Special & unusual circumstances

When students and/ or families experience a change in circumstances, the information on the FAFSA may no longer accurately reflect their financial or dependency situation. In some cases, Financial Aid & Scholarships may be able to adjust some information based on these special or unusual circumstances. A student may have both a special circumstance and an unusual circumstance. With appropriate documentation, we may be able to make adjustments to a student’s FAFSA.

Students and families affected by COVID-19, recent national emergencies, or natural disasters

If you or your family have been affected by national emergencies like COVID-19 or natural disasters like flooding, tornadoes, or hurricanes, you may consider requesting a special circumstances review. A review does not guarantee additional financial support but does allow Financial Aid & Scholarships to consider any loss of wages or out-of-pocket expenses you or your family incurred as a result of the incident.

Special circumstances and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) appeals

Adjustments may be considered for loss of income for the following reasons (not an exhaustive list):

  • Job termination or loss of income (due to change of job, reduction in hours worked, disability, retirement or natural disaster)  
  • Divorce, separation or death of parent or spouse
  • Changes to taxable social security benefits, child support, or alimony received
  • Family housing and transportation expenses
  • Paid medical or dental expenses
  • Dependent care expenses
  • Private school tuition (elementary or secondary)
  • Parent enrolled at least half-time in college (For the 2024-25 school year adjustments can also be made for siblings enrolled at least half-time in college)

As part of the special circumstances process, Financial Aid & Scholarships will ask for applicable financial estimates for the student, parent(s), or spouse (if married).  When estimating income, please include all sources of potential income for the year, included but not limited to wages, bonuses, severance, unemployment, and disability.

How to request a special circumstances review

  1. Complete the relevant aid year FAFSA at fafsa.gov
  2. Contact your financial aid counselor to schedule an appointment to discuss your changed financial circumstances
  3. The financial aid counselor will asses eligibility, and if they determine the circumstances justify further review, they will request a written narrative and supporting documentation

The special circumstances review cannot be processed until all documentation is submitted. Once all documentation has been successfully submitted, please allow up to four to six weeks for processing.

Special circumstances impact

If the review results in increased eligibility for aid and if funds are available, you may receive additional assistance. If your review results in increased eligibility, you may be asked to provide documentation (such as federal income tax documents) at the end of the calendar year to verify the accuracy of your income projections or projected expenses. If changes need to be made and these changes result in reduced eligibility, you may have to repay aid. Additionally, student loan amounts are limited by federal regulation.

Budget adjustments/Cost of attendance appeals

All KU students have an estimated cost of attendance, or a budget, and Financial Aid & Scholarships staff cannot award financial aid in excess of that. However, there are some scenarios where we are able to adjust the cost of attendance so that additional financial aid can be awarded. Adjustments to Cost of Attendance do not guarantee additional financial aid will be awarded. If you have increases based on one or more of the following types of non-discretionary expenses, adjustment of your academic year cost of attendance may be possible.

  • Medical/dental/disability expenses for the student
  • Childcare expenses
  • Computer
  • Additional required educational expenses
  • Additional transportation expenses
  • Excess housing costs and/or food and shelter for dependents
  • Other

If you would like to request a budget adjustment, log in to ku.studentforms.com and click the "Add+" button. Budget adjustment requests are evaluated only after the original FAFSA and all supporting documents have been reviewed. It may take two to three weeks to evaluate your request.

If your request results in increased eligibility for aid, you may receive additional assistance if funds are available. However, if the documentation you submit results in reduced eligibility for financial aid, you may be required to repay aid and/or previously awarded aid may be canceled or reduced.

Federal Direct loans amounts are limited by federal regulation. However, additional aid options may come in the form of a Parent PLUS loan (undergraduate dependent students only), a Graduate PLUS loan (graduate students only) or a private/alternative loan such as the KU Endowment Association loan.

Unusual circumstances

Student dependency status is determined by information provided on the FAFSA and required by the US Department of Education. Students may submit an appeal to override their dependency status and be considered an independent student, based on unusual circumstances.  Unusual circumstances include:

  • Human trafficking
  • Legal refugee or asylum status
  • Parental abandonment or estrangement
  • Student or parental incarceration
  • Homeless youth

Unusual circumstances do not include:

  • Parent refusal to contribute to a the student's education costs
  • Parents will not provide information for the FAFSA or for FAFSA verification
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student does not live with parents
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency