Filed under Title IV Specific Policies

Policies for Professional Judgment

A financial aid professional may exercise professional judgment and change elements in the federal need analysis to account for circumstances that he/she feels have not been adequately considered in the original FAFSA.

Instructions to Students/Parents:

All requests for the execution of professional judgment must:

  1. Be initiated by a letter from the student in which the student requests consideration of his/her particular circumstances. It must be legible, signed and dated. The student is encouraged to focus on events in the prior year that have affected or will affect his/her family’s ability to pay for the current year’s college expenses.
  2. Require documentation. For example, loss off of employment typically means a termination/layoff letter and documentation of unemployment benefit eligibility from a government agency.
  3. Require a valid and verified Student Aid Report. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid must be filed according to the instructions provided by the Department of Education. Special circumstances will be considered only after the school has received a valid SAR. If the student has been selected for verification, the school must complete the verification process before considering any special circumstances.
  4. Require a signed copy of the tax transcript for the tax year information required on the FAFSA. If the student has not already provided a copy of all required tax documents for verification, this should be included with the request for consideration of special circumstances.

Remember: Any adjustments made to the SAR as a result of a request for a professional judgment decision may delay or change the financial aid package.

All Requests Should Be Directed to the Financial Aid Office

▪   Parent’s death or divorce for dependent students; death of or divorce from spouse of independent student.

▪   Loss of employment – Parent of dependent student, student or spouse of independent student.

▪   Loss of untaxed benefit – Parent of dependent student, student or spouse of independent student.

▪   Extraordinary medical expenses in the household to which the student belongs. These must exceed the medical allowance in the Income Protection Allowance.

▪   Tuition for private schooling of siblings of dependent student.

▪   Dependent child care for children of independent students.

▪   Travel expenses beyond those allowed in the student expense budget.

▪   Extreme business or farm debt or bankruptcy payments.

▪   Dependency Overrides

▪   Computer Purchase

▪   Parent attending college

Documentation Requirements 

For death or divorce: 

▪   A copy of the death certificate for the parent of a dependent student, spouse of an independent student.

▪   A copy of the divorce decree or separation agreement.

▪   A signed copy of the parents and/or student’s prior year income tax return

For loss of wages:

▪   Termination or resignation letter that includes the last date of employment.

▪   Completed, signed copy of prior year’s income tax return, W-2 forms and any relevant worksheets or schedules.

For loss of benefits:

▪   Copy of court order that specifies termination date and amount of child support.

▪   Copy of letter from appropriate state or federal agency that specifies termination date and amount of benefits.

▪   Completed, signed copy of prior year’s income tax return, W-2 forms and any relevant worksheets or schedules.

For extraordinary medical expenses:

▪   Receipts for medical expenses that show the total patient liability, that is, the amount due and not covered by insurance.

▪   Documentation of actual amount paid by family.

▪   If the receipts do not indicate whether or not the expense was covered by insurance, they must be accompanied by a letter from the medical provider or insurer stating that the expense, or a specified portion of the expense, was payable by the patient.

▪   Completed, signed copy of prior year’s income tax return, W-2 forms and any relevant worksheets or schedules.

▪   Under extraordinary circumstances these expenses may be added to a student’s Cost of Attendance.

Extraordinary travel expense:

▪   If the expense involves travel via commercial conveyance to/from school, provide a copy of receipts for fare.

▪   If the expense relates to the use of the student’s own vehicle, provide a statement of travel needs that includes the origination point, the destination point, the number of trips per week/month, the reason for the travel.

▪   The student’s statement must include an acknowledgment that any false statements will result in the cancellation of student financial aid.

▪   Federal regulations prohibit including in student expense budgets the direct expenses of purchasing and maintaining an automobile.

▪   Completed, signed copy of prior year’s income tax return, W-2 forms, and any relevant worksheets or schedules.

▪   Under extraordinary circumstances these expenses may be added to the student’s Cost of Attendance.

Extreme business or farm debt, bankruptcy:

▪   Documentation of the debt.

▪   Documentation of the value of the business or farm liable for the debt.

▪   Copy of court ordered bankruptcy payments.

