Special Circumstances for Federal Financial Aid

Special Circumstances for Federal Financial Aid Programs

Information previously reported on the FAFSA may not properly reflect the student’s current situation. Federal law allows financial aid administrators the authority to exercise professional judgment to adjust the information on the FAFSA on a case-by-case basis for students with special circumstances. This regulation allows financial aid administrators the ability to use their discretionary authority to adjust certain FAFSA data elements to more accurately reflect changes in income or dependency status.  The Financial Aid Office at John Jay College of Criminal Justice recognizes the need for students and their families to appeal for consideration of applicable special circumstances. However, submission of an appeal does not guarantee approval.

If you have questions about whether or not you may be considered for a special circumstance appeal, contact the Financial Aid Office at financialaid@jjay.cuny.edu or join our Virtual Front Desk.

Financial Aid Virtual Front Desk Hours
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Wednesdays 11:30am to 3:00pm Join Here

Appeal Process

“Special Circumstances” under this provision are defined based on specific categories. There are different appeal scenarios within those categories and they all require adequate supporting documentation. In order to be considered for an appeal at John Jay for any of the categories listed below, you must meet the criteria outlined for that specific type of appeal, provide supporting documentation as indicated, and discuss with a financial aid representative for appeal review and counseling. Once you have submitted all the required documentation to the Financial Aid Office, a final determination will be made within 4-6 weeks. If additional information is required to proceed with your appeal, a financial aid representative will communicate that information to you via email. We ask that you allow 4-6 weeks after all document submission to view the changes to your financial aid application on CUNYfirst.

Special Circumstance Categories

The Dependency Status Override appeal is applicable to students who are otherwise considered dependent students as per federal criteria but were unable to provide parental information. Such students may be experiencing a severe family situation that prevents them from obtaining the required parental information.


Examples of applicable circumstances warranting consideration for this appeal include:

  • Severe estrangement, abandonment
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Parental substance abuse
  • Or another such situation beyond the student’s control


For a Dependency Status Override appeal, the student must be able to document a complete breakdown of the relationship with both parents.


Examples of circumstances that are not applicable to this appeal:

  • Student does not live with the parent(s) but is considered dependent for federal aid purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency
  • Parents are unwilling to provide their information on the FAFSA, documents required for Verification purposes, or parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education (we recommend that students in this situation contact a financial aid representative to go over their options on how to proceed with applying for federal aid)
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes


In order to request information regarding a Dependency Appeal please email the Financial Aid Office at financialaid@jjay.cuny.edu.

An Income Adjustment appeal is considered when the income information reported on the FAFSA no longer accurately reflects the student’s and/or family’s ability to contribute toward the student’s education because there are significant changes in income for the student and/or parents (if dependent). This appeal process involves the review of supporting documentation that addresses the change in income, assets, and other relevant documentation.  The Financial Aid Office will review the documentation to determine how to adjust the data elements on the FAFSA to more accurately reflect the student and family’s current financial circumstances.


Students and families who experience income loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may qualify for additional federal student aid.  When completing the FAFSA, a student reports income information from two years prior (also called prior-prior).  Students who were not previously qualified for a Federal Pell Grant or did not receive the maximum Pell Grant based on prior-prior income reported on the FAFSA may be eligible for additional funds based on an approved income adjustment appeal.


Possible circumstances for this appeal include but are not limited to:

  • Reduction in income due to changing employment or reduced wages/working hours from current employment
  • A significant loss of income has occurred due to a period of unemployment
  • Death of a wage-earner (parent, if dependent; spouse, if independent) after filing the FAFSA
  • Student (if independent) or parent (if dependent) marital status has changed to divorced or separated after the FAFSA was filed
  • Loss of untaxed income or benefit (from a public or private agency, or from a person because of a court order – i.e. child support)
  • Loss of income due to a disability or a natural disaster
  • Dependent Students Only – The student was considered dependent when the FAFSA was filed; after filing the FAFSA, the student’s marital status changed from single to married.

To initiate a Family Contribution Appeal students can follow the following steps:

  • Visit Student Forms and log in using your CUNYfirst credentials.
  • Complete Two-Step Authentication
  • Once logged into the Student Forms platform press the “Manage Request” button
  • Then the “+” next to “Family Contribution Appeal”


If you have successfully completed these steps you will be asked to provide an explanation of your request before the request is initiated.


Should you have any additional questions about a Family Contribution Appeal please email the Financial Aid Office at financialaid@jjay.cuny.edu.

Adjustments to FAFSA data elements or adjustments to a student’s Cost of Attendance (COA) may be made to reflect unusual expenses that directly affect the student’s education.


The COA is the estimated cost, calculated by CUNY, that is expected to be incurred while a student attends school. The COA includes costs such as tuition and fees, housing, transportation, books and supplies, and personal expenses. A complete breakdown of expenses in the COA can be viewed on CUNYfirst Student Center by using the following navigation:

  1. Log in to CUNYfirst at https://home.cunyfirst.cuny.edu
  2. Select the Student Center link from the left menu.
  3. Click on the Financial Aid Tile
  4. Select to corresponding Aid Year and John Jay (JJC01)
  5. Select Financial Aid Summary
  6. Click on the link for Cost of Attendance.


For additional information on how to assess the Cost of Attendance (COA) you can visit our Evaluate College Cost, Financial Aid Packages and Student Budgets webpage.


There are occasions where certain expenses may have been incurred that were not accounted for in the student’s COA; the amount of such expenses that exceed the allowance in the COA can be considered for an appeal based on certain requirements and if properly documented.


Examples of Allowable Expenses for this Appeal:

  • The purchase of a computer for school use or reasonable transportation expenses in excess of the amount estimated in the COA
  • Tuition expenses for a member of the household at an elementary or secondary school
  • Unusual medical, dental, or nursing home expenses, not covered by insurance, for a member of the household
  • Incurring additional costs related to a study abroad program


Examples of expenses that are not eligible for consideration for this appeal process include the following:

  • Standard living expenses such as those for utilities
  • Credit card payments
  • Vacation expenses
  • Mortgage payments
  • Income taxes and other taxes, and charitable donations


In order to request information regarding a Cost of Attendance Appeal please email the Financial Aid Office at financialaid@jjay.cuny.edu.

Contact Us

The Financial Aid Office

Mailing Address 
524 West 59th Street
BMW, 607
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-663-7867
E-mail: financialaid@jjay.cuny.edu