Special Circumstances

Any person or family wanting the office to review a special circumstance affecting their family should print and submit the special circumstance form.  This form describes the types of special circumstances that the Office of Financial Assistance is able to consider. This form also will describe additional documentation that may be required to consider your circumstance.

Any professional judgement decisions will be made on a case-by case basis at Cornell College. All circumstances that do not fit the descriptions will be reviewed by the Director of Financial Assistance and the Associate Director of Financial Assistance.

The Office of Financial Assistance is required to verify any FAFSA for which a special circumstance has been requested. Please be prepared to provide the office with the following documents to complete verification on your student's FAFSA.

Please utilize the IRS Data Retrieval System available on the FAFSA to transfer your income information directly to your FAFSA; OR
Provide the 2013 Parent and Student federal tax transcript directly from the IRS
Dependent Student Federal Verification Worksheet


Independent Status

Per federal regulations, a student is considered "independent" if he/she can answer yes to one of the following questions:

  • Were you born before January 1, 1991
  • As of today, are you married? (Answer yes if you are separated but not divorced.)
  • At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, will be working on a master's doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, or graduate certificate, etc.)?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you a veteran of your U.S. armed forces?
  • Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015?
  • Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now through June 30, 2015?
  • At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent/ward of the court?
  • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you an emancipated minor?
  • As determined by a court in your state of legal residence, are you or were you in legal guardianship?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2013, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2013 did the director of an emergency shelter program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2013 did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

To take into account individual circumstances, the law allows an aid administrator to use "professional judgment" on a case-by-case basis and must document the reason(s) for the decision. Per federal guidelines, "a student's claim that his or her parents have refused to contribute to his/her college education isn't automatically grounds for a dependency override. Nor can an aid administrator override the student's dependent status solely because the student's parents have said that they are unwilling to provide information on the application or information needed for verification." (Application and Verification Guide, 2010)

If you do not meet these criteria, but still feel you are independent, per Cornell College's policy, there must be evidence of abuse or violence within the household. Applicants need to complete the Dependency Override form as well as submit the required documentation. Applicants will not be reviewed until all documentation is received. Documentation includes, but is not limited to, letters from outside sources that can verify the situation in the home and a letter from the student.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Submission of all documentation does not guarantee Independent Status.

Questions regarding dependency status should be referred to the Financial Assistance Office.