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EIU Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships

Professional Judgment Policies and Procedures

Due to varying circumstances, students and parents often find the information they provided on the FAFSA no longer realistically reflects their ability to provide educational support. Since FAFSA is using tax data from two years prior (prior-prior year), there are a few options when looking at more accurately calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) / Student Aid Index (SAI). Students with special or unusual circumstances may choose to submit a Professional Judgment (PJ) appeal to the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships requesting their situation be reviewed.

Special Circumstances

This refers to the financial situations (loss of a job, divorce, death of a parent or spouse, etc.) that justify an aid administrator adjusting data elements in the FAFSA calculation.

Unusual Circumstances

This refers to the conditions that justify an aid administrator making an adjustment to a student’s dependency status based on a unique situation (e.g., human trafficking, refugee or asylee status, parental abandonment, incarceration). (This is more commonly referred to as a “Dependency Override.")


It is possible a student could have circumstances that are both special and unusual. EIU’s financial aid administrators have the authority to make those determinations by exercising professional judgment (PJ) based on the student's documented circumstance.

Professional Judgement Review request

To request a Professional Judgment, please submit the form(s) and additional documentation to support your request to the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. Tax information (tax return transcript, 1040 tax forms or the IRS Data Retrieval tool) from the original FAFSA data (prior-prior year) are REQUIRED for all families who request a professional judgment review.

Please include the student’s name and EIU E# on all documentation. Upon receipt and review of the appeal form, additional documentation may be requested as needed. Please check your EIU Panthermail and PAWS account frequently for updates and additional requests.

The financial aid office will begin accepting requests for Professional Judgment review on March 1st each year for the upcoming award year. Please note, a successful appeal does not guarantee additional aid, and sometimes additional aid is not immediately available.

Examples of Professional Judgment reasons include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The family has incurred extraordinary medical/dental expenses beyond what is claimed through a Schedule A on federal taxes.
  • The student’s parent has retired.
  • The student’s or parent(s)’ income was significantly reduced from the tax filing year that FAFSA is using.
  • The student or parent(s) no longer receives untaxed benefits such as child support, or other sources of income, which was previously indicated on the FAFSA application.
  • The parent or student has received a one-time disbursement of funds (i.e. severance package, bonus, etc...) which were unavailable for educational expenses.

It is EIU’s policy that a Professional Judgment will not be processed due to a student’s change in marital status (from single to married) or a parent in college.

Estimating Current Year Income

In the interest of providing the most accurate information possible to the Department of Education, it is best practice to use actual tax information as opposed to estimating current year income information; however, there are certain limited circumstances which allow the office to use estimated income information. The Financial Aid Office will only accept estimated income for the current tax year if (ALL must apply):

  • There are 3 or more months of actual income data available AND
  • In the case of lost employment, it has been a minimum of 60 days since the loss of employment has occurred AND
  • Using the prior year’s ACTUAL tax information will not provide an accurate picture of the families ability to pay educational expenses (ex. Loss of employment took place in the current year)

In the limited case that family income is estimated, please note that no additional adjustments will be made when income was over or under-estimated. For future FAFSA years, the ACTUAL tax data will be used which could yield a difference in the amount of financial aid received from year-to-year.

Processing Professional Judgment Appeals

The requests are processed in the order in which they are received. We will revise certain financial elements initially provided by you on the FAFSA.  Even though these applications are identified as having the potential to yield a significant increase to the student’s financial aid, the Office of Financial Aid cannot ever guarantee that an increase will occur. 

The review process could take approximately 30 days (federal regulations allow 60 days) and will conclude with the student being notified in their PAWS account when the first step of the professional judgment is complete.  Once the revisions are accepted at the Department of Education, the school will receive confirmation and revise aid, if warranted.  Students will receive a second notification directing them to PAWS to view their awards.

Division of Income

The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is authorized to make certain adjustments to income information provided on your FAFSA in the event of separation, divorce, abandonment, or death of a spouse/parent’s spouse.  We must receive all of supporting documents listed on the form before processing begins.

  • For Parents:
  • For Students:

Dependency Overrides

Under VERY LIMITED circumstances, an otherwise dependent student may be able to submit the FAFSA without parental information due to unusual circumstances. Consider the following examples of unusual circumstances where you may be able to submit your FAFSA without providing parental information:

  • Your parents are incarcerated; or
  • You have left home due to an abusive family environment; or
  • You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them (and you have not been adopted).

If you believe you have an unusual circumstance and are unable to provide parental information, please complete this form and attach all supporting documents requested:


Not all situations are considered an unusual circumstance. The following are situations that WOULD NOT be considered an unusual circumstance:

  • Your parents refuse to contribute to your college expenses; or
  • Your parents do not claim you as a dependent on their income taxes; or
  • You do not live with your parents; or
  • Your parents do not wish to provide their information on your FAFSA.
    • (In this situation, you may still submit your FAFSA with no parent information, but you will be eligible for a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan only.)


  • There is no deadline for Professional Judgment Appeals. However, Department of Education guidance requires the student to be enrolled at the time the appeal is processed.  (This does NOT include appeals filed before the academic year/semester begins.)
  • Financial aid is awarded on a first come, first served basis.  Funding may be limited as the academic year/semester progresses. It is in the student’s best interest to file the appeal as early as possible.


  • The EFC can never be reduced below 0 (Zero), and the SAI cannot be reduced to less than -1500.
  • Additional requests for Professional Judgment reviews for the same circumstance will not be reviewed.

2024-2025 Professional Judgment Forms

Retirement Savings Rollover Issue on FAFSA

There is a FAFSA issue that has been quite confusing for families with qualified retirement savings rollovers that can result in an overly-inflated EFC (expected family contribution) / SAI (student aid index). This higher EFC / SAI may result in reducing the student’s eligibility for financial aid.

Retirement savings moved from one qualified retirement plan to another qualified plan should not be reported as untaxed income on the FAFSA.

However, when a family uses the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) embedded in the FAFSA, any rollover will be reported incorrectly as the IRS DRT does not identify and exclude tax return IRA and/or pension distributions that have been rolled over into another account.

If an amount greater than $0 is transferred from the IRS into the untaxed portions of IRA distributions field or the untaxed portions of pensions field on the FAFSA form, the family will be required to answer a new question about whether or not that amount includes a rollover.

If the answer is “yes,” the family will be required to provide the amount of the rollover in a new entry field. The amount reported as the rollover amount will then be subtracted from the amount of the IRA or pension distribution that was transferred from the IRS.

It is not uncommon for families to miss the step of entering the amount of the rollover in the new field, or doing it incorrectly.

In this case, please allow us to help you. We advise students and parents against correcting the error on the FAFSA because by changing any of the tax data, a family compromises all information transferred from the IRS. Instead, the family should provide documentation to the financial aid office.

Acceptable verifying documents include:

  • a copy of the IRS 1099-R form (see sample below); OR
  • a copy of the first two pages of the US1040
    • In addition, we require a signed and completed Untaxed Income form. (links below)





Electronic signatures are currently not accepted for our institutional forms (listed on this page). All signatures MUST be handwritten. If you are connected to a printer, you may type in other information and print the form. Some information cannot be handled in this way, such as signature/date lines, and any information provided by or requiring the signature of another person.

All forms are .pdf documents. Get the latest free Adobe Reader here.

Related Pages

Contact Information

Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships

Student Services Building East Wing
600 Lincoln Avenue
Charleston, IL 61920
(217) 581-6405
Fax: (217) 581-6422

Office Hours

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. M-F

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