Professional Judgement (PJ) Policy

Professional Judgement (PJ) Policy

PJ Authority and Individuals Who May Exercise It

Policies

The Higher Education Act of 1992 allows financial aid administrators to make professional judgment (PJ) decisions for special or unusual family or student circumstances. These circumstances must be documented. Circumstances requiring PJ decisions are analyzed on a case-by-case basis and the reason for the adjustment must relate to that student’s special circumstances and must be documented in the student’s file. PJ decisions may be made to adjust eligibility for all institutional, Title IV, and campus-based aid. Documentation supporting special circumstances must be maintained in student’s record.

When the financial aid staff is made aware of unusual circumstances, they may offer the Special Circumstance form or Dependency Override Petition form for the student to complete and return with all documentation. Once all documentation is received, the financial aid file will be reviewed by the Senior Financial Aid Advisor.

The Senior Financial Aid Advisor handles PJ requests for both Dependency Overrides and EFC adjustments. PJs for adjustments to student budgets (Cost of Attendance) are handled by the Senior Financial Aid Advisor.

The students have the right to request an adjustment to their financial aid packages for special or unusual circumstances. 

Professional Judgment decisions are final, and that decision will remain for the award year.

When PJ will be exercised:

Dependency Override- the PJ requests will be reviewed prior to packaging awards but only once a rejected ISIR has been received. The student must submit a completed Dependency Override Petition form with all supporting documentation (if applicable) or Homeless Youth documentation (provided by the Homeless Youth Liaison) to be considered for an Override. (See below for procedures) 

EFC Adjustments – Student must complete and submit the Special Circumstance form with all supporting documentation to be considered for an EFC adjustment. Verification must be completed (if selected by CPS) prior to requesting/reviewing/approving a Special Circumstance. Additionally, all conflicting information must be resolved prior to completing and packaging students financial aid file.

Procedures

Professional Judgment (PJ) procedures for Review:

Dependency Overrides: Student must submit the FAFSA omitting parent information. The ISIR the school receives will be rejected and not have a valid EFC. Once financial aid staff becomes aware of the student’s situation, they will provide the student with the Dependency Override Petition form and explain the process. While completing the form, the student will explain the following:

  • Present living situation/conditions and support
  • Last time they lived with their parent(s)
  • Last time they had contact with their parent(s)
  • Last time parent(s) provided support.
  • A written explanation describing the unusual circumstances or events that took place and the overall family situation which led to the student’s separation and estrangement from their parent(s).
  • Supporting documentation and/or written statement from a third-party Professional or supporting documentation. Third-party professions may include social worker, therapist, psychologist, school counselor, or any third-party professional relevant to the student’s circumstance. Supporting documentation may include court or law enforcement documents, letters from a clergy member, documents from social services, etc. (relevant data/proof that explains the student’s special circumstance).
  • Students who are unaccompanied and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless will only need to provide documentation from a school Homeless Youth Liaison or shelter (Dependency Override Petition form will not be needed).

Student’s completing the Dependency Override Petition must have an extenuated circumstance for not providing parent information. Examples of extenuated circumstances include student parent(s) are incarcerated, parents’ whereabouts are unknown to student and the student is unable to contact them (and is verifiable), student has had been abandoned and neglected, student has left home due to an abusive family environment (and is verifiable), student is older than 21 but not yet 24 and is unaccompanied, and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless (verified by the Homeless Youth Liaison or shelter). On a case-by-case basis, the Senior FA advisor may have a documented interview with a student who may be considered homeless for a dependency override. Documentation is stored in student’s file.

A student is considered homeless if he lacks fixed, regular, and adequate housing. This is broader than just living “on the street.” It includes: living with other people temporarily because he had nowhere else to go; in substandard housing (if it doesn’t meet local building codes or the utilities are turned off, it is generally not adequate); in emergency or transitional shelters, in motels, campgrounds, cars, parks, abandoned buildings, bus or train stations, or any public or private place not designed for humans to live in; in the school dormitory if the student would otherwise be homeless.

