Special Circumstances

Professional Judgment Policy

Bradley University recognizes  that the information provided on the FAFSA may not reflect current unplanned and unforeseen situations that impact educational financing plans. The U.S. Department of Education grants financial aid administrators the authority to make professional judgments in response to what they refer to as special or unusual circumstances on a case by case basis. With adequate documentation we may alter the data on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a student’s dependency status, or make adjustments to the student’s cost of attendance. Inconsistent or conflicting information that has been provided must be resolved via acceptable documentation prior to any adjustments. The professional judgment determination made by the Office of Financial Assistance is final and cannot be appealed to The U.S. Department of Education or any other office or individuals at Bradley University.

Submitting a Professional Judgement request does not guarantee a change in financial assistance.

Special Circumstances

Special circumstances refer to financial situations not represented on the FAFSA that justify an aid administrator making adjustments to the data elements of the FAFSA calculation that will impact the Student Aid Index (SAI).  Special circumstance appeals that will be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • Loss of or change in employment (if it has been at least 60 days)
  • Substantial loss of income after tax year reported on FAFSA
  • Change in financial situation due to: separation, divorce, death of a spouse/parent’s spouse or abandonment
  • Loss of untaxed income reported on the FAFSA such as child support
  • Excessive medical expenses (must exceed 11% of AGI)
  • One-time taxable income (IRA distribution, pension distribution, etc.)

The following circumstances will not be considered:

  • Job loss due to cause or personal choice
  • Standard living expenses increase (utilities, car, private school, etc.)
  • Car or mortgage payments
  • Personal debt (credit card debt for example) or bankruptcy
  • Parent in college
  • Student’s change in marital status from single to married
  • Parent’s refusal to contribute to educational expenses
  • Students with an SAI of -1,500
  • Graduate students, as they aren’t eligible for need based aid

Unusual Circumstances

Unusual circumstances are those that justify an aid administrator making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status. Dependency override can be used with proper documentation in the following cases:

  • An abusive home environment
  • Human trafficking
  • Legal refugee or asylum status
  • Parental abandonment or estrangement
  • Parent(s) cannot be located
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of parent(s)

What does not qualify as a dependency override:

  • Parent refuses to contribute to the student’s education
  • Parent refuses to complete the FAFSA and/or provide verification documentation
  • Parent does not claim the student as a dependent on their taxes
  • Student lives apart from parent
  • Student works and is self-supporting

Dependency Overrides are rare and documentation is essential. Official documentation such court documents or written statements from case workers, counselors, physicians, clergy, police, attorneys, etc. will be required.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Financial aid administrators must obtain documentation from students who indicate that they are unaccompanied homeless youth.  The most common form of documentation is a McKinney-Vento that has been completed by the homeless liaison at the student's high school.  Documentation from an emergency shelter, outreach program, or aid administrator at a previous institution is also acceptable.  In the absence of preferred documentation, please contact the Office of Financial Assistance for determinations made on a case by case basis.

Foster Care Youth

Bradley University requires documentation to confirm a student was in foster care at age 13 or older. A court filed and stamped order is preferred.  Please contact the Office of Financial Assistance if the court paperwork is unavailable.

*Any student who received a dependency override in a prior award year will be independent for each subsequent award year at Bradley University unless we receive conflicting information regarding the student’s independence.*

Cost of Attendance

In extenuating circumstances where the standard cost of attendance (COA) does not represent the educational expenses being incurred, students may submit a COA appeal. Changes to COA will not increase federal, state or Bradley funded grants but may result in additional borrowing eligibility via private or PLUS loans. COA increases can be considered for the following reasons if documented and above the standard allowance:

  • Living expenses
  • Transportation
  • Computer purchase (one time purchase - $2,000 maximum)
  • Disability related academic expenses (not paid for by an outside organization)
  • Student’s child care expenses for a dependent

The following will not be considered as a COA appeal:

  • Credit card debt
  • Car payments or car insurance
  • Food and clothing
  • Expenses for extracurricular activities (conferences, sports, internships, etc.)
  • Expenses incurred for periods during which the student is not enrolled
  • Expenses for other family members

Cost of Attendance Information is available on our website:


Documentation Requirements

Documentation requested may include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Death – death certificate for the parent or spouse of the student
  • Divorce or separation – court filed divorce decree or separation agreement
  • Unemployment or Loss of Wages – letter of termination, 6 months of pay stubs (signed), most recent Federal 1040 (signed by the taxpayer) and W2(s)
  • Loss of Benefits – court order, letter from state or federal agency, most recent Federal 1040 (signed by the taxpayer) and W2(s)
  • Excessive Medical Expenses – medical receipts/expenses for the year, most recent Federal 1040 with Schedule A (signed by the taxpayer) and W2(s)
  • Dependency Override – Bradley University Dependency Override Form and three attestations on agency letterhead
  • Computer Purchase – Bradley University Computer Purchase Form and dated receipt/proof of purchase (adjustment will not exceed $2,000)

Notifying the Office of Financial Assistance

In order to request a professional judgment students must notify the Office of Financial Assistance about special circumstances or unusual circumstances.  Unusual circumstances can typically be reported on the FAFSA which will prompt requests for additional documentation.  Circumstances that can not be reported on the FAFSA can be reported to our office via the Professional Judgement Appeal form.

Once an appeal is filed, the Office of Financial Assistance Appeal Committee will perform an initial review of the information provided. At this time we will ensure that the student has a valid FAFSA on file, free of any errors and/or conflicting information.  If it is determined that the circumstances may warrant a professional judgment, additional documentation will be requested.  Requests for additional documentation will be sent to the email address indicated on the appeal form.  Documentation should be submitted via our secure portal bradley.leapfile.net.  Emailed copies of documentation will not be accepted.

Once all of the appropriate documentation has been received, the appeal will be reviewed.  This process may take up to four weeks to complete.  If approved, any updates to the FAFSA will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education so that the SAI may be recalculated. Changes in SAI will likely result in updates to the student’s financial assistance offer which will be communicated to the student via email. 

Bradley University reserves the right to deny requests for professional judgments.  Denial letters will be sent to the email address included on the appeal form.  The professional judgment determination made by the Office of Financial Assistance is final and cannot be appealed to The U.S. Department of Education or any other office or individuals at Bradley University.


   1501 W. Bradley Avenue, Peoria, IL 61625

   (309) 677-3089

Professional Judgement Appeal