Special Circumstances & Dependency Override
At a very basic level, special circumstances are anything that makes the information provided on the FAFSA form not reflective of the family's ability to pay. This can include anticipated differences between the prior tax year and the upcoming year, such as an impending job loss or unusual capital gains. It can also include anything that differentiates the family's situation from other families, such as medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Examples of situations that do not count as a special circumstance are vacation expenses, tithing expenses, standard living expenses (e.g., utilities, credit card debt, mortgage payments, car payments, lawn care, etc.).
At Westmoreland County Community College, we offer our families an opportunity to alert us to these special circumstances by way of our Special Circumstance Appeal Form. Like the FAFSA, this should be completed for each year of enrollment, if warranted. Completing this form does not guarantee an increase to your financial aid eligibility and, in some instances, additional documentation may be required in order to verify the expense and/or loss of income.
Your requests for adjustments must be submitted in writing with the Special Circumstances Form and include adequate documentation supporting the special circumstance. In the event of a substantial change in your family circumstances (loss of employment, natural disaster, death of a parent, etc.). Any award adjustment made by the Financial Aid office will depend on your eligibility and the availability of funds.
Most students entering a postsecondary school straight from high school are considered financially dependent on their parents. This means their parents must provide their financial information on the FAFSA. In some circumstances, the financial aid office can change a student's FAFSA status from dependent to independent in situations where providing parental information may be difficult for the student.
The following are examples of circumstances that may considered for a dependency override:
- An abusive family environment
- Abandonment and/or estrangement by parents
- Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
- Parents cannot be located
The following circumstances would not be considered for a dependency override:
- Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education
- Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification
- Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
- Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
Your requests for dependency change must be submitted with the Dependency Override Form and include adequate supporting documentation. Any award adjustment made by the Financial Aid office will depend on your eligibility and the availability of funds.