Professional Judgment

When there are unusual situations or circumstances that impact your federal student aid eligibility, federal regulations give a financial aid administrator discretion or professional judgment (on a case-by-case basis and with adequate documentation) to adjust the data elements on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form that impact your Student Aid Index (SAI) to gain a more accurate assessment of your family's ability to contribute to your cost of education.  (Please note: You may submit the professional judgment request. However, we will not be able to process it until we have the ability to adjust your data elements on your FAFSA. We are waiting for the Department of Education to update their technology and provide all schools the capability to process those FAFSA changes. We hope to be able to do so at the end of June 2024. Processing time may be 6 to 8 weeks.)

The FAFSA Simplification Act also created a distinction between special and unusual circumstances:

  • Special circumstances relate to PJ adjustments to FAFSA data elements or to the cost of attendance (COA). Examples may include loss of job, reduction of income, etc.
  • Unusual circumstances relate to making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status based on a unique situation, commonly known as dependency overrides. Examples may include student left home due to an abusive or threatening environment, incarceration or institutionalization of both parents, etc.
  • A student may have both a special circumstance and an unusual circumstance.

Next steps you should take:

  • Complete the FAFSA questions as instructed –
  • Use the new Direct Data Exchange (DDX) secure system that makes it easier to transfer Federal Tax Information (FTI) directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Contact our office to discuss how your current financial situation has changed. You may reach us at (804)524-5990 or make a virtual appointment.
  • Submit the applicable form for your special or unusual circumstances and required documentation.
  • Please use the Third Party Affidavit Form for statements provided by individuals who know you (student) and is familiar with the circumstances.