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Special and Unusual Circumstances

Students at graduation


The FAFSA is a tool designed to estimate a family’s ability to pay for college. However, many students and/or families have circumstances that the FAFSA cannot capture. Students with special educational costs, dependency override needs, or changed financial circumstances may be able to benefit from a professional judgement appeal.

Sometimes your financial situation may change after you submit your application for aid. We want your aid to best reflect your current situation, so if you have had a sudden change, you may want to submit a Special Circumstances Appeal. Please note, we will not be able to complete the review until you have received the initial financial aid offer based on your FAFSA application.

The following circumstances may necessitate a Special Circumstances Appeal:

  • Job loss (you must wait 10-weeks from the time of job loss to submit a review form)
  • Significant change in income
  • Divorce or separation (living in separate houses)
  • Death of a parent
  • Change in untaxed income (such as discontinuing child support)
  • Extraordinary medical expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance

Contact the Financial Aid Office, and we can help determine if your aid offer can be reconsidered.

Unusual Circumstances refer to the conditions that justify an aid administrator adjusting a student’s dependency status based on a unique situation (e.g., human trafficking, refugee or asylee status, parental abandonment, incarceration), more commonly referred to as a dependency override.

Federal FAFSA regulations define the criteria that the student must meet to be considered an independent student.  If the student does not meet any of those criteria, they may submit an appeal to the Financial Aid Office to review. An appeal may only be approved for exceptional circumstances.

Reasons for appeal include, but are not limited to:

  • Circumstances that threaten your health and safety
  • Abandonment by parents
  • Both parents are deceased (and/or non-custodial parent is estranged)
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • Death of both parents (or death of only parent in single family household)
  • Parental drug or alcohol abuse

The following situations are NOT considered eligible for dependency appeal consideration:

  • Your parents refuse to contribute to your education
  • Your parents will not provide information for the FAFSA or verification
  • Your parents do not claim you as a dependent for federal income tax purposes
  • You demonstrate total self-sufficiency to support yourself

Students may have unusual educational expenses not accounted for in the Cost of Attendance (COA).

Federal regulations give the Financial Aid Office the ability to adjust a student’s cost of attendance budget based on certain additional expenses.  Expensese include:

  • Child Care: Expenses must be incurred during the period of enrollment
  • Health Insurance: If student is covered under a family policy, the cost of attendance increase will only be for the student's portion of the policy.
  • Computer Allowance:  Beginning with 2024/2025, the computer allowance is automatically added to the Cost of Attendance budget for new undergraduate and graduate students; Continuing students can request the allowance, if it's been 3+ years since they last received the adjustment.
  • Emergency Car Repair: Repair cannot be for general maintenance. It must be for an emergency repair that occurred during period of enrollment, and paid receipts must be submitted with request.
  • Professional Licensing Fees: Allowance is already included in the Cost of Attendance for students enrolled in the courses that lead to professional licensure exams. Fees required for the board exam for professional licensure, certification, or credentialing for employment in the student's field of study must be incurred during (not after) a period of enrollment, even if the exam occurs after the end of that period.
  • Course-Related Travel Expenses: Expenses may include requirements of the major, residency/internship, or observation. Additional costs per semester above the mileage allowance provided in the original Cost of Attendance will be considered. 
  • Housing Costs: Housing allowance is determined by on-campus housing costs. However, if you live off campus, you can request a review of your actual cost via a Cost of Attendance Adjustment form. A student's Cost of Attendance can only reflect the cost for the student to attend WCU and is not intended to reflect all of the student's non-educational living expenses.

Please note, not all appeals are approved. And, even if an appeal is approved, it may not result in additional financial aid eligibility. 

Contact the Financial Aid Office to see if you qualify for a Cost of Attendance Adjustment.

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