▪   Completed, signed copy of prior year’s income tax return, W-2 forms and any relevant worksheets or schedules.

Dependency Overrides:

▪   If a student is under the age of 24, an undergraduate, not married, has no dependents, and is not a veteran, an orphan or a ward of the court, he/she is considered to be dependent for the purposes of federal student aid.

▪   A Dependency Override may be requested in cases of complete alienation between a parent and a student. In support of a request for dependency override the student should submit statements from third-parties having first-hand knowledge of the circumstances. These should include statements on agency letterhead from social workers, school officials, church officials or others in positions of authority who are familiar with the situation.

▪   The Director of Financial Aid will make the final determination in requests for Dependency Overrides. Federal regulations do not permit a financial aid officer to perform a Dependency Override because of a parent’s unwillingness to pay for education.

See separate section “Dependency Override” for more information about Dependency Overrides.

Computer Purchase:

The U. S. Department of Education permits institutions to include in a student’s Cost of Attendance (COA) the purchase of a computer for educational use. The Financial Aid Office will include this expense (add this to the student’s Cost of Attendance) for students upon request and according to the following policy:

▪   The maximum allowance for purchase of a computer is $3,000, which may include the cost of a printer and maintenance contract.

▪   A student may receive this allowance only once as an undergraduate and once as a graduate student.

▪   Additional purchases of software, printer supplies, online service fees etc. will be assumed under the allowances already included in the COA for books and supplies.

▪   In order to have the cost of the purchase of a computer added to COA, the student must provide a dated, itemized estimate of the cost of the proposed purchase.

▪   A petition for this change should be submitted no later than April 1 of the academic year during which it is requested.

Students are reminded that the overall cost of a computer, which depreciates quickly, is almost prohibitive, if they intend to purchase it using student loan funds and pay for it over the course of 10 years.

If parent(s) can satisfy any of the above conditions, a written appeal should be submitted to the Financial Aid Office with the appropriate documentation.  



Dependency Override


ABTU has traditionally appealed to an adult and non-traditional student population, and as a result virtually all ABTU students have met at least one qualification to be considered independent on the FAFSA.  Federal regulations for Student Financial Assistance assume that the student and/or family has the primary responsibility in meeting the educational costs of the student. Occasionally, due to highly unusual circumstances, a dependent student should not be considered as dependent. If a student believes that they have unusual circumstance that may qualify them to be considered independent of their parents for financial aid purposes, they are invited to contact the Financial Aid Office to learn what documentation is required for a Dependency Override appeal to be considered.   Ordinarily, only circumstances where there has been documented abuse, or prolonged estrangement from parents, will qualify a student as potentially eligible for a Dependency Override.

Students will be asked to submit documentation supporting their claim of unusual circumstances. This documentation will include, but may not be limited to:

  1. A signed letter from the student describing his/her unusual family circumstances.
  2. Letters (on letterhead) from two responsible adults who are aware of the student’s situation (i.e., pastor, teacher, counselor). Copies of appropriate court documentation are acceptable to support the petition.

Questions concerning these letters or the Dependency Override procedure should be directed to the Financial Aid Office.  (Please note: according to federal regulations, living independently with an income adequate to support oneself does NOT qualify to make a student eligible for a Dependency Override.   In addition, a parent(s’) inability or unwillingness to pay is not a reason to apply for a Dependency Override, as stated in DCL GEN-93-11, May 1993). The request for a Dependency Override falls under regulations dealing with professional judgment (Higher Education Act, sec. 479A(a)) and therefore the decision is final and not subject to appeal.

All decisions must be documented in writing in the file.   The third-party processor will review the files and provide all necessary documentation, with all calculations provided in writing.   All calculations/computations must be clearly identified, must be self-explanatory to an external reviewer.,and must be supported by the documentation.  The third-party processor will submit a recommendation to the Director of Financial Aid, based on federal (FSA) guidelines and the written policies of ABTU regarding Professional Judgment.   Final decisions requiring Professional Judgment will be made by the Director of Financial Aid and will include the date of the decision, the signature of the Director of Financial Aid and the signature at least one member of the Appeals Committee.

Updated on 8/29/2019 by Ramsey Atieh

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