Professional Judgment and Special Circumstances

What is Professional Judgment?

Professional Judgment refers to the discretion given to Financial Aid administrators to adjust certain FAFSA data elements in the event of a student’s unusual or special circumstance. These modifications are meant to provide a more accurate assessment of a student’s family’s ability to contribute to the cost of education. This is done on a case-by-case basis and with proper documentation provided by the student.

Categories of Appeal

  1. Dependency Override – this is often requested to change a student’s status from dependent to independent, involving unusual cases that result in the student being unable to contact a parent or where contact with a parent poses a risk to the student. Examples of unusual circumstances include human trafficking, legally granted refugee or asylum status, parental abandonment or estrangement, and student or parental incarceration.
  2. Income Adjustment – this is often requested when the reported income on the FAFSA no longer reflects the current economic situation of a student’s/parent’s household. Examples that are typically considered for this appeal include loss of employment, significant reduction in income, death of a parent or spouse, and separation or divorce.
  3. Cost of Attendance (COA) Adjustment – COA includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, food, travel and estimated personal expenses. This appeal is often requested to include expenses not already accounted for in the Cost of Attendance. Examples that are typically considered for this appeal include medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance, paying for educational expenses for elementary or secondary school for household members.

Examples of What Cannot be Considered as a Professional Judgment:

  • Credit card debt or other personal debt problems
  • Parent’s refusal to provide financial support
  • Student’s claim of being financially independent
  • Expenses that are already included in the Cost of Attendance (COA)
  • Noneducation expenses such as expenses related to vacations or extracurricular activities

To Request a Professional Judgment Review

Schedule an appointment below to discuss your circumstance with our Financial Aid Counselor. Once the counselor has assessed your situation, you will be able to upload supporting documents onto your CUNY Student Forms account for review and processing.

There will be no appointments from 7/8/24 – 7/12/24.

Processing Time

Appeals will not be reviewed until all documentation is submitted. The Financial Aid Counselor may also request additional information after reviewing the submitted documents, therefore, it’s important to monitor your email daily (email you used to create your CUNY Student Forms account).

Appeal decision can take up to 2-4 weeks. If the appeal is approved, the federal aid will be adjusted on your CUNYFirst account.