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Columbia MD, 21044
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312 Marshall Avenue, Suite 205
Laurel, MD 20707
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Special Circumstances

Professional Judgements/Dependency Overrides

Students must first submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before requesting an appeal. If you have not yet submitted your FAFSA, you may do so by visiting

Income Adjustment (Family Contribution) Appeal

To complete the FAFSA, families must provide annual income from the prior tax year to project how much the family can afford to contribute to the student’s expenses while attending college. This projection assumes that family income remains consistent over the course of time.

While the FAFSA does not give families the opportunity to explain a circumstance that could affect the student’s ability to pay for college, federal law allows our office to make certain adjustments to your income data so that it accurately reflects your family’s situation. These types of adjustments are made on a case-by-case bases in accordance with HCC’s Professional Judgment Policy.

If your family has experienced one or more of the following situations, you may qualify for an adjustment to the financial information on your FAFSA.

  • Loss of income due to unemployment, disability, or retirement
  • Termination of benefits or income such as child support, alimony, Social Security Benefits
  • Exceptional medical and/or dental expenses incurred, not paid by insurance
  • Divorce or separation that occurred after that FAFSA was filed
  • Death of a parent or spouse that occurred after the FAFSA was filed
  • Childcare or secondary school tuition expenses

Dependency Status Appeals

The criteria by which a student is considered independent of parental support for educational costs is determined by your answers to the questions asked in the dependency section on the FAFSA. Financial Aid Services may consider extraordinary circumstances to allow an otherwise dependent student apply for financial aid without parental financial information.

Examples of circumstances that alone are not adequate reasons for a Dependency Override Appeal:

  • Living on one’s own and supporting oneself
  • Parents don’t claim student on taxes
  • Parent refuses to provide financial data*
  • Parents live outside of the United States

Examples of extraordinary circumstances that may qualify for a Dependency Override Appeal are:

  • An abusive situation which is dangerous to your physical or mental health
  • Abandonment by parents
  • Parental addiction or mental health problems
  • Incarceration of custodial parent
  • Death of custodial parent
  • Change of student’s marital status

Appeal Guidelines

For income adjustments, a change in the family’s financial situation must have occurred either during the tax year used on the FAFSA or later. Financial Aid Services at HCC will use the information provided to determine if your appeal could make an impact to your financial aid award. Submission of this appeal does not guarantee an increase in aid. If you have incorrectly reported information on your FAFSA application, this review could negatively impact your EFC resulting in a loss/reduction of your current financial aid. Please review the information on your FAFSA application for accuracy before submitting an income adjustment appeal. If the student’s FAFSA is selected for federal verification, that process must be completed before this appeal can be considered.

For dependency status appeals, student must meet with a financial aid representative and be willing to share personal information. We request information so that we can identify the best way to assist students.

To complete an appeal, first make sure that your FAFSA is completed and received by Financial Aid Services (FAS) at Howard Community College. And then, contact FAS to schedule an appointment with one of our financial aid representatives.

What happens next?

A counselor will meet with the student and/or family to discuss the special circumstances. The appeal, including all supporting information received will be reviewed by the committee and if additional information is required to complete the process, the student will receive an email to their HCC email account. Once a decision has been made by the committee, FAS will adjust the appropriate data fields on the student’s FAFSA. The student will receive an email from the FAFSA processing center when this is complete. The appeal process could take up to 15 business days.

PLEASE NOTE: Making changes to the student’s FAFSA while the student’s appeal is under review could cause major delays in processing. Once HCC has received the updated FAFSA processing results, FAS will adjust the student’s financial aid package. The student will receive an email from FAS to review their updates in Financial Aid Services through the myHCC portal.

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