation that both the student and parent are required to submit to Inceptia in order to complete the federal verification process. Inceptia will notify the college once the verification process is complete. Upon their notification, the Assistant Vice President for Financial Aid will review the Professional Judgement request.
After reviewing your special circumstance documentation, your financial aid package may remain the same, be increased, or reduced according to the financial information that has been submitted. Submitting a special circumstance request does not guarantee an adjustment will be made to your aid package.
Decisions are final and will be communicated directly to the student. For more information, contact the Financial Aid Office to see if your situation can be considered. If approved, any additional funding awarded is only available for the academic school year for which the special circumstance is approved. Special circumstances must be reviewed annually. Please do not submit documents unless instructed by our office.
Examples of Special Circumstances Considered
- Loss or reduction of income (layoff, illness, forced reduction of hours, temporary employment, etc.)
- Medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance (and that exceed 11% of the AGI reported on current FAFSA)
- Death, divorce, or separation of parents or spouse
- Non-recurring payments receiving during the FAFSA tax year that will not be repeated
- Loss of benefits, such as unemployment, disability, social security, veterans, child support, or alimony
- Private elementary and secondary tuition for siblings, not including the Salem College applicant
Examples of Special Circumstances NOT Considered
- Parent refuses to provide financial support for higher education
- Parent refuses to complete or sign FAFSA
- Increase of standard living expenses
- Purchasing material items such as a car, home appliances, vacations, second homes, etc.
- Reduction of assets. Changes in assets will be reflected on the following year’s FAFSA.
- Credit issues, line of credit changes, previous student loan debt, etc.
- Medical bills paid by health insurance or that will be reimbursed by health care coverage.
- Siblings or parents who are also attending college. Siblings are already taken into account on the FAFSA. Students cannot list their parents in the number in college.
Submitting Your Request for the Consideration of Special Circumstances
The Professional Judgment Application is available by request only. If you feel you have a special circumstance, contact the Financial Aid Office for further guidance. The College will review all Professional Judgment requests as quickly as practicable. Per federal regulations, Salem cannot process a Professional Judgment that was submitted after the student is no longer enrolled for the period of enrollment; or was submitted before the end of the period of enrollment, but processed by Salem after the end of the period of enrollment.
Unusual Circumstances: Professional Judgment Request
Unusual circumstances may be considered for a dependency override after you file your FAFSA and before receiving your initial award notification for the current aid year. After reviewing your unusual circumstance documentation, your aid package may remain the same, be increased, or reduced according to the information that has been submitted. A dependency override does not guarantee an adjustment will be made to your aid package.
Decisions are final and will be communicated directly to the student. Please do not submit documents unless instructed by our office.
Examples of Unusual Circumstances Considered
- Abusive/unsafe family environment
- Parental abandonment or incarceration
- Both parents became deceased after filing the FAFSA
- Parents cannot be located
- Parents are incapacitated
- Victims of human trafficking
- Refugee or asylee status
Examples of Unusual Circumstances NOT Considered
- Parents refusal to contribute to financing the student’s education
- Parents do not claim you as a dependent on their tax return
- Parents are unwilling to provide information on the application or verification documentation
- Student is no longer living with parents/demonstrates self-sufficiency (unless due to one of the unusual circumstances listed in the section above)
Submitting Your Request for the Consideration of Unusual Circumstances
If you believe you have an unusual circumstance that impacts your dependency status, please contact the Financial Aid Office as soon as possible after submitting your FAFSA. The College will review all requests for a dependency override as quickly as practicable. Per federal regulations, Salem cannot process a dependency override that was submitted after the student is no longer enrolled for the period of enrollment; or was submitted before the end of the period of enrollment, but processed by the Salem after the end of the period of enrollment.
Renewal applicants must still affirm that their previous answers to the dependency questions are correct and applicable prior to submitting their FAFSA form. Please contact the Financial Aid Office to obtain the necessary renewal application.