Seton Hill University Special Circumstances Policy

When there are unusual financial hardships that impact a student’s federal student aid eligibility, a financial aid administrator has the authority to make case-by-case adjustments of the data items used to calculate a student’s Student Aid Index or SAI in accordance with section 479A of the Higher Education Act. A student must submit adequate documentation to address the special circumstances not reflected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. It is important to know that not all circumstances will result in an increase to a student’s financial aid award. All professional judgement decisions are final and cannot be appealed. The Department of Education does not have the authority to override a school's professional judgment decision.

Special Circumstances that will be considered include:

  • Unusual uncovered medical expenses.
  • Death of a parent or spouse.
  • Loss of employment or income.
  • Extraordinary dependent care.
  • Divorce or separation.
  • Secondary school tuition.
  • Additional family members in college.


A student who submits special circumstance documentation will also be required to complete a process called verification. The verification process is to verify that the information reported on the FAFSA is accurate. If a student has already completed the verification process, the student does not need to complete this process a second time. The verification of a student’s FAFSA must occur prior to processing any special circumstance documentation. Special circumstance documentation will not be processed for a student with a SAI less than or equal to zero.


A student is required to provide adequate documentation for the special circumstance. The required documentation will vary based on the nature of the special circumstance. Examples of required documentation are outlined on the Special Circumstances Request Form. The financial aid administrator has the right to request additional documentation upon review of the initial documentation submitted.

The review of the special circumstance documentation will be based on a 12-month period. Changes to the FAFSA will be reflected for the entire academic year regardless of when the special circumstance documentation was submitted. A projection of income will be determined based on the current financial situation of the student or the student’s family. This projection will be entered into the FAFSA to determine additional federal student aid eligibility.

Professional Judgement

The FAFSA Simplification Act distinguishes between different categories of professional judgment by amending section 479A of the Higher Education Act. Special Circumstances refer to the financial situations (loss of a job, etc.) that justify an aid administrator adjusting data elements in the Cost of Attendance or in the SAI calculation. The financial aid administrator has final decision on all special circumstance cases. 

We're Here to Help! Call Seton Hill's Financial Aid Office any time at (724) 838-4293, or email