Carroll University Professional Judgment Policy | Special Circumstances

Carroll University Financial Aid Office recognizes that students and their families may have extenuating financial circumstances that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) does not consider. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA) provides the authority for the financial aid administrator to exercise discretion in a number of areas when a student has special or unusual circumstances. This authority is known as professional judgment (PJ) which includes special circumstances and unusual circumstances.

Special Circumstances is the process of reviewing an individual student's unique circumstances and exercising the option to change the data elements normally applied through the Department of Education Federal Methodology (FM) formula on the FAFSA application that helps compute a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Decisions are made on a case-by case-basis, with proper documentation, as the result of examining the student’s unique circumstances.

Special circumstances are circumstances that may trigger the use of PJ at Carroll include the following examples:

  • Dependency status override (dependent to independent only)
  • Cost of Attendance (COA) adjustment
  • Reduction or loss of income (taxable or untaxable)
  • Atypical one-time income
  • Divorce/Separation
  • Death of a parent or spouse
  • Exceptional medical/dental expenses
  • Other unusual circumstances on a case-by-case basis

Circumstances for which PJ is not allowed per federal guidelines, include examples such as:

  • An independent student cannot be made dependent
  • Changes cannot be made to the Federal Methodology need analysis formula
  • Bottom-line EFC adjustments cannot be made
  • No new cost components may be added to the COA
  • Costs incurred after students are no longer enrolled (e.g., graduate school admissions tests) cannot be added to the COA

Unusual circumstances

  • Dependency overrides refer to conditions that justify the financial aid office in making an adjustment to a student’s dependency (from dependent to independent) status based on a unique situation (e.g., human trafficking, refugee or asylee status, parental abandonment, incarceration).
  • Risk of homelessness- some students may be considered independent if they are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In some cases, documentation may have been received from one or more of the following:
    • local educational agency homeless liaison, per the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistant Act
    • The director (or designee) of a project supported by a Federal TRIO or GEAR-UP grant
    • The director (or designee) of an emergency/transitional shelter, street outreach program, homeless youth drop-in center, or other program serving individuals experiencing homelessness.
    • A financial aid administrator

Students should contact the Financial Aid Office if they believe they may qualify for an unusual circumstance.

Requesting a Professional Judgment

If your financial aid situation has changed or you have special or unusual circumstances that you wish for the financial aid office to consider, please contact our office to explain your situation and we can provide you with guidance on the next steps to follow.
  • Contact the Financial Aid Office: or call 262-524-7296. By getting a better understanding of your circumstances, we can assist you with available options. If a Professional Judgment is warranted, we will provide you with the appropriate forms.
  • Verification is required for all students requesting a special circumstance unless it has already been completed.
  • When submitting a Professional Judgment request, be sure to complete all required sections of the form(s) and submit all appropriate documentation as indicated.
  • Once a decision is made, the student will be notified of the determination along with any changes that are reflected in the financial aid offer for the year. In some cases, an adjustment does not increase the student’s eligibility for grants or the total amount of financial aid awarded.
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