Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships

Special Circumstances

The University of Northern Iowa Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships understands that families can experience hardship or changes that are not reflected within the FAFSA. This can affect the family or student’s ability to contribute to educational expenses.

The U.S. Department of Education regulations permit financial aid offices to determine different types of circumstances that may warrant review. To ensure accuracy and compliance with federal financial aid regulations, all circumstances will be considered on a case by case basis.

The following are situations that can be considered for dependent students (students that report parental information on the FAFSA):

  • Parent loss or reduction of income
  • Dependent student loss of income
  • Loss of benefits (unemployment, child support, etc.)
  • High medical expenses paid out-of-pocket
  • Natural disasters

The following situations below, while not in entirety, include the types of circumstances we cannot consider:

  • Expenses related to personal living (payments on consumer debts, personal loan payments, or other miscellaneous expenses)
  • Bankruptcy, foreclosures, or collection costs
  • One time increases on income (gambling winnings, inheritance, insurance or divorce settlements, 401k withdrawals)
  • Tuition for elementary/secondary education


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must already be on file in order to inquire about a special circumstance. For any student, they will also be required to complete verification before an appeal is processed. Documentation will be requested and required to support any special circumstance appeal. Further documentation can be needed based on new information found in the appeal.

In some cases, we may find that an appeal would not cause a change in the financial aid award, in which case, the appeal would be canceled.


To start the process, contact our office to evaluate your situation.