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The Office of Student Financial Assistance recognizes that students and their families may have extenuating financial circumstances that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) does not consider. Our office reviews such circumstances in accordance with federal guidelines.


The FAFSA Simplification Act creates new distinction between special and unusual circumstances. 

  • Special Circumstances relate to Professional Judgement adjustments to FAFSA data elements or the cost of attendance (COA). 
  • Unusual Circumstances relate to making an adjustment to a student's dependency status based on a unique situation, commonly known as dependency overrides. 


The following are conditions/reasons for which a student may request an adjustment to their EFC.  The documents required that are listed below may not be the only documents needed once the PJ has been reviewed.

1. Death of a parent or the independent student's spouse.

Required Documents:

  • A copy of the death certificate

  • W2’s and current federal tax returns for independent student or for surviving parent of dependent student.

2. Loss of employment by independent student/spouse/parent (for at least 3 months).

Required Documents:

  • Letter from previous employer on company letterhead stating:
    • Last day of employment and reason for unemployment
    • Earnings up to the last day of employment
  • Copy of current 1040
  • Statement from Unemployment Office stating benefits and beginning and ending dates
  • If you have found new employment, please provide last 2-3 paystubs
  • Retirement pay statement if applicable

3. Loss of earnings due to disability.

Required Documents:

  • A letter from physician stating the nature and date of the disability. Must have occurred in current or previous year.
  • Earnings up to the last day of employment

4. Loss of untaxed income and benefits.

Required Documents:

  • Documentation certifying loss of benefits or untaxed income.

5. Divorce or legal separation of parent or student

Required Documents:

  • A copy or the Divorce Decree and/or a letter from the attorney stating date of separation.
  • W2’s and current federal tax returns for Independent student or supporting parent.

6. One time income (inheritance, IRA distribution, retroactive lump-sum payment, etc.)

Required Documents:

  • Documentation of one-time income including type and dollar amount.
  • Statement and receipts showing how funds were spent, invested, or rolled over.

        *Please be aware that some expenses will not be approved.

7. Non-elective medical or dental expense not covered by insurance.

Required documents:

  • Current federal tax return, Schedule A-Itemized Deductions AND/OR
  • Receipts of medical and dental payments NOT covered by insurance if you did not itemize on your Federal tax return. (Highlight your portion of payment & provide itemized totals on unreimbursed amount.)

8. Elementary and secondary education tuition

  • Copy of receipt from elementary/secondary school for this academic year.

9. Additional Family Members Enrolled in College 

  • A copy of a paid receipt or a paid bill on school letterhead for the current semester for each additional family member is required.

10. Severe Disability of Student, Student's Parent, Student's Spouse, or Student's Dependent 

  • Documentation of direct costs paid that are not covered by insurance.

It is the policy of the Office of Student Financial Assistance that we begin to use PJ to make adjustments to the EFC beginning July 1st for the upcoming award year. Accuracy in your income projection(s) is very important. It is the policy of NKU's Office of Student Financial Assistance to not process future adjustments for any student who underestimates his/her household income by more than 15% for an adjustment calculation. For adjustments to income processed after January 1 of the award year, students and parents will be asked to provide current tax forms or W-2s.

Changes due to Unusual Circumstances

The federal definition of an independent student is one who meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • At least 24 years old
  • Married
  • a Graduate or Professional Student
  • a Veteran
  • a Member of the Armed Forces
  • an Orphan, a ward of the court
  • someone with legal dependents other than a spouse. 

Undergraduate students who submit the FAFSA and do not meet the federal definition of an independent student may request a dependency override if the student can document other unusual circumstances that might warrant the treatment of the student as independent for purposes of establishing eligibility for federal and state need-based financial aid. 

PLEASE NOTE that the following circumstances WILL NOT be considered unusual:

  • A parent refusing to provide the neccessary data for completing the FAFSA application
  • A parent who is able but unwilling to provide support, 
  • A student who does not want to ask parent for information
  • A student who is or has been “on their own” for several years
  • A student who does not communicate with their parents
  • A student not being claimed on a parent’s tax return

Students that have circumstances that they believe warrant a dependency override should contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance for more information.

Changes in Educational Expenses (Cost of Attendance)

A student’s academic year cost of attendance budget is an estimate of the student’s average educational expenses for a 9-month school year (fall and spring semesters).  Allowable expenses in the student’s cost of attendance budget include tuition and mandatory fees and allowances for room and board (living and meal expenses), books, supplies, transportation, personal/miscellaneous expenses and loan fees, if applicable.  The cost of attendance budget for a student enrolled in a summer session(s) is also adjusted to reflect expenses associated with that enrollment period.  A student’s budget may be adjusted for extraordinary costs such as, expenses associated with dependent care, study abroad, disability expenses and/or employment expenses for co-op study.  Personal expenses can only be adjusted if there is an extraordinary circumstance. Appropriate documentation is required for the above. Adjustments for discretionary consumer expenses are not allowed.  To discuss your eligibility for a budget adjustment, please contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance.



  • Turn documentation in to the Office of Student Financial Assistance.  A financial aid coordinator will review all documentation on a case-by-case basis. 
  • If it is determined that you may benefit from an adjustment, corrections to your FAFSA will be made electronically by the Office of Student Financial Assistance and sent to the Federal Processor. Once the correction is made by the U. S. Department of Education, the Office of Student Financial Assistance will notify you by mail of the change in your expected family contribution and new award amount(s).  You will also be notified by mail if there is no change to your EFC or financial aid awards.

Processing time can be up to two weeks, or longer during peak times in the year. Peak times are the first 2-4 weeks of every semester. 
Professional Judgments are processed in the order that they are received.