For most students, the FAFSA does a good job of evaluating their family's financial strength. However, it does not do a good job of dealing with students who experience extenuating circumstances. Recognizing that, Congress has given authority to financial aid administrators to use their professional judgement to account for conditions that are out of the norm.
Typically, this authority is used to do one of three things:
- Declare a student independent for purposes of completing the FAFSA
- Adjust figures on the FAFSA to reflect changes in income or resources
- Adjust the Cost of Attendance (COA) to include non-standard educational expenses
Any adjustments made are at the discretion of staff in the financial aid office and must be supported with documentation that can withstand an audit.