Once all documentation has been received, the Senior Financial Aid Advisor will make decisions on a case-by-case basis based on the information/documentation provided by the student.  On a case-by-case basis, the Senior Financial Aid Advisor may interview student regarding the information that was submitted for further documentation or ask for additional information. Once a decision is made, students are notified of the decision by email. (See below for steps for approvals)

Special Circumstances (for EFC Adjustment): Students must complete a FAFSA and have a valid EFC. Student must complete verification prior to having their Special Circumstance reviewed if they are selected for verification. Additionally, all conflicting information must be cleared prior to packaging student’s awards. Student can request a special circumstance if their income and/or their spouses or parent(s)’s income (dependent student’s) was significantly less for the current year than it was the previous year or if there were some other dramatic financial changes due to circumstances beyond the student’s or parent’s control.

Reasons for Special Circumstance Request: Student would be required to submit the Special Circumstance form with supporting documentation. Student may submit a special circumstance request if they have had a change in employment or became unemployed, have unusual medical or dental expense, have tuition expenses (private elementary/secondary), have one-time, lump-sum, pay-out, or income (bonus pay), or any other relevant special circumstance.

To complete the Special Circumstance request, the student must complete and submit the following to the SCC Financial Aid Office:

  • Special Circumstance form
  • Estimate Income and expenses for the current year.
  • Project any income for the rest current calendar year
  • Submit all supporting documentation. Supporting documents may include, but not limited to; recent/last pay stubs, relevant W2/wage statements, relevant tax returns, EDD statements, medical/dental bills, receipt of tuition paid/registration statements.
  • Detailed written statement explaining the student and/or parent(s) situation.

Once all documentation has been received, the Senior Financial Aid Advisor. will make decisions on a case-by-case basis based on the information and supporting documentation provided by the student.  On a case-by-case basis, the Senior Financial Aid Advisor. may ask for additional information to support the special circumstance.  Because PJ situations are unique, specific required documentation may not be listed for each case. It is left to the discretion of the Senior Financial Aid Advisor. to select what is appropriate documentation.  When reviewing the special circumstance request, the Senior Financial Aid Advisor. will consider the income protection allowance (IPA) is included in the EFC calculation to account for modest living expenses.  Per the Application and Verification Guide, it is reasonable to assume that approximately 30% of the IPA is for food, 22% for housing, 9% for transportation expenses, 16% for clothing and personal care, 11% for medical care, and 12% for other family consumption.

Once a decision is made, students are notified of the decision by email. PJ decisions are final. PJ requests cannot be used to circumvent the law and regulations, or to waive general student federal aid eligibility requirements (https://studentaid.gov/resources/eligibility-text).

PJ Request Forms:

Dependency Override Petition and Special Circumstance forms can be requested from the FA office. The forms may also be given to the student at the Financial Aid Office or have it emailed to them.

Circumstances for PJ Adjustments are Allowed and Resulting Actions Taken

Policies

Dependency Override:

Student’s completing the Dependency Override Petition must have an extenuated circumstance due to not being able to provide parent information. Examples of special circumstances include student parent(s) are incarcerated, parents’ whereabouts are unknown to student and the student is unable to contact them (and it can be verified), student has been abandoned and neglected, student has left home due to an abusive family environment (and is verifiable), student is older than 21 but not yet 24 and is unaccompanied and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.

Not all situations are considered a special circumstance. The following are situations would not be considered: Parent(s) do not want to provide their information on your FAFSA, parent(s) refuse to contribute to your college expenses, parent(s) do not claim you as a dependent on their income taxes.

Special Circumstance (EFC Adjustment):

Student may request a Special Circumstance if their income and/or their spouses or parent(s)’s income (dependent student’s) was significantly less for the current year than it was the previous year or if there were some other dramatic financial changes due to circumstances beyond the student’s or parent’s control. Student would be required to submit the Special Circumstance form with supporting documentation. Student can submit a special circumstance if they have had a change in employment or became unemployed, have unusual medical or dental expense, have tuition expenses (private elementary/secondary), have one-time, lump-sum, pay-out, or income (bonus pay), or any other relevant special circumstance.

