Special Circumstances

The rules and the formula to determine financial aid eligibility are standard for all applicants. However, there is some flexibility, when appropriate, for financial aid administrators to exercise professional judgment on a case-by-case basis to override the student’s dependency status and/or recalculate the student’s eligibility for financial aid. However, this may only be done when the circumstances are extraordinarily unusual and they can be thoroughly documented. Submitting an appeal for special circumstances does not guarantee that it will be approved or additional financial aid will be granted. Your appeal must be received at least 30 days prior to your last day of enrollment for the current academic year. You will need to allow 2 to 4 weeks processing time for appeals.


  • You will need to provide adequate proof for your appeal.
  • The decision by the Office of Student Financial Assistance is final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.
  • The FAFSA must be filed annually and the process of exercising professional judgment must be done on an annual basis. To make exception for subsequent academic years, the student must have the same circumstances and go through the appeal process on an annual basis.

Below are some examples of appeals due to special circumstances and the procedures to appeal:

Cost of Attendance

The Office of Student Financial Assistance uses an estimated Cost of Attendance (COA) budget, which reflects an estimate of the total amount it should cost a student to attend Marshall University – usually expressed as an annual figure, which includes average costs for tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, dining, personal and transportation.

Students who believe their estimated COA doesn’t reflect their actual educational expenses for the academic year may submit a Cost of Attendance Appeal Form. Complete and submit the 2022-2023 Cost of Attendance Appeal Form for reconsideration of the 2022-23 COA. Over-load credit hours, additional fees, dependent care, study abroad expenses, special equipment, and other types of non-standard educational costs are examples of additional expenses that may be added to your COA. You may find the link to the Cost of Attendance Appeal Form by visiting www.marshall.edu/sfa and clicking on the Forms & Applications tab.

Adjustment of Expected Family Contribution

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is derived by a mandated Federal Congress formula used to measure a family’s financial strength and ability to fund educational expenses and it is determined by the information that the student and parents report on the FAFSA. Schools are required to use the standard EFC to calculate student’s eligibility for financial aid. If you feel that your family has special circumstances that may affect the amount you and your parents are expected to contribute toward your education, you may appeal. Special circumstances affecting your EFC that may warrant reconsideration include, but are not limited to:

  • A recent change in the household due to separation, divorce, or death
  • Student, spouse, or parent recently became unemployed
  • Reduction or complete loss of untaxed income such as social security benefits, child support
  • Complete loss of unemployment compensation

To appeal for any of the circumstances listed above, you must complete an Appeal for Reduction in Income. The 2022-23 Appeal for Reduction in Income Form is for consideration of an adjustment to the 2022-23 EFC. You may also find the link to the  Appeal for Reduction in Income Form by visiting www.marshall.edu/sfa and clicking on the Forms & Applications tab.

Other circumstances may also include:

  • Extraordinary or excessive medical or dental expenses that exceed 11% of AGI
  • Parents of a dependent student enrolled in college
  • Unusually high child or dependent care costs

For the circumstances listed above, you will need to submit a letter to the Office of Student Financial Assistance detailing the circumstances and the costs and attach supporting documentation.

Student Dependency Status

Federal financial aid regulations dictate the criteria under which a student applies independently of parents for financial aid. Students are considered “Independent” for financial aid eligibility if one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • You are 24 years of age or older
  • You are married as of the date you file the FAFSA
  • At the beginning of the academic year, you will be working on a master’s or doctorate program or graduate certificate
  • You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • You have children who will receive more than half of their support from you during the academic year you will be enrolled
  • At age 13 or older, both of your parents were deceased, you were in foster care, or you were a dependent ward of the court
  • You are an emancipated minor as determined by the court as of the date you file the FAFSA
  • As of the date, you file the FAFSA you are in legal guardianship as determined by a court
  • At any time on or after the date-specific on the FAFSA you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless

If one of the conditions above is applicable to you, you may submit the FAFSA without providing parental information. However, the Office of Student Financial Assistance is required under certain circumstances to document some of the “Independent” student conditions above. You will be contacted if further information is required.

Federal law provides that, under very limited special circumstances, you may submit your FAFSA without parental information. If you have special circumstances and are unable to provide parental information, FAFSA on the Web will instruct you on how to proceed. In addition, to request an exception to the dependency rules, you must submit an Appeal for Independent Status Form to the Office of Student Financial Assistance for consideration and approval. You may find the link to the 2022-23 Appeal for Independent Status Form by visiting www.marshall.edu/sfa and clicking on the Forms & Applications tab.

Exceptions (or a dependency override) may be made on a case-by-case basis. The following are examples of allowable special circumstances for a dependency override:

  • Your parents are incarcerated; or
  • You have left home due to an abusive family environment; or
  • You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them (and you have not been adopted)

However, the circumstances listed below do not qualify as “unusual and special circumstances” or that do not merit a dependency override:

  • Your parents do not want to provide their information on your FAFSA; or
  • Your parents refuse to contribute to your college expenses; or
  • Your parents do not claim you as a dependent on their income taxes; or
  • You do not live with your parents.

If you are not able to provide parental information on the FAFSA because the conditions above apply to you, you may file your FAFSA without parental information. However, you will not receive an official Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is required to calculate your eligibility for all federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs. In this instance, the only financial aid available to you through federal financial aid programs would be a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan. You may also consider a private educational loan; however, you most likely will need a credit-worthy co-signer for approval.

Income Reduction

There may be circumstances, such as the ones listed below, that allow for a change to documentation originally submitted for Financial Aid, and allow for potentially greater need-based aid eligibility.  If you have experienced one of the situations listed below, open the linked document to submit your request.

  • Loss of employment – My household has experienced a significant reduction of income.
  • Change in Marital Status that impacted household income.
  • Death of Parent or Spouse that resulted in negative impact to household income.

Complete the form listed below if any of the special circumstances listed above apply to you:

2022-23 Appeal for Reduction in Income Form