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Special Circumstance Appeal Process

Undergraduate students and families provide income and asset information that is two years old on the FAFSA. A lot can change for a family in a two-year period. At a very basic level, special circumstances are anything that makes the information provided on the FAFSA not truly reflective of a family’s current financial situation. To that end, the Office of Financial Aid has a Special Circumstances Appeal process to provide undergraduate students and their families the opportunity to report these issues to our Office. We will use this information for consideration for a FAFSA adjustment to reduce the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The Office of Financial Aid must adhere to guidance provided by the US Department of Education for this process.

Graduate students are not permitted to file a special circumstances appeal because graduate student aid is limited to unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans and Graduate PLUS Loans. Therefore, a special circumstances appeal will not provide any additional loan eligibility for graduate students. Graduate students can file documentation with the Office of Financial Aid for a Cost of Attendance increase due to an increase in educational related expenses. For example, if your program of study requires you to have certain software or other supplies, we can add those expenses to the graduate cost of attendance.  The increase in Cost of Attendance may enable a graduate student to borrow additional Graduate PLUS Loans, if the student is credit worthy.

Below are FAQs to help families determine eligibility to file a Special Circumstances Appeal with the Office of Financial Aid.

What qualifies as a special circumstance?

Families who have had at least one of the following events may submit a Special Circumstances Appeal:

  • Unplanned loss or reduction of working income
  • Loss of benefits such as child support, unemployment wages/benefits, alimony, social security/disability, or worker’s compensation
  • One-time lump sum income from a pension or retirement fund withdrawal prior to the eligible age of retirement
  • Out-of-pocket medical/dental or funeral expenses
  • Private school or specialized school tuition for elementary, middle, or high school siblings for dependent students, or children of independent students paid during the previous calendar year
  • Extraordinary care expenses such as elder care and adult child care of individuals not already included in the number in the household on the FAFSA
  • Parental educational debt that is currently in repayment, documented, and for students (parents and/or siblings) who are no longer enrolled in college.
  • Death of parent for dependent students, or death of spouse for independent students.
  • Legal separation or divorce of parents for dependent students, or divorce from spouse for independent students
What does not qualify as a special circumstance?

The following list of issues or events are not special circumstances and appeals for these issues or events are automatically denied:

  • Inability or desire to pay for a college education at Wittenberg
  • Standard living expenses (examples include but not limited to: rent/mortgage payments, utilities, credit card debt, consumer debt, car payments, insurance payments, cable television or satellite television, lawn care, etc.)
  • Student educational debt
  • Expenses the family has been paying regularly for several years such as healthcare insurance premiums, regular healthcare costs, home/auto insurance, etc.
  • Life style expenses (vacation, vacation home costs, tithing, family events (weddings, retirements, etc.))
  • One-time increases to the family’s income from lottery winnings, inheritance, etc.
Am I guaranteed to receive more financial aid if I file an appeal?

No. The Special Circumstances Appeal process does not provide an opportunity for a full waiver of educational expenses at Wittenberg.  Instead, this process enables the Office of Financial Aid staff to determine if adjusting the FAFSA will provide additional federal, state, or institutional aid eligibility. The student and family may still need to borrow loans or make other arrangements to pay out-of-pocket expenses.  Additionally, the Special Circumstances Appeal process is for ONE academic year only, and is not an annual adjustment to the FAFSA based on ongoing issues.

What is the timeframe for completing a FAFSA Adjustment/Special Circumstances Appeal?

Appeals are processed in the order they are received and when all documentation required is submitted. The review process may take upwards of 2-3 weeks depending on when all materials are received. This process also requires students and families to complete the FAFSA Verification process to ensure that the original FAFSA is accurate before any adjustments can be made. We will notify by email when your appeal has been reviewed and the outcome of that review. Outcomes are considered final and cannot be appealed elsewhere.

Who should I contact to ask questions about this process?

Please call Ms. Adria Flannery at 937-327-7319 or email flannerya@wittenberg.edu to learn more about the process and any documentation required to complete the process.

Special Circumstance Appeal Forms

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