An inside look at the Special Circumstance Appeal

If you receive federal aid from the FAFSA, you are familiar with the household income part of the application. You are probably also aware of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number that is assigned to your FAFSA upon submission. That number is calculated on the application and represents the amount that the government expects families to contribute towards the student’s education. More about it:

  • The FAFSA is based on the household income from two years ago. If your household income has changed since then due to unusual circumstances (such as a death of a parent/spouse, loss of a job, etc.), you can file a Special Circumstances Appeal (SPC).
  • The SPC will allow the Student Financial Aid Office to potentially recalculate the student’s EFC, based on the unusual circumstances.
  • In some cases, it may lower a student’s EFC enough to be awarded grants or subsidized loans.

While the SPC is a special, much-needed tool for families and financial-aid professionals to utilize when appropriate, there are some things to consider when deciding if it would be a good option for you:

  • If you already have a $0 EFC, then filing an SPC is unnecessary, as your EFC cannot go any lower. You would have received all eligible aid.
  • Unfortunately, it is not a solution for large gaps in aid. SPC is not a windfall of financial aid. At best you may qualify for a $6,000+ Pell Grant for the year, maybe another smaller grant or two…but nothing that will satisfy a large gap between tuition fees and financial aid.
  • If your EFC is super-high, in the five- or six-figure range, it would have to come down a lot (between $0 and $6,000) to make a student grant-eligible. Sometimes the EFC is just too big make a difference.

So, while there are some benefits to filing a Special Circumstances Appeal, there are some considerations to factor in, as well. If you have any questions regarding it, please do not hesitate to reach out to One Stop!

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