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Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships

Division of Student Life and Enrollment


Understanding professional judgment and appeals

Professional Judgment

If you or your family have experienced a recent hardship that is not reflected on your FAFSA, such as loss of employment, you may qualify for a professional judgment appeal to have your financial aid package re-evaluated by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. 

There are two different appeal processes available to you and your family: Special Circumstances Appeal and Dependency Override. For ETSU to grant an appeal, there must be compelling reasons.

Should I Appeal?

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What Special Circumstances We DO Consider:

  • Loss or change of employment
  • Loss or change in untaxed income (child support, Social Security, or other benefits)
  • Divorce or separation of parents or spouse
  • Death of parent(s) or spouse
  • Unusual medical expenses (not covered by insurance)
  • One-time taxable income used for life changing events (e.g. IRA, pension distribution, back-year Social Security payments)

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What Special Circumstances We DO NOT Consider:

  • Standard living expenses (e.g.utilities, credit card payments, children's allowances, etc.)
  • Mortgage payments
  • Car payments
  • Credit card or other personal debts
  • Vacation expenses
  • All other discretionary expenses


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Conditions That COULD warrant a Dependency Override:

  • Documented abandonment
  • Parental drug use
  • Parental mental incapacity
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Severe estrangement from parents
  • Parental incarceration

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Conditions That DO NOT warrant a Dependency Override:

  • Parents refuse to provide information on the FAFSA application or for verification
  • Parents do not claim student as dependent for income tax purposes
  • Parents unwilling or unable to contribute to student's education
  • Student demonstrates self-sufficiency
  • Student reluctant to request the income information from parents
  • Student does not wish to communicate with parent

If you are unsure about whether or not your circumstances warrant an appeal, contact your personal Financial Aid Counselor

Dependency Override

For financial aid purposes, a student is considered a dependent of their parents unless the student is:

  • 24 years old
  • married
  • serving on active duty in the US Armed Forces
  • a veteran
  • a parent with dependents
  • an emancipated minor
  • homeless
  • assigned a legal guardian before the age of 18 

How to Appeal

Contact your Financial Aid Counselor to discuss your circumstances. They will help you through the process, advise as to required documentation, timeline, and next steps. 

Please note: Response times vary depending on the complexity of the issues involved, as well as the time of year. We will make every effort to respond as quickly as possible. 

Academic Appeal Forms and Links

In certain circumstances, students have the option to appeal based on their academic performance. Read about Satisfactory Academic Progress policy here, and Academic Performance Scholarship policy here.


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