Federal Student Aid regulations allow financial aid administrators to use professional judgment, on a case-by-case basis and with supporting documentation, as determined by the Financial Aid Office. Students are welcome to pursue a Professional Judgement based on special or unusual circumstances, see below for definitions. 

All fully completed submissions will be considered within 60-days of enrollment. Adjustments must be deemed reasonable and related to the Professional Judgement request.

The FAFSA Simplification Act distinguishes between different categories of Professional Judgment by amending section 479A of the HEA. 

Special Circumstances refer to the financial situations (loss of a job, etc.) that justify an HCN aid administrator adjusting data elements in the COA or in the need analysis factors. 

Unusual Circumstances refer to the conditions that justify an aid administrator making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status based on a unique situation (e.g. human trafficking, refugee or asylee status, parental abandonment,) more commonly referred to as a dependency override. 

It is important to note that the U.S. Department of Education has given guidance regarding situations that do and do not qualify as an Unusual Circumstance to merit a dependency override. In particular, the following circumstances do not merit a dependency override, either alone or in combination:

  • 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.

A student cannot become independent just because the parents are unwilling to help pay for the student’s college education. Although these circumstances are not sufficient for a dependency override, they do not preclude it. Sometimes there are additional circumstances that occur in conjunction with these circumstances that do merit a dependency override such as abusive family environment (e.g. sexual, physical or domestic abuse), incarceration or institutionalization of both parents, court documented abandonment, etc. To learn more please visit the studentaid.gov webpage concerning dependency at: https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out/dependency#dependent-or-independent

          A student may have both a special circumstance and an unusual circumstance, with appropriate documentation. 

To Request a Professional Judgment: 

The first step in HCN’s process for a student to request a Professional Judgement consideration is to contact the Campus Financial Services Advisor at [email protected] and make them aware of the situation.

Once HCN becomes aware of the student’s situation and their request for Professional Judgement consideration, HCN will request that the student provide applicable supporting documentation. Following the submission of all requested documentation, and the student’s applicable completion of the FAFSA, HCN will provide the student a decision.  

End-to-end all decisions and processing will occur within 60-days of the student’s material submittal/enrollment, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education.