Professional Judgment Appeal
The Higher Education Act of 1992 allows financial aid administrators to make professional judgment decisions for special or unusual family or student circumstances. These circumstances must be documented and must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.
Aid Administrators may treat a student with special circumstances differently than the strict application of the methodology would otherwise permit. Adjustments can either increase or decrease a student's EFC or cost of attendance. In the case of an adjustment to a student's EFC or cost of attendance, specified adjustments may be made to data elements. The reason for the adjustment must relate to that student's special circumstances and must be documented in the student's file along with a 2021-22 Professional Judgment Appeal Form.
Eligibility for financial aid is determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which currently uses financial information from two years prior to estimate a household’s current circumstances. The Office of Financial Aid recognizes that households can experience changes in income or other finances that are not reflected in their information from two years prior.
When these situations occur it is possible to re-evaluate a student’s aid eligibility based on their current circumstances through the Professional Judgement (PJ) process. All Professional Judgement applications are required to have a detailed letter of explanation and supporting
documentation. A Professional Judgement cannot be processed for changes until verification is complete. There must be a significant change to the household finances to be considered for a Professional
Some Non-applicable Circumstances Include
- Standard living expenses (utilities, car payments, etc)
- Mortgage payments
- Credit card/other personal debts
- Filing for bankruptcy
- Vacation expenses
- The person who lost employment has currently been rehired and is earning a
- similar or higher salary than two years prior
- The loss or change to income was not significant
- Child Support reduction or change
- Divorce/Separation of parents/spouse
- Change of marital status for dependent students
- Death of parent(s) or spouse
- Excessive out of pocket medical and/or dental expenses that exceed 11% of household’s
Note: A change to the EFC could, but is not guaranteed to, result in a change of eligibility for need based awards.
- One-time taxable income (IRA disbursement, pension distribution, etc)
- Change to Cost of Attendance (COA)
- Costs associated with a student’s disability
- Childcare expenses for a dependent child of the student
- One-time purchase of a computer for education expenses
- One-time costs of professional licensure required for student’s major
The chart below lists the type of supporting documentation required for various categories of Professional Judgement. Failure to submit all applicable required documentation listed will result in a delay and possible denial of your Professional Judgement application.
Reason for Professional Judgement Petition Documents Required Loss or Change of Employment and/or Income
- Statement on letterhead indicating the last date of employment
- Copy of the last paycheck including any vacation pay, severance, bonuses, or tips received
- Documentation of the gross income of the person whose employment status changed
- Members of the military must submit a copy of the DD214 and a LES showing taxable and untaxed income
- Documentation of any type of income being received including workman’s compensation, payments from 401(k) or 403(b)
- plans, the financial contribution made by individuals outside of the household
Change in student marital status
- Student’s marriage certificate
- Student’s and spouse’s most recent tax returns
- Death of a Parent or Spouse Death certificate of the deceased individual
- Copy of final paycheck
- Documentation of any death benefits received
- Death of a Parent or Spouse - Death certificate of the deceased individual
- Copy of final paycheck
- Documentation of any death benefits received
- Disability Documentation of disability diagnosis
- Documentation of costs related to the student’s disability ex. Personal assistance, transportation, equipment, or supplies (These
- costs cannot be provided by other agencies to be considered for a Professional Judgement.)
Reduction in Child Support
- Documentation of the total amount of child support expected for each child
- Unusual Medical/Dental Expenses Documentation of paid out- of- pocket medical expenses - Copy of Schedule A (tax form)
- Elementary/Secondary Tuition Expenses - Proof of tuition expenses paid for the current academic year on school letterhead
- Dependent Care Expenses - Proof of dependent care expenses paid for the current academic year on letterhead
- Computer Purchase - Proof of cost of computer required for educational purposes or proof of purchase (This is a one-time adjustment.)
- Professional Licensure - Proof of costs associated with professional licensure or proof of payment (This is a one-time adjustment. Preparatory coursework cannot be included.)
Professional Judgement FAQs
For Professional Judgement, which aid year should I complete?
-At this time, the 20-21 and 21-22 PJ applications are both available to complete. The 20-21 PJ form considers extenuating circumstances that occurred in 2020, thus, is based off the 2020 expected income. The 21-22 PJ form considers extenuating circumstances that have occurred in 2021, thus is based on the 2021 expected income.
How do I get a Professional Judgement application?
-Applications are by request only, students may request an application via email or in office. Email our department at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include “Professional Judgement” in the subject line and provide a detailed explanation of your special circumstance. Please allow 3-5 business days for a response.
How do I submit my Professional Judgement application?
-You may submit the documents to email@example.com or fax the documents to 718-862-8027.
How long before I know the outcome of a Professional Judgement?
-The professional judgment review takes 4-6 weeks to complete.
Note: Incomplete submissions should expect a longer time frame as they will be pended until requested documentation is received. Once student submits all additional required documentation, outcome will be determined within 4-6 weeks from that time.
I have a pending Professional Judgement, why isn’t my financial aid
-When a student has a pending PJ To-Do List item this will block financial aid from paying. The student may request the PJ be temporarily canceled to give time for current financial aid to disburse.
My Professional Judgement application was denied, now what?
-Students with a denial outcome will receive the specified reason for the decision in their denial outcome email.
What if I do not have documents being requested for Professional
-A Professional Judgement review is a courtesy, not a requirement; a student has 30 days from the day of the initial request to submit to avoid being denied due to inactivity. Students have the option to submit a signed copy of their family’s 2020/2021 tax return once they become available if they are unable to provide what is initially requested.
What should I submit with my Professional Judgement application?
-All PJ applications are required to have a detailed letter of explanation and supporting documentation.
Why is my Professional Judgement application "Pending"?
-If your PJ application is incomplete, you will be sent an email notification to your Jasper email account detailing what we are missing. We will also place a PJ Pending item on the financial aid planning checklist on Self Service.
Examples of why an appeal may be pending:
- Missing signatures
- No explanation
- No documentation provided
Note: If pending items are not received within 30 days of initial request the appeal will be cancelled due to inactivity.
Another example where a financial aid counselor can use professional judgment is for granting a dependency override. If a student does not meet the federal guidelines to be considered independent for financial aid purposes, the aid administrator can decide to override the federal regulation and make the student independent for financial aid purposes.
The special circumstances must be documented and a copy of the documentation must be maintained in the student's file. Instances where a student’s parents are unwilling to provide their information or a student is self-supporting are not justification for granting a dependency override.
Because professional judgment decisions are unique, specific required documentation cannot be listed. It is left to the discretion of the Financial Aid Administrator to request appropriate documentation. The documentation should substantiate the student’s situation and be from a professional outside the family, not a family member.
In cases of a dependency override, documentation from more than one organization should be collected. The decision for using professional judgment will be made by the Financial Aid Officer.