Professional Judgment (PJ)
Federal regulations allow limited exceptions or adjustments to information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Such exceptions or adjustments, known as “Special Circumstances” or “Professional Judgment,” are considered on a case-by-case basis based on supporting documentation of your circumstances. Whether any adjustments are made is at the sole discretion of the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA), and cannot be appealed beyond OSFA.
Areas in which adjustments can be considered:
- Dependency Override: cases of parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or incarceration
- Income Loss/Changes: loss of employment; changes to household income (either taxed, untaxed, reoccurring, or one-time/lump sum income); divorce, separation, death of household income-earner, etc.
- Excessive Medical Expenses: excessive out of pocket medical expenses that exceed 11% of the tax-filer’s adjusted gross income (AGI)
- Increases in the student’s Cost of Attendance: extraordinary educational expenses incurred by student while attending UGA
All correspondence from our office will be through email to the student’s UGAMail account.
- Dependency Override Initial Request (first time submitted to OSFA): cases of parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or incarceration
- Dependency Override Circumstances that may be considered: cases of parental abuse, neglect, abandonment, or incarceration
- Dependency Override Circumstances that cannot be considered: parent refusal to provide information on the FAFSA (students under the age of 24 are typically considered dependents and require parent information on the FAFSA); parent refusal to provide financial support; student being financially self-sufficient
- Dependency Override Renewal (approved by OSFA in previous academic years)
- Complete and submit the following form to OSFA: Special Circumstance Request – Dependency Override (PDF)
Income Loss/Changes or Excessive Medical Expenses
- Income Loss/Changes
- Income Loss/Changes Special Circumstances that can be considered: loss of employment; changes to household income (either taxed, untaxed, reoccurring, or one-time/lump sum income); divorce, separation, death of household income-earner, etc.
- Income Loss/Changes Special Circumstances that cannot be considered: credit card debt; car payments; mortgage payments; existing student (or parent) loan debt; other forms of consumer debt
- Excessive Medical Expenses
- Excessive Medical Expense Special Circumstances that can be considered: excessive out of pocket medical expenses that exceed 11% of the tax-filer's adjusted gross income (AGI)
- Excessive Medical Expense Special Circumstances that cannot be considered: medical expenses paid by insurance or others
- Complete and submit the following form to OSFA: Special Circumstance Request – Income Loss/Changes or Excessive Medical Expenses (PDF)
The Cost of Attendance (COA) is an estimate of the total amount of your educational expenses for the period of enrollment during the Award Year and is reflected on your financial aid Award. The COA is based on your enrollment status and level, whether you are a Georgia resident, your program of study, and whether you live on or off campus while attending the University. Your assigned Fall & Spring COA initially assumes full-time enrollment and includes:
- Books and Supplies
- Miscellaneous Living Expenses
Students may request an increase to their Financial Aid COA by submitting a formal appeal. If approved, the increase typically allows the student to borrow additional loan funds, subject to annual loan limits and/or credit approval (for PLUS or private loans).
Because COA increases must typically be determined after an expense is incurred, students may wish to contact the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) and determine in advance whether a cost would be approved prior to incurring that cost.
Below are the allowable expenses for which an increase to the Financial Aid Cost of Attendance may be appealed:
Students who are required to commute a significant distance for enrolled classes, related non-classwork, required experiential learning site, or internships can submit a request to OSFA. A student must provide documentation using a recognized mapping website of roundtrip mileage to and from UGA, or similar documentation of such costs. A letter from the student’s advisor or supervisor is required with dates of travel and location if the request is related to non-classwork, required experiential learning site, or an internship. Purchase of a vehicle, auto loan payments, insurance, license, registration, and general car maintenance cannot and will not be considered.
Federal regulations permit OSFA to consider the cost to purchase a computer when calculating a student’s COA. Allowable expenses include the purchase cost of a computer, printer, and other necessary software and supplies as long as the expenses are incurred no earlier than 100 days prior to the beginning of the academic year. A maximum of $2500 in computer expenses will be considered once per degree level. For example, a sophomore may receive assistance of $1300 for computer expenses and then request $1200 as a senior. If that same student then enrolls at UGA as a graduate student, a new $2500 limit would apply. The equipment must be purchased in advance and appropriate documentation provided to OSFA before the increase in COA and eligibility for assistance can be considered.
Dependent Care Expenses
In calculating a student’s COA, federal regulations permit OSFA to include an allowance based on expenses incurred for dependent care. The period of time for which the dependent care expenses are incurred must be directly related to the time needed for the student to pursue their education. The dependent must have been included in the student’s number in household on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Students with disability-related expenses may contact OSFA to have such expenses considered. Disability-related expenses include but are not limited to: personal assistance, equipment, and supplies. OSFA may potentially include disability expenses in the COA that are not provided by other assisting agencies. OSFA may consult with the UGA Disability Resource Center and/or other sources to confirm the average cost of such expenses. Documentation of actual expenses may be necessary.
OSFA can consider and increase a student’s COA if the student is required to pay for their own individual health insurance cost. Documentation of the actual cost incurred by the student is required.
Students residing on-campus may have the housing component of their Cost of Attendance adjusted to reflect actual charges.
Students residing off-campus who incur reasonable housing costs in excess of our estimates may be able to request an adjustment to see if a COA adjustment is possible. The maximum allowable amount is up to $600 for undergraduate and up to $1,000 for graduate or professional students per month, as applicable.
OSFA generally does not consider COA increases for medical expenses as there is already an allowance for them built in to the standard cost. Typically, medical expenses are part of the need-analysis calculation on the FAFSA. In the event a student has an extenuating circumstance related to medical expenses, the student should contact the Office of Student Financial Aid to determine if the costs can be considered and what documentation is required. OSFA will not increase the COA for co-pays or any portion of an elective procedure.
One-time Professional Licensing or Certification
OSFA may also include the one-time cost of obtaining the first professional credential in a field that requires licensure or certification. This cost must be incurred during a period of enrollment even if the exam is scheduled to be taken after the semester has ended.
Pharmacy Student Costs
OSFA already includes the following expenses in the COA for students in the PharmD program so they are not eligible for a COA increase:
- Background check and drug screening;
- Database fee for records of immunizations;
- Malpractice Insurance;
- CPR Certification;
- Lab coat and name tag;
- Intern license;
- Transportation for rotations.
Federal regulations allow OSFA to take into consideration eligible study abroad costs for approved courses of study when determining financial aid eligibility. Charges that exceed the existing estimated budget will be considered.
Students who incur education related expenses not listed above should contact OSFA directly for additional information.
Example items NOT eligible for COA increases:
- Auto purchase or payments
- Auto repairs and routine maintenance
- Credit card or other consumer debt payments
- Moving expenses and security deposits
- Costs incurred outside of the current academic year
- Costs incurred by a family member or other person, including a spouse or roommate's portion of rent, mortgage, or day care
- Child support and other such child care expenses (other than daycare)
- Legal fees, bail, traffic tickets, parking tickets, or fines
- Veterinary costs, unless for a service animal
If you wish to submit an appeal for a COA increase, students must contact OSFA directly and speak with a financial aid advisor for further assistance and required information.