Special Circumstances

Financial aid packages are based on parental and/or student income from the prior year. If the family has some unique set of circumstances that warrant special attention, the federal and state governments, as well as the institution allow us to use “professional judgment” to make adjustments that adequately reflect the family’s “ability” to pay. In essence, the family is making a case that, “Yes, we did earn $xx,xxx last year, but this year we are only going to make $yy,yyy because…”

While the use of professional judgment can be quite broad in theory, some general rules have to be applied in each student’s case:

  • The family circumstance in question must be documented. The documentation required will be determined on a case-by-case basis. (While we might want to take the family’s word, our auditors will not.) The university cannot make across the board professional judgments for entire groups of people with similar circumstances (i.e., all flood victims). Professional judgment must be exercised on a case-by-case basis.
  • The expenses or loss of income in question must be of such a nature that they were beyond the control of the family.(In other words, matters of personal choice will not be considered as a basis for reevaluating a student’s financial assistance.)

While the range of reasons for professional judgment is infinite, some very common reasons for which we would review a student’s assistance include: Losses of income resulting from unemployment, illness, injury, divorce, death, loss of child support, loss of Social Security benefits and loss of AFDC or welfare benefits.
Other common items that might prompt a professional judgment adjustment would include, but not be limited to: Extreme medical expenses paid out during attendance, unanticipated or unavoidable “major” expenses incurred during attendance, or, the student worked last year, but is no longer able to work this year due to increased class load, student teaching, internship or illness. Other allowances may be made for parents attending another post-secondary institution.

USF policy states that no professional judgement will be performed in circumstances where the total dollar value of the adjustment is less than 5 percent of the family’s income. In almost every circumstance where the dollar value is less than 5 percent, there is no significant change in family contribution.