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Special Circumstance Appeals

NOTE: Before you can be considered for a special circumstance appeal, you much have already filed your FAFSA for the corresponding year and completed any required verification of your data.

The appeal is intended to describe your unusual circumstance in order for staff to determine if they affect your aid eligibility and to determine next step(s), if any, in the process. If your situation could affect your aid eligibility, staff will assign appropriate documentation to be collected via the UC financial aid portal. Your appeal is not completed unless all requested documents are submitted.

Submitting an Appeal

While you can always speak with staff about your situation and possibilities for adjusted aid eligibility, a special circumstance appeal must be in writing and is submitted via the UC financial aid portal using the REQUEST button to seek a review of your expected or estimated family contribution (EFC) as determined by the FAFSA.

Begin by selecting Family Contribution Appeal within the portal, using the + for the appropriate year, and giving a brief reason for your appeal. 

This action will create a Professional Judgement (PJ) Expected Family Contrtibution (EFC) Appeal Web Form where you categorize your appeal from a list of situations. You then provide a personal statement about the situation and how it has affected your/your family's ability to pay toward college expenses. Finally, you (and your parent, if parent info was used on the FAFSA) will need to sign. You both can e-sign or print and upload a signed copy of the appeal.

NOTE: Students who have not previously used the portal for submitting financial aid documents will have to create an account.

Authority and Limits

The Higher Education Act and associated federal regulations give financial aid administrators the authority to make adjustments to an individual student’s federal aid application (FAFSA) based on unusual circumstances within the household.

The University of Cincinnati Student Financial Aid Office will review and, when appropriate, make adjustments to a student’s FAFSA to better reflect a student’s current financial situation. Based on the updated FAFSA, students may gain eligibility for additional financial aid.

At the same time, even a significant change in circumstances may not alter a student’s financial aid eligibility.

  • Student Financial Aid can only update FAFSA elements based on appropriate documentation.
  • Staff cannot change your expected family contribution (EFC) itself.
  • Students with a -0- EFC cannot become more eligible for aid so should not pursue this appeal.
  • Because aid program eligibility requirements differ, a reduction in your EFC may still not change your aid package.
  • Graduate/Law student notice: Due to limited need-based aid for graduate students, do not submit an appeal before discussing it with the One Stop Student Service Center.

Appeals are reviewed individually and determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.

Appeal Situations

You will be asked to categorize your situation for review based on standard issues often facing families. The situation should describe what has happened since you filed your FAFSA or is not otherwise reflected on the FAFSA reported income.

  • Death of a parent or spouse
  • Separation or divorce where an individual has left the household
  • Loss of job
  • Decrease in work hours of current position
  • Change in job resulting in reduction of income
  • Loss of child support reported on FAFSA
  • Loss of untaxed income (workman's compensation, etc.)
  • Medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance (See details below.)
  • Increase of income reported on FAFSA tax year that was due to one-time payout

Personal Statement

The appeal form created within the financial aid portal will ask you to also provide a personal statement to describe the following:

  • Name and relationship of persons whose situation has been affected.
  • Dates that the extenuating circumstance occurred including date (or expected date) the extenuating circumstance ended.
  • If request is due to unusual expenses, please be specific about the types of unusual expenses incurred.
  • Any additional information that would substantiate your extenuating circumstance and reason you are making an appeal.

Supporting Documentation

We generally ask students to NOT SUBMIT additional documentation with your appeal form. Following submission of your appeal, staff will review each appeal before determining the required supporting documentation.

Understand that we do not wish to collect more information than is necessary nor do we want to take families through a process that may not result in a change of aid eligibility. Therefore, staff will examine your appeal relative to next steps as well as probable eligibility changes. Necessary documentation to be supplied will be assigned and collected within the financial aid portal to complete your appeal. You will be notified as requests are made.

Because your FAFSA uses tax information from 2 years ago to show income for a base year, it may not reflect your current situation. For that reason, special circumstance appeals most often focus on income changes and a new base year. Tax documents and paystubs are often requested to document or project a new base year income.

We reserve the right to delay review, until the end of the calendar year, any appeal where reasonable projections cannot be made. For instance, appeals on income based on commission cannot be reasonably projected and could be reviewed only after the year closes out. Any aid eligibility changes, however, could apply back to the beginning of the fall term.

Expenses

Because the FAFSA uses income to put people on a relatively similar review of a family's ability to pay for college, most expenses that families incur are not appealable for changes in aid eligibility. The calculations used on FAFSA data to reach an estimated family contribution (EFC) include living and other allowances for costs the family would have based on the household size.

UC views private education as a choice by families. As well, the FAFSA, when determining the EFC, is accounting for the number of students in your household attending college. Appeals for tuition expenses as well as most other household expenses will not be reviewed.

One area of expense that can be reviewed are medical expenses. The FAFSA already takes into consideration estimated medical/dental costs incurred by families of your household size. Your paid, out-of-pocket costs for medical/dental expenses for a year will be compared with that allowance and must exceed it to be considered for a Special Circumstances Appeal.

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Review of your submitted special circumstance appeal can take 2 weeks before determination of needed documents for your appeal.

Once documents are received, processing of those documents and changes of your FAFSA data can take an additional 2 weeks.

Always monitor your Catalyst TO DO items to ensure requested documents are submitted in a timely fashion.