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Professional Judgment

Students/parents may appeal to the Office of Student Financial Aid with special or unusual circumstances that differentiate their situation from information reported on the student’s FAFSA. Students are invited to contact the Office of Student Financial Aid (410-778-7214 or [email protected]) to discuss their specific situation. If they wish to appeal, they will be guided to complete appropriate required forms to describe their special or unusual circumstances and submit additional supporting documentation.

All complete professional judgments submitted will be reviewed within two weeks. Additional information may be requested. Professional judgments will be reviewed by Financial Aid office staff and decisions are final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education or other individuals of the institution. Students will receive a written letter of final determination. All documentation will remain on file for three years.


Special Circumstance - Financial situations leading to changes to data elements in the cost of attendance or EFC calculation.

Examples of Special Circumstance

  • Changes to family income, assets, etc.
  • Medical Expenses
  • Recent unemployment
  • Dislocated worker
  • Housing change due to homelessness

Examples of Supporting Documentation

  • Statements from students, parents, spouses or third parties
  • Statements from school staff
  • Court/legal documents
  • Other supplementary information on applicant’s financial status or personal circumstances


Unusual Circumstance - if a student cannot answer ‘yes’ to any of the dependency status questions on the FAFSA but is not able to provide parental information, a dependency override may be considered based on the student’s unique situation.

Examples of Unusual Circumstance

  • Human trafficking
  • Refugee or asylee status
  • Parental abandonment, incarceration, etc.
  • Unable to contact parents
  • Contact with parents poses risk

Examples of Supporting Documentation

  • Court order or official federal or state documentation showing that students’ parents or legal guardian(s) are incarcerated.
  • Written statement from attorney, guardian ad litem, court appointed special advocate, psychologist/psychiatrist, minister or other professional confirming applicant’s circumstances and person’s relationship to the student.

A dependency override will remain in effect for the duration of the student’s enrollment at WAC unless the student informs us of a change to their situation or financial aid has evidence of conflicting information.

Federal regulations do not permit a financial aid officer to perform a dependency override because of a parent’s unwillingness or inability to pay for education.


Cost of Attendance Increase

In circumstances in which the student can document that the standard COA does not accurately reflect their necessary expenses, a student may appeal for an increase in their COA for reasons including the following:


  • Documented higher living expenses than represented by the on-campus average or median room or meal plan
  • Documented exceptional costs for books, supplies, or miscellaneous personal expenses
  • Documented need for a computer
  • Need to purchase health insurance through Washington College


In cases where a component in the budget is not sufficient, the student must submit a written, signed request detailing their total expenses, along with third-party documentation of costs.

For a computer request, the maximum limit is not to exceed $2,000 and a student may receive this allowance only once. To have the cost of the purchase of a computer added to COA, the student must provide a written, signed request along with a dated receipt/proof of purchase.