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Professional Judgment: Resources for Financial Aid Administrators

Challenging economic times or unexpected emergencies may increase your students’ requests for professional judgment review.  Listed below are some helpful reminders about the process and links to resources to help you with making your professional judgment decision.

Why Consider Professional Judgment?

The Department of Education encourages financial aid administrators to be sensitive to the potential for increased  numbers of students with unusual circumstances warranting a professional judgment review. Challenging or difficult economic times may create unexpected or atypical situations that may negatively impact the financial stability and well-being of students.

Things to Keep in Mind

Section 479A of the Higher Education Act gives financial aid administrators the authority to make adjustments on the basis of adequate documentation, but only on a case-by-case basis. Unusual or special circumstances differentiate an individual student, not a whole class of students. 

Review the professional judgment policy at your school. Ensure that specifics are included, such as how professional judgment is considered, the process for a student to follow, how decisions are made and the typical amount of time in which a decision is rendered. Be sure students are aware that decisions are final and cannot be appealed, regardless of their satisfaction of the decision made.

Document, Document, Document!

Be sure that students requesting professional judgment provide documentation to authenticate their circumstances. Always remember to keep a copy of the documentation in the student’s file whether or not the request is approved.

Policies and Procedures

  • Whether or not your school considers professional judgment issues.
  • Identify the role of the professional judgment review committee, if one is established.
  • Establish a written policy for handling professional judgment reviews and identify documentation to be collected.
  • Include a copy of your professional judgment policy in the office Policy and Procedures Handbook in addition to the student handbook.
  • Ensure a file is verified prior to making the professional judgment review decision.

Helpful Resources

2016-11-28 External Link - Errata and Updates for 2017-2018 FSA Handbook 

2016-11-22 External Link - (General) Subject: Application and Verification Guide [2017-2018 Federal Student Aid Handbook] 

HEA, Section 479A External Link

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