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Special Circumstances

The process of determining a student's eligibility for financial aid is standard for all students. Sometimes, families have circumstances that are not fully captured by the FAFSA or don’t fit neatly into the expectations of the FAFSA form.  With proper documentation, justifiable changes can sometimes be made to the FAFSA to better reflect family circumstances. If you have not yet completed your FAFSA, you may do so at

Special Circumstances/Change of Income

Special Circumstances refer to situations that may justify an aid administrator adjusting data elements on the FAFSA or budgeted expense items in the student’s annual Cost of Attendance. Examples of Special Circumstances include loss of an income resource, parental marital status changes after FAFSA filing, or extraordinary expenses, such as medical expenses, or expenses related to the care of a dependent with disabilities.  Students who believe they have Special Circumstances that justify an adjustment should reach out to their Financial Aid Advisor with a description of their circumstances after receiving the initial financial aid offer.  The Financial Aid Advisor will determine what additional documentation may be necessary.  Students who are selected for Verification must submit all requested documents before Special Circumstances can be reviewed.

Families that have Special Circumstances which involve a loss of income may be required to complete our online Change of Income application. The Change of Income application opens in May for the 2024-25 academic year and allows families to provide estimated income information for the current tax year. Access to the online Change of Income application will be granted after students contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships or their Financial Aid Advisor regarding their circumstances.  After submitting the online Change of Income application form, families will print and submit a signature page along with documentation supporting the estimated income via the Secure Document Portal. Once all documentation is received, Change of Income processing typically takes between four and six weeks. 

Documents required for verification and/or Special Circumstance appeals should be sent via our Secure Upload Portal. This is the fastest, most secure method to transmit your documents to our office. For assistance, please see our Secure Upload Troubleshooting Guide

You can also submit documents by fax (740.593.4140) or by mail to:

Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships

1 Ohio University

Chubb Hall 020

Athens, OH  45701

Please DO NOT send documents via email. Our priority processing timeline is three to four weeks.


Changes in Marital Status

Students and parents must report their marital status as of the date the FAFSA is filed. If the student or parent marital status changes after the FAFSA is filed, the student may request a review of their FAFSA through February of the student's spring semester. The student or parent will be asked to submit additional documentation to the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships. 

Unusual Circumstances/Dependency Appeals

Dependency for financial aid purposes is clearly defined by federal rules.  Dependent students must include parental data on the FAFSA. In some cases, students who do not meet the federal definition of an independent student can appeal their dependency based on their Unusual Circumstances. Students must be able to document those circumstances.  Unusual Circumstances may include cases of documented abuse or neglect, human trafficking, refugee or asylee status, parental abandonment, or parent incarceration.  A parent’s refusal to pay for college or the belief that a student should be self-sufficient after turning 18 years old does not make a student independent for financial aid purposes. Also, not being claimed on a parent's tax return and/or living on your own are not unusual circumstances that justify a dependency appeal. 

Students who want to appeal their dependency should file the FAFSA and indicate that they may have Unusual Circumstances that warrant a Dependency Appeal.  The Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships will ask for a detailed account and documentation of the Unusual Circumstances.  Documentation may include official court records, and/or letters from three unrelated and uninvolved third parties (i.e. School Counselors, clergy, case workers, medical professionals, etc.) with knowledge of the circumstances.  If approved, the student will be considered independent on the FAFSA. 

Providing parental information on the FAFSA does NOT obligate the parents to pay for college expenses.  Students whose parents refuse to provide parental data on the FASFA can file the FAFSA and request only a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan.  Students and their parents will be required to sign an Unsubsidized Loan Only Authorization Form affirming that the parents refuse to provide information on the FAFSA and that they understand that students who complete this form will not be eligible for any need-based aid.  This option for obtaining financial aid should only be used as a last resort.