FAFSA Professional Judgment

Section 479A of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, authorizes the Director of Student Financial Services to use professional judgment, on a case-by-case basis for students with “special circumstances” that affect a family’s ability to pay for a college education that is not reflected in the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

The FAFSA is designed to determine a family’s ability to pay for higher education by calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount. The EFC is a measure of how much the student and his or her family can be expected to contribute to the cost of the student’s education for the year. The information provided on the FAFSA is used to calculate the EFC.

Professional judgment is used to take into consideration factors which have not been reflected on the FAFSA. The professional judgment may either increase or decrease data elements used to calculate a student’s EFC.

Professional judgment cannot be exercised for the following:

  • to circumvent the law or regulations
  • to waive general student eligibility requirements
  • to change a student’s status from independent to dependent
  • to adjust the EFC directly
  • to alter the need analysis formula or change table values
  • to create a new category in the cost of attendance

The Director of Student Financial Services is expected and required to make reasonable decisions that support the intent of the provision. The school is held accountable for all professional judgment decisions made and for fully documenting each decision. All decisions are final; there is no appeal process to the U.S. Department of Education.

Special circumstances that may be considered for a professional judgment

Special circumstances are anything that differentiates the family’s finances from those of other families. Below are examples of special circumstances intended to illustrate the types of circumstances that may merit adjustments via professional judgment:

  • unusually high dependent care costs
  • changes to dependency status
  • unusually high medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance
  • support of extended family members
  • elementary and secondary school tuition for siblings of a dependent student
  • parents enrolled in college at least half-time (must be enrolled as a degree seeking student)
  • changes in a family’s reported income
  • death or disability of a wage earner
  • divorce of the student’s parents
  • unemployment of a family member or anticipated drop in family income
  • termination of a child support agreement
  • student leaves work to go to college full-time
  • wage-earner’s occupation has fluctuating income
  • parent is called to active duty in the armed forces
  • unusual capital gains
  • proceeds of a sale of farm or business assets if the sales resulted from a voluntary or involuntary foreclosure, forfeiture, or bankruptcy or an involuntary liquidation
  • conversion of traditional IRA to Roth IRA
  • early distribution of IRA or retirement plans
  • one-time taxable income

Please contact your admission counselor or the Student Financial Services Office for more complete explanations of special circumstances and the documentation requirements. Use of professional judgment is neither limited to nor required for the situations mentioned. There are other special circumstances that may result in a professional judgment.

Situations that are not considered special circumstances:

  • vacation expenses
  • tithing expenses
  • standard living expenses (e.g. utilities, credit card expenses, children’s allowances, etc.)
  • mortgage payments
  • car payments
  • lawn care
  • credit card or other personal debt problems
  • all other discretionary expenses

Requesting a professional judgment review

If you believe that you have a situation that would qualify as a special circumstance that may lead to a professional judgment then please do the following:

  • Contact your admission counselor or the Student Financial Services Office to request a Professional Judgment Form. 
  • Mail (or fax) the completed and signed form along with all supporting documents to:

Concordia University, Nebraska
Student Financial Services, Weller 106
800 North Columbia Ave.
Seward, NE 68434
Fax: 402-643-3519

Upon receiving the completed Professional Judgment form, your request will be handled on a first-come-first-served basis. You will be contacted when a decision has been made, generally within four to six weeks.

Please note that in many cases professional judgment adjustments made to the FAFSA do not result in significant changes to the EFC and, therefore, do not change a student’s financial aid package. After receiving a professional judgment request, we will take a preliminary look at the request to first determine if there will be any potential impact on a student’s financial aid package before going through the formal professional judgment decision process.