Sometimes it may be necessary to review the family contribution and financial aid award for a student when changes occur in a student’s family or in academic circumstances. Such reviews are conducted in response to a written request for an appeal from the student, in which the change in circumstances is described in detail, and submitted for consideration to the Office of Student Financial Services.
The FAFSA collects information about a family’s income and assets from the previous year (2013). For most people this information is a good predictor of the current year’s (2014) income, since most people do not experience wide swings in income from year to year.
If, however, a family’s income in the current year will be significantly different (more than 10 percent) from last year’s, the family should notify the Office of Student Financial Services in writing, including all available documentation. Reductions in income that are caused by involuntary job loss, unusually high unreimbursed medical expenses, separation, divorce, death of a wage earner, change in family size or number in college, or the like will be considered.
If a family’s circumstances meet these criteria, the University will calculate the financial aid award based upon the estimated current year figures for the Fall semester. At the end of the Fall semester the family will be required to provide documentation (such as final pay stub or an estimated 2013 return) for evaluation of the spring semester’s award.
Unfortunately, the University is not generally able to consider reductions in income due to voluntary job changes, back taxes owed, high consumer debt, multiple mortgages, employment bonuses received in the previous year, overtime, self-employment losses, fluctuations in income from commission sales, or discretionary purchases.
Divorce or Separation
When a married student or an enrolled student’s parent/guardian separates from or divorces his/her spouse subsequent to the filing of the financial aid application, the divorcing/separating student or custodial parent/guardian of the enrolled student should notify the Office of Student Financial Services in writing.
In the case of a separation or divorce involving the parents/guardians of a student, the Office of Student Financial Services is permitted to discuss the student’s record only with the custodial parent.
Sadly, the University occasionally is called upon to assist a student whose parent or spouse has died subsequent to the filing of the financial aid application. Should this occur, the Office of Student Financial Services should be contacted immediately, and it will offer every assistance possible.
The Office of Student Financial Services is occasionally asked to re-evaluate a student’s status due to the student’s assertion that he or she should be considered independent of parental support.
The guidelines for dependency are set by federal law, and thus each student must first be evaluated against them. A dependent student is someone who is younger than 24, is not a veteran, is not a graduate or professional student, is not married, is not an orphan or ward of the court, or does not have legal dependents.
An independent student is someone who is older than 24, a veteran, currently serving on active military duty, a graduate or professional student, married, or has legal dependents. (See the FAFSA.)
Federal and institutional policy is that the first responsibility for college costs is the student’s and his/her family’s; thus appeals are rarely granted.
A student who wishes to be considered independent must write a letter of appeal to the Office of Student Financial Services. The letter must clearly state the reasons for appealing the dependency status. The student will be required to document his/her means of support as well as other items. Please contact Student Financial Services for additional information.
The Office of Student Financial Services cannot consider proposals for a recalculation of financial aid eligibility based on any circumstances other than those listed above.