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Professional Judgment Appeal

Federal regulations permit a Financial Aid Administrator’s discretion or professional judgment to review a student’s unusual situation or circumstance on a case by case basis.  With adequate documentation, modifications can be made to the FAFSA-submitted data of student/parental income or allowable cost of attendance (budget) items.  Whether adjustments are made is based on the sole discretion of the MUSC Student Financial Aid office (MSFA) and may not be appealed beyond MSFA.

Please note – even if a recalculation is made this may not result in increased funds.  Most appeals will only consider awarding additional PLUS or Private loans (where credit history will be a factor).

Appeals will be denied for the following:

  • Insufficient documentation
  • Requests for expenses outside of the academic year or less than the budgeted amount
  • Requests for non-allowable costs (see What Financial Aid can and cannot cover)
  • Requests for expenses incurred by family member or another person
  • Requests for allowable expenses paid by external sources (i.e. no duplication of expenses already paid by patient financial assistance, write-off, external or government assistance programs, etc.)
  • Living beyond one’s means
  • Insufficient credit or co-signer

Categories of Appeal

1.    Income Loss/Changes (Undergraduate Students):  Examples include job loss, death of a parent or spouse, pregnancy/additional children born during the year, changes to household income (untaxed, taxed, one-time/lump sum or reoccurring), divorce or separation, parent attending college.

*Graduate students only qualify for Federal loans, so appeal under this category will not increase the amount of loans you can borrow.

Documentation required:  Copy of termination or lay-off notice, DD-214, last paystub, W-2 form, Leave and Earnings Statement(s), Unemployment benefit notice, birth or death certificate.

2.    Dependency Override (Undergraduate Students): Undergraduate students under age 24, who answer no to all the Dependency questions on the FAFSA, and have experienced parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, inability to locate parent or incarceration.

*The following circumstances do not warrant a Dependency override: Parents refusal to provide financial support or claims of self-sufficiency.

Documentation required:  Personal statement of circumstances signed and dated by the student.  You must include a description of the situation, date of last contact and circumstances you had with your parent(s) and reason why you believe you should be considered independent should be submitted.  Other documentation may include court documents, police reports, or letters from two objective individuals with first-hand knowledge (lawyer, clergy, guidance counselor, etc.)

3.    Cost of Attendance (Budget Adjustment):  Students can submit documentation for increases to the cost of attendance budget for legitimate educational expenses (higher than the budgeted amounts) within the school year.  Examples include increased rent (student portion only), computer/software purchase, child or elder care expenses (daycare or adult daycare; provider cannot be spouse), travel home or for clinicals (out of state) car repairs, car insurance, medical/disability expenses not covered by insurance or financial assistance/payment plan arrangements.

Documentation required: Signed lease agreement, receipts, statement from daycare provider, billing statements, bank statement or print out which includes dates of service and amounts paid, etc.

Professional Judgement Appeal Form