Procedures

Procedures for Approval of PJ Requests: The Senior Financial Aid Advisor is responsible for reviewing all Dependency Overrides Petitions and Special Circumstance (EFC adjustment) requests. Once the financial aid file has been reviewed the Senior FA advisor will document the student’s file and proceed to make all the relevant adjustments to the student’s FAFSA via FAA Access to CPS.

For Dependency Overrides: Senior FA advisor will update the Dependency Overrides directly in FAA Access to CPS. The correction will reflect in the Dependency Override field or the Homeless Youth Determination field (if determined to be homeless). Once the correct ISIR has been process with the correct dependency status, the Senior FA advisor will check if the ISIR is selected for verification and/or any conflicting information.

For Special Circumstances (EFC) Adjustments: Senior FA advisor will update all relevant data associated with the student’s request (e.g., student had a change in income from one year to the next, the Senior FA advisor will adjust the AGI, income earned from work, etc.). The adjustments will be corrected on the students FAFSA via FAA Access to CPS to all relevant fields that require adjustments as well as the “EFC adjustment requested field”. The processed ISIR will need to reflect “Professional judgment processed” comment in order to package the student’s financial aid with the new EFC. Student can view the updated award status on the Self-Service portal and will be sent a revised Financial Aid Offer notification by email reflecting the adjusted EFC.

Requests for PJ Consideration

Policies

Professional Judgement requests may be submitted in person at the SCC Financial Aid Office or electronically on the student’s Self-Service portal.

The student must have filed a FAFSA and designated State Career School on the FAFSA before the last day of enrollment of the academic year. The PJ requests must also be submitted before the last day of enrollment or prior to the last day of the academic year (must have valid EFC while enrolled at SCC) and must include all supporting documentation prior to the last day of the academic year. Student’s submitting PJ requests must also follow all other annual published processing deadlines by the SCC Financial Aid Office.

PJ requests for Dependency Overrides will require a student signature and will also require the signature of the third-party professional attesting to the student situation (if applicable).  The Special Circumstance (EFC adjustment) form must be signed by the student and one parent (for dependent student).

Students may submit PJ requests for Special Circumstances and Dependency Overrides for multiple years as long as their situation merits the need for a Special Circumstance. However, requests for the Computer Purchase (budget increase) are a one-time, one-year approval only.

Professional Judgement decisions are final. PJ requests cannot be used to circumvent the law and regulations, or to waive general student federal aid eligibility requirements (https://studentaid.gov/resources/eligibility-text).

Procedures

Students are made aware of the prospect of PJ requests through a multiple of ways. Students with high EFCs and do not have any Need for need based awards are sent Financial Aid Offer notices that include information regarding Special Circumstances. Students are also made aware when speaking with the Financial Aid Staff and if staff are made aware of a situation that a student will need to submit a Special Circumstance or Dependency Override, they will provide the student with documentation. The student services will also notify both the Financial Aid Office and the student if the student is homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Once PJ requests are submitted to the Financial Aid Office, the FA advisor will prep the students file by scanning all student documentation and most recent ISIR into Perceptive Content. Once the file is prepped, the student’s financial aid file is routed to GEMCOR for review. The Senior FA advisor will work directly with the student if any additional information, documentation, or action is required. The Senior FA advisor may contact the student by email, phone, or in-person appointment. The student’s file will remain in an “inquiry pending” status if not all documentation has been submitted or the file is incomplete.

Once the student’s file has been reviewed the Senior FA advisor will notify the student by email of their approval or denial of their requests.

Upon approval, a correction will be submitted to GEMCOR to reflect the Dependency Override/Homeless Youth, or EFC Adjustment Requested and all corrected data elements. If no other documents/items are needed, the Senior FA advisor will package the awards. The student will then be sent a revised Financial Aid Offer notification by email.  

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