Special Circumstances and Unusual Circumstances
The U.S. Department of Education grants financial aid administrators the authority to use professional judgment in certain areas of financial aid eligibility. The information below explains how Suffolk County Community College Financial Aid Offices assist students and families by using professional judgment to take into consideration changes in income and/or an applicant's dependency status.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) collects prior-prior year income. This reported income by not be an accurate representation of an applicant, or their families, recent financial situation. Students with documented special circumstances may be eligible for an adjustment to the income information reported on the FAFSA. Projected income, or an adjusted base year income, that better reflects the ability to pay, may be used in determining a student's federal financial aid eligibility.
If your family has experienced a change in income due to unusual or extenuating circumstances, your campus financial aid office can use professional judgment, and U.S. Department of Education guided flexibility, to re-evaluate your situation for the following reasons:
- loss of employment or reduction of work hours
- loss of an untaxed income or benefit
- divorce or separation
- death of a parent or spouse
- exceptional healthcare expenses not covered by insurance
- reduction or loss of child support
- other substantial changes in income
If you or your family have experienced special circumstances, please review and complete the Request for Consideration of Special Circumstances Form. Once complete, submit the form and supporting documentation to your campus financial aid office.
Financial aid regulations maintain that the family (student and parents) must assume the primary responsibility for meeting the student's educational costs of attending college. Therefore, parental information is normally required to determine a student's eligibility for federal financial assistance.
Students can indicate in the online FAFSA that they believe they have unusual circumstances that prevent them from providing parental data. Any student who indicates they have unusual circumstances on the FAFSA will be required to submit additional documentation to the Financial Aid Office.
The Department of Education has specifically stated that the following four conditions individually, or in combination with one another, do not qualify as unusual circumstances and therefore would not merit a dependency override:
- Parents refusing to contribute to the student's cost of education
- Parents unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification
- Parents not claiming the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
- Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
When a student has extenuating circumstances beyond their control they may be eligible for a dependency override. Examples of unusual situations include, but are not limited to: being removed from the family home because of parent abuse (physical and/or mental), parental abandonment or estrangement, drug/alcohol abuse, mental incapacity, incarceration or another such situation beyond the student's control. In cases such as these, the likelihood that the student would return to the parent(s) household and/or rely upon the parents for financial support would be very low.
Students with unusual circumstances, as outlined above, may submit a request for dependency override. The process to submit such a request is as follows:
- Students must download and complete the Request for Dependency Override Form.
- Students must submit the request form, a personal statement and supporting documentation to their campus financial aid office.
- The financial aid office will review the student’s request for completeness and make a determination if the student meets the criteria for an override. If the request is missing information, the student will be notified via their Suffolk County Community College email address. Failure to submit requested documentation in a timely fashion will result in denial of the request.
- If the request is approved, SCCC will make an adjustment to the student’s FAFSA application. Once the adjustment is processed by the Federal Processor and received by SCCC, a financial aid package will be created and made available to the student on their MySCCC portal.
- Generally, decisions will be made within 30 days of submitting a request. All students will be notified about their request decision via their SCCC email account. If a request is denied, the notification will outline options the student may pursue.
Dependent Students without Parent Support
Dependent students whose parents refuse to support them in completing the FAFSA or assist with college expenses are not eligible for a dependency override. However, they may be able to receive a dependent level Direct Unsubsidized Loan only. For a student to be eligible for this provision they must attest to the following:
- the student’s parents refuse to complete the FAFSA; or
- the student’s parents do not and will not provide any financial support to him or her
Students in this situation should complete the Parent Refusal to Provide Information Form and return it to their campus financial aid office.
Unaccompanied Homeless Youth or Self-supporting and at Risk for Being Homeless
Students who are homeless, or who are self-supporting and at risk for being homeless will indicate this situation as they complete the FAFSA application. Students will need to submit documentation of their determination from one of the following sources:
- Their high school or school district homeless liaison;
- The director (or designee) of an emergency or transitional shelter, street outreach program, homeless youth drop-in center, or other program serving individuals who are experiencing homelessness;
- The director (or designee) of a Federal TRIO program or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate program (GEAR UP) grant; or
- A financial aid administrator at another institution who documented the student’s circumstances in the same or a prior award year.
Students who are unable to provide documentation from one of the entities listed above should speak to their campus financial aid office for guidance.
Foster Care Youth
Students who indicate on their FAFSA that they were in foster care at age 13 or older are required to submit documentation verifying their status. Acceptable documentation would include one of the following:
- A court order or official State documentation that the student received Federal or State support in foster care
- A notarized statement or letterhead from an attorney, guardian ad litem, or Court Appoint Special Advocate
- Verification of the student’s eligibility for an education and training voucher under the John H. Chafee Foster Care program
- A state, county, or Tribal agency administering a program under part B or E of title IV of the Social Security Act
- A state Medicaid agency
- A public or private foster care placing agency or foster care facility or placement
- A written statement (on institutional letterhead) from a financial aid administrator who documented the student’s circumstances in the same or prior award year