Maintained for Historical Purposes

This resource is being maintained for historical purposes only and is not currently applicable.

Using Professional Judgment

AwardYear: 1994-1995
Edition: PostSecondary
Part: 2 - - The Application Process for Financial Aid
SectionTitle: Using Professional Judgment

PageNumbers: 40-42

The use of professional judgment has been expanded to include
adjustment of the EFC used to award aid from the Federal Pell
Grant Program. (Previously, FAAs could only adjust the need
analysis for campus-based aid and the Federal Family Education
Loan Programs.)

You may use your professional judgment to either increase or
decrease one or more of the data elements used to calculate the EFC.
The reason must be documented in the student's file and it must
relate to that student's special circumstances. Special circumstances
are conditions that DIFFERENTIATE an individual student, not
conditions that exist for a whole class of students. Thus,
adjustments may only be made on a "case-by-case" basis.

The FAFSA does not collect information on special circumstances,
but a notice in Section H tells applicants to notify the financial aid
administrator if they have special circumstances. The FAFSA gives
examples of elementary or secondary school tuition, unusual medical
or dental expenses, a family member who is a dislocated worker, or
other unusual circumstances. Professional judgment is not limited
to the situations mentioned, and could include those circumstances
that were considered to be "special conditions" in previous school
years, such as divorce, separation or the death of a parent or spouse
after the application was filed. Note that professional judgment can
only be performed on the SAR once the EFC has been calculated.

In exercising professional judgment, you may no longer make a
direct change to the EFC figure, assessment rates, or allowances;
you may only adjust an actual data item. The data item that is
changed should reflect the student's special circumstances. For
example, if a family member is ill, you might adjust the adjusted
gross income to allow for lower earnings in the coming year, or you
might adjust assets to indicate that family savings will be expended
on medical expenses. Because items like medical expenses and
tuition do not appear on the application or the SAR, you need to be
familiar with the elements in the formula so your professional
judgment changes are made and documented properly.

If you make an adjustment for a student who may be eligible for a
Federal Pell Grant, the SAR must be used to send the adjusted
information back to the FAFSA processor. (If you are using EDE
services, you may use the corrections function to make the change
electronically--in this case, you will receive the resulting ESAR at
the school, but the student will not receive a paper SAR in the mail.)
An adjustment to a line item is made just like a correction--the aid
administrator reports the adjusted amount on Part 2 of the SAR in
the column labeled "The correct answer is:". For instance, if the
Adjusted Gross Income is $20,000, but the FAA decides to adjust
that figure to $17,000 to take into account unusual medical
expenses, the aid administrator would make the following change on
the Student Aid Report:

[[The illustration on page 41 is currently unavailable for viewing.
Please reference your paper document for additional

The FAA must also indicate that an adjustment is being made in the
"School Use Only" box. (See the discussion of the "School Use
Only" box later in this Part.)

If an FAA uses professional judgment to adjust a SAR line item, the
resulting EFC must be used consistently for all federal student aid
that the school awards to that student. For example, if the aid
administrator adjusts the EFC for purposes of awarding the student's
Federal Pell Grant, that adjusted EFC must also be used to award aid
from the campus-based or FFEL programs.

- Other uses of professional judgment

The FAA can use professional judgment to adjust the student's cost
of attendance to take into account special circumstances.

The law also authorizes FAAs to use professional judgment to
override the student's reported dependency status to make the
student independent. The override may be reported in the "School
Use Only" box in Section H of the FAFSA or Correction FAFSA or
on Part 2 of the SAR. Note that a separate letter from the FAA
attached to the application is not acceptable for the 1994-95 school

You may only change the student's status from dependent to
independent. If your information indicates that an independent
student is receiving substantial support from his or her parents, you
may adjust one or more of the data elements in the EFC calculation
or adjust the cost of attendance to reflect this additional source of
financial support.

As with adjustments to the EFC, remember that any dependency
overrides or adjustments to the student's cost of attendance must be
on a "case-by-case" basis and the reason for the adjustment must be
documented in the student's file.

[[Page 42, entitled, “Mastering the ‘School Use Only’ Box,” is
currently unavailable for viewing. Please reference this page in the
Handbook for additional information.]]

Last Modified: 02/19/1998