Financial Aid

Special Circumstances

This webpage is to guide students wondering if they should file a special circumstances appeal. While an appeal may be appropriate with a large reduction in income when compared with the FAFSA tax year from 2 years ago, appeals do not always result in aid changes.

Financial Need

A special circumstance appeal is to assess if you (or your family, if a dependent student) has increased financial need than what was assessed through completion of the FAFSA. By sharing key information such as income, household size, number in college, state of residence, and even age of parents, the federal formula will calculate an estimated family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is subtracted from your estimated cost of attending college to give you financial need. The lower your EFC, the higher your financial need.

While some aid programs like the Federal Pell Grant is awarded based on your EFC, other aid programs are based on your financial need. Many need-based aid programs are also limited to students with very high financial need or low EFCs.

Where an Appeal Is Unlikely to Change Aid

Two student groups where aid is not likely to change through a special circumstances appeal:

  • Students who have a -0- (zero) estimated family contribution
  • Graduate or professional students
Because -0- EFC students are as eligible as they can be by financial need-based standards, a special circumstance appeal cannot make them more eligible. There is no benefit to completing an appeal in this case.
Similarly, graduate and professional student have limited need-based aid eligibility. Except for Federal Work-Study, graduate and professional students cannot be awarded need-based federal aid. Students beyond the undergraduate level should therefore consider if they are seeking Federal Work-Study or have another reason for seeking out a special circumstances appeal. Talking with staff in Enrollment Services (; 513-556-1000) can help you recognize if the goal to show increased financial need will be beneficial.