University of Hawai'i - West O'ahu

Special Circumstances Appeals

A special circumstance (professional judgment) gives a financial aid administrator the right to make adjustments/changes to certain FAFSA data items. A special circumstance must be an extenuating circumstance and not a usual occurrence. The descriptions below outline the appeal processes used by the UHWO Financial Aid Office. If you have a situation you wish to be considered that appears to fall outside of these appeals, we encourage you to contact our office at

Family Contribution Appeal

Sometimes, the information and data provided on the FAFSA Application does not accurately reflect a family’s current circumstances. Situations that impact a student or family’s ability to contribute to the cost of education may be reevaluated. Review-able circumstances typically include:

Reduction in income (Required documents):

  • Explanation of loss
  • Reduction in income
  • Copy of tax return(s) including schedules and all W2s form appropriate year

Loss of Employment (Required documents):

  • Explanation of loss
  • Copy of last pay stub from employer.
  • Termination notice (from within last 12 weeks)
  • Severance statement and/or Unemployment Benefits statement (if applicable)

Required documents:

  • Explanation of Income (type, amount, and use of income)
  • For Example: Early IRA/Retirement Distribution, Sale of Business or Property, Inheritance, other non-recurring income reported on a Form 1099.

Required documents:

  • Explanation including date of divorce/ separation
  • Copy of divorce decree / Legal Separation agreement
  • All W2s (both individuals) for appropriate aid year

Required documents:

  • Copy of Death Certificate
  • Copy of W2s for exclusion of income for the appropriate aid year.

Required documents:

  • Explanation of expenses not covered by insurance
  • Documentation of Medical Expenses showing that expenses are greater than 11% of FAFSA AGI (bills, statements, etc.).
  • Schedule A from applicable tax year

Cost of Attendance Appeals

A student can request a Cost of Attendance Appeal if they believe the Cost of Attendance used in determining the financial aid package was insufficient.

Reviewable budget items include:

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Medical/Dental Expenses
  • Books/Supplies
  • Personal Expenses

Required Documents:

  • Increased nondiscretionary academic year education expenses that exceed the standard allowance established at UHWO
  • Housing and meals: include lease, utility bills, monthly meal budget, and justification for higher costs
  • Transportation: Itemized receipts and documentation of trip frequency to and from campus required
  • Books/Supplies: Itemized receipts and documentation
  • One-time computer cost: Itemized receipts and documentation
  • High medical/dental expenses: Documentation

The following expenses will not be considered for a Cost of Attendance Appeal:

  • Telephone expenses, utilities
  • Car payments, car insurance, and repairs
  • Transportation to and attendance at graduate and professional conference
  • Resume preparation and job interviews
  • Expenses incurred prior to the beginning of the academic year

Dependency Override Appeal

The FAFSA uses a series of dependency questions to determine whether or not a student is required to submit parental information. Students determined to be dependent must provide parental information, while students determined to be independent do not need to provide parental information.

Financial Aid Administrators may do dependency overrides on a case-by-case basis for students with unusual circumstances. Unusual circumstances include abandonment by parents, an abusive family environment that threatens the student’s health or safety, the student being unable to locate their parents, homelessness, etc. These circumstances must be documented by an objective third party (e.g., pastor, high school or college counselor, a social service agency official, etc.) in order to qualify.

*None of the conditions listed below qualify as unusual circumstances and do not warrant an appeal:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education.
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the application or for verification.
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

Documents for Dependency Override Appeal:

  • Written statement explaining circumstances
  • Signed third party documentation of support

Submission of a Special Circumstances Appeal

If you believe that one of these special circumstances applies to you, please complete the following appeals worksheet and required accompanying documentation.

  • Please be aware that funding is limited and is not guaranteed. Submission of an appeal does not excuse or extend any upcoming payment deadlines and does not guarantee an increase to your financial aid award.

Special Circumstances Appeal eForm

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