Maintained for Historical Purposes

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

Using professional judgment

AwardYear: 1996-1997
Edition: PostSecondary
Part: 2 - - The application process for financial aid
SectionTitle: Using professional judgment

PageNumbers: 43-44

You may use your professional judgment either to 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 on the first page of the instructions 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 recently became unemployed, 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 or through EDE once the EFC has been

In exercising professional judgment, you may not 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 or ISIR, 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 ISIR at the
school, and the student will receive the one-page SAR Information
Acknowledgement.) An adjustment to a line item is made just like a
correction--the financial aid administrator reports the adjusted
amount on Part 2 of the SAR or ISIR in the column labeled "The
correct answer is:". For instance, if the adjusted gross income is
$20,000, but the financial aid administrator decides to adjust that
figure to $17,000 to take into account unusual medical expenses, the
financial aid administrator would note that change on the SAR.

The financial aid administrator 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 a financial aid administrator 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 financial 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


The financial aid administrator can use professional judgment to
adjust the student's cost of attendance to take into account special
circumstances. The law also authorizes financial aid administrators
to use professional judgment to override the student's reported
dependency status to make the student independent. The procedures
for doing so are provided in the "Dependency Overrides" subsection
of the section of Part 2 titled "Making Changes."

Last Modified: 06/17/1998