Professional Judgement

Request for Review of SAI

The Student Aid Index (SAI), formerly known as EFC, is an eligibility index number that the USAO Financial Aid office uses to determine how much federal student aid you are eligible for. This number results from the income information collected for your FAFSA form. This number is not a dollar amount of aid eligibility, or what your family is expected to provide. A negative SAI indicates the student has a higher financial need. For more information, see how the SAI is calculated.

To determine your financial need, your SAI is subtracted from the cost of attendance (COA). The COA includes both estimated direct University costs and indirect expenses not related to USAO but that you are still expected to incur, such as transportation costs and personal expenses.

The Financial Aid Office has the authority to re-evaluate and revise your FAFSA information if you experience significant changes in your household size or income resources since the time you applied for financial aid. Any approved revisions must be well documented and must be unique to the individual. When considering your appeal, the Financial Aid Office reviews the timeliness of your request, the nature of the change in circumstances and the quality of the supporting documentation. Appeals may include verification of the original FAFSA data before any adjustments are considered. Appeals are subject to federal, state, and university regulations.

Special Circumstances

USAO will consider appeals for a recalculation of SAI based on a student’s special circumstances.

Special circumstances may include, but are not limited to, 1) Recent unemployment of the student, spouse, or contributing parent. 2) Medical, dental, or nursing home expenses not covered by insurance. 3) Unusually high child-care or dependent-care expenses. 4) Being homeless or a dislocated worker. 5) Tuition expenses at an elementary school or secondary school. 6) Other changes in family income or assets.

USAO will not consider appeals for those circumstances the Department of Education lists as “unreasonable” adjustments. Examples of unreasonable adjustments are (but are not limited to): recurring costs such as vacation expenses; tithing expenses; and standard living expenses (i.e., utilities, credit card debt, children’s allowances, etc.)

How to Appeal

  1. Submit a Request for Review of Student Aid Index
  2. Include a signed statement that details your special circumstances.
  3. Include requested supporting documentation and any other documentation that supports your case.
  4. If you are selected for verification of your FAFSA and have not completed the verification process, you will receive a request for the required additional documentation.

You will be notified of a decision regarding your appeal within 30 days of receipt of all requested documentation. All decisions are final and cannot be appealed.  

Dependency Override Request Form

Federal law assumes the family has the primary responsibility for meeting the educational costs of students. Therefore, a student must meet certain federal criteria to qualify for financial aid as an independent student. If you do not meet one of the criteria listed on the FAFSA, you will be evaluated as a dependent student, meaning your parents must provide income and asset information.

If a student has unusual circumstances that may warrant re-evaluation of their dependency status, the USAO Financial Aid Office will consider a request for a dependency override. 

Unusual Circumstances

Unusual circumstances must be based on instances in which the student is unable to contact a parent or where contact with a parent poses a risk to the student. Unusual circumstances may include, but are not limited to, 1) Human trafficking. 2) Legally granted refugee or asylum status. 3) Parental abandonment or estrangement. 4) Parental or student incarceration.

The U.S. Department of Education does not consider the following situations to be unusual circumstances and USAO will not consider a dependency override appeal in these cases: parents do not want to provide their information on the FAFSA or refuse to contribute to college expenses, parents do not claim the student as a dependent on their income taxes, the student does not live with parents.

How to Appeal:

Complete the Dependency Override Request Form and attach a signed personal statement explaining the following:

  1. Nature of your relationship with your parents.
  2. Location of both parents and when you last had contact with them - when, where, and the nature of the contact.
  3. Why you cannot obtain information and/or support from your parents.
  4. How you have been supporting yourself.
  5. Explain any additional unusual circumstances that you feel should make you an independent student.

Required Documentation in addition to the above statement:

  1. Complete The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are unable to answer Yes to any of the questions regarding Dependency Determination, then answer the Dependency Status Results page with “I am unable to provide parental information” and continue the FAFSA providing your financial information.
  2. A detailed statement from two knowledgeable third parties (eg: counselor, therapist, teacher, clergy, older relative, older family friend, social worker, prison administrator, etc.) who are familiar with the situation.
  3. Documentation to show how you have been supporting yourself: tax return, lease/rent agreement, utility bills, health insurance policy, etc.

If a student is unable to provide any of the requested documentation, they may contact the Financial Aid Office at to discuss additional options.

When completed, submit all documents to the USAO Financial Aid Office. After submitting a request and complete documentation, your status will be reviewed, and a decision rendered. You will be notified within 30 days of receipt of all requested documentation. All decisions are final and cannot be appealed.