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What’s a financial aid professional judgement?

    When submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), your tax information from two years prior is required to file the application. For example, when you file the FAFSA® for the 2023-24 school year, the information from your 2021 tax returns is used to determine your financial aid eligibility.

    A lot can happen in two years, though, and it’s not uncommon for your financial situation to change from one year to the next. When a change occurs that could impact your financial aid eligibility, you can reach out to the financial aid office at your school and request a professional judgment.

    In this article, we’ll cover what a professional judgment is regarding financial aid and how to submit a request.

    What’s a professional judgment request?

    Federal law gives college and university financial aid administrators the authority to review additional financial aid information if a family has experienced a change in their financial circumstances to adjust a student’s financial aid award.

    You’ll likely need to complete a form and provide the necessary documentation to request an appeal. Once you submit the request, administrators will generally let you know the status of your appeal and whether they’ll review your new financial documentation alongside what was submitted with your FAFSA®.

    After financial aid administrators review your information, they can exercise professional judgment to adjust your FAFSA® with your new information. While they can’t make direct changes to the formula utilized by the FAFSA® to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), they can adjust your cost of attendance for attending school or the data inputs used to calculate your EFC. By doing this, you may be awarded more financial aid for that year.

    Notably, the U.S. Department of Education can’t override a school’s professional judgment decision.

    How to request a professional judgment

    The process for requesting a professional judgment will differ depending on the school. Usually, schools offer a professional judgment request form that students can fill out. This form will ask for your personal contact information and information about your particular circumstances. That information will likely include relevant dates, what financial impact you’ve experienced, and what specific event occurred.

    Examples of circumstances that might warrant filling out this form include a benefit loss, divorce, death, a large medical expense, or any other circumstances affecting household income. You may need to provide documentation proving how your financial situation has been impacted.

    It’s important to remember that this process should be taken seriously, and you should accurately state your financial situation. You should contact your school’s financial aid administrator if you have any questions.

    If your request for a professional judgment is reviewed, you’ll be notified by your school’s financial aid office. Professional judgment decisions made by the financial aid office are final and can’t be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.

    Final thoughts

    The professional judgment process is designed to help students and families that have experienced significant financial difficulties outside of the FAFSA® tax year. If you’re experiencing a change in your financial situation, contact your financial aid office immediately to get help and to decide if this is the right process for your needs.