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Unique Financial Situations and Special Circumstances

The FAFSA is a wonderful tool used to estimate a family’s ability to pay for a student’s education. However, there are unique situations when it may not provide an accurate picture of your family’s financial situation.

Our special circumstances appeal gives you a way to address your family’s specific situation and outline your financial needs. We can work with you to possibly adjust student aid awards and find ways to alleviate financial challenges.

Please reach out to our office if you have questions. We’re here to help!

Situations that qualify for review

The federal government allows WSU to use professional judgment in certain situations to reevaluate your financial aid award when you (and/or a family member) document your special or extenuating circumstance.

If you are facing one of the situations below, your financial aid award can be re-evaluated and considered for an increase.

Please Note: in order for our office to review a Special Circumstance Appeal, you will need to have received a 2017-18 financial aid award (not an estimate) and update your FAFSA tax return filing status from “Will File” to “Completed.” We recommend waiting until you have this award before submitting an appeal.

  • Change in income

    If income reported on the FAFSA is higher than what will be received during the academic year, our office can recalculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is the index number, calculated by the FAFSA, that our office uses to determine how a financial aid award may be adjusted. If the EFC is reduced to such a level that more aid is warranted, the financial aid award will be adjusted.

    Loss or change in employment

    When there is a loss or change in employment (parents, student, or spouse) the following documentation is recommended:

    • Most recent completed tax returns
    • Letter of explanation or documentation that addresses dates and explanations of the change in income (start/end dates of job loss/change)
    • Documentation that shows proof of employment loss or change. Example: Letter from former employer or unemployment paystub
    • Documentation that shows the income that will be earned in the timeframe of the appeal. Example: Unemployment paystub, letters of received assistance, severance/separation income
    • Unemployment benefit approval or denial letter

    Divorce or separation

    When there is a divorce or separation between the parents of a dependent student or between the student and their spouse, the following documentation must be submitted:

    • Documentation that shows proof of the Divorce or Separation. Example: Legal dissolution of marriage if divorced or legally separated. Example: If separated, documentation showing two different billing addresses (electric bill, rental agreement, etc)
    • Income documentation that outlines separate wages. Example: W2s, paystubs, documentation of spousal support

    A death in the family

    When there is a change in income due to the death of a dependent student’s parent or the student’s spouse, the following documentation must be submitted:

    • Proof of death (death certificate, newspaper obituary, death notice)
    • Proof of income from the deceased individual (W2s, last pay stub)
  • Change in Marital Status

    In the event your marital status changes after completing the FAFSA application, you may apply to have your dependency status changed from dependent to independent through the Special Circumstances Appeal.

    You will need to provide poof of marital status by submitting a copy of your marriage certificate, as well as a copy of your and your spouses tax returns.

    Our office will recalculate your EFC once the form and documentation have been submitted.

  • Medical and Dental Expenses

    A medical/dental appeal can be submitted to either decrease your EFC (expected family contribution) or increase your budget so that more aid may be awarded.

    Medical expenses must have occurred and been paid for to be considered by special circumstances.

    Schedule A from the tax return must be included with the special circumstances appeal.

    If you have medical/dental expenses with a “0” EFC and would like to be considered for an increase in budget, the maximum limit is $1,500 after the Income Protection Allowance (IPA) is accounted for.

  • Parent in College

    While the FAFSA covers many expenses a family might have, the cost of a parent attending college is not included. If your parent is attending college at least half-time as a degree seeking student, we can recalculate your EFC. Our office can only consider out-of-pocket expenses. If an employer or third party is covering the cost of the education, we are unable to make any adjustments. Furthermore, we can only consider tuition, textbooks, and required fees.

    The parent must be on the FAFSA in order to be considered for this adjustment. These expenses must have occurred and been paid for to be considered by special circumstances.

    To consider the expenses in the appeal, you will need to submit a billing or account statement from the institution and/or textbook receipts.

  • Private School Tuition

    Our office considers a family having K-12 private school educational expenses a valid reason for re-evaluating a student’s financial aid eligibility. If your family has private school educational expenses, we can recalculate your EFC once the appeal and documentation has been submitted. Expenses that can be considered include tuition, required fees, uniforms, and books.

    These expenses must have occurred and been paid for to be considered by special circumstances.

    To consider the expenses in the appeal, you will need to submit a billing or account statement from the institution and/or textbook receipts.

  • Parent Paying on Their Student College Loan

    In the event your parent has educational loan expenses, we can recalculate your EFC once the appeal and documentation has been submitted. Loan payments that are made on behalf of a third party will not be considered. The loans must be federal educational loans that are in a re-payment status.

    Credit card debt and/or equity loans taken out to pay for educational expenses will not be considered. The parent must be on the FAFSA in order to be considered for this adjustment. These expenses must have occurred and been paid for to be considered by special circumstances.

    To consider the expenses in the appeal, you will need to submit a payment history or account statement from the loan servicer. This documentation must show proof of payment and the dates paid.

Submitting the appeal

We ask for your patience and understanding while we give your submission our utmost attention during the review process. We will send you an email once we are done and have more information to share with you.

Be thorough and complete in answering all questions on the form and providing all requested documentation. This will prevent processing delays when it’s reviewed by our staff.

Please be aware it may take some time to submit this type of appeal because of the information and documents being asked for, so plan accordingly. We suggest you review the appeal form initially, download the worksheet(s) on your own computer to fill out and save, and then collect the information required to submit the appeal. Once you have your documentation collected and ready to submit, return to the online form on our website to fill it out. Proceed to attach your worksheet(s) and relevant documentation where prompted and then submit.

Multiple circumstances can be reviewed by our office for one student; the online form will accommodate such situations. If your family has multiple students attending WSU, each student must file their own application under their own WSUID number. Please Note: parents who were never married but live together are treated as married for financial aid purposes according to the U.S. Department of Education regulations.

Please realize our office often needs to request very personal, financial documents to review your Special Circumstance Appeal situation. All information is kept confidential, unless a signed release is provided authorizing the sharing of information between all parties.

Sometimes, after starting an appeal review, our office staff will need more information to complete the review. In these situations, we will send an email to you requesting the additional document(s). Please respond quickly to our request so we may expedite the processing of your appeal in a timely manner.

We recognize that you might have multiple files to submit to your appeal. They can be converted and merged into one document for an attachment, using a variety of tools offered free on the internet. One such tool is Docs.Zone.

Help and status updates

For general questions about your considerations and/or a status update to your submitted appeal, please email specialcircumstances@wsu.edu.

While you always have the option of calling our office for an update or dropping by your local campus for assistance, it’s best to use the above email for information. Because of the nature of these appeals, our general office staff likely will not have or know specific details about your appeal, so sending an email to this address is the most efficient and effective way for us to respond to you properly and promptly.

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