When I turned in my FAFSA my parents were making a lot more money than they are now. Both my parents were working full time, but now my mom is the only one working for minimum wage, with my dad jobless. Is there anything I can do at this time to change my FAFSA?
— Sam W.
Call or write the college financial aid office and ask about the
procedures for a professional judgment review. (Some colleges call
this a special circumstances review or financial aid appeal.) Colleges
have the authority to make adjustments to the data elements on the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on a case-by-case
basis when justified by special circumstances. Special circumstances
can include any financial circumstances that changed from last year to
this year. Job loss and salary or work hour reductions are good
examples, since this year's income will be much lower than last
year. Even if the job loss occured before the FAFSA was filed it might
still qualify for an adjustment.
A similar situation occurs when last year's income was artificially
inflated by a lump sum severance. That's a one-time event that is not
reflective of the ability to pay during the award year.
The college financial aid administrator will want to see documentation
of the job loss or salary reduction, such as a copy of the layoff
notice. (Give them photocopies, not originals.) They will also want
information about any severance packages and unemployment benefits. If
they decide that your situation merits an adjustment, the adjustment
will be based on the difference between last year's income and
estimated award year income.
The US Department of Education recently sent letters to college
financial aid offices encouraging them to make adjustments in response
to the current economic downturn.