Special Circumstances

The Student Financial Services office will take into consideration extenuating circumstances that directly impact a student's eligibility for financial aid. A Financial Aid advisor or a committee of advisors can make professional judgment decisions on a case-by-case basis to change a dependent student's status to independent, increase or decrease one or more of the data elements used to calculate the EFC and/or increase the student's cost of attendance. The first step to determine if a student has a special circumstance is to have them meet with a financial aid advisor. Appointments can be scheduled at the Student Financial Services front counter or by phone by calling 956-665-2501


Dependency Overrides

In some cases, the Student Financial Services department can override the dependency status for a student and change that status to independent. The definition according to the Department of Education states that if the student is not able to answer yes to any of the 13 questions that determine dependency, then they are classified as a dependent student. However, if extenuating circumstances exists, a professional judgment decision can be made by a financial aid advisor.

However none of the following examples warrant a dependency override:


  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education. 
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification  
  • Parents do not claim student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-suffeciency


13 Dependency Questions on the FAFSA

Were you born before January 1, 1989?

As of today, are you married?

At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program?

Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?

Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?

Do you have children who receive more than half their support from you between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013?

Do you have dependents (other than children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half their support from you between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013?

At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?

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 as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?

At any time on or after July 1, 2011, did any of these determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?


  • High school or school district homeless liaison
  • Director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program


Income Reductions:

Loss of Income (Student and/or Parent)

In some cases, a loss of income has occurred that can directly affect the outcome of FAFSA results. Since the Expected Family Contribution is based on the previous year's income, a loss of income for the current year may reduce the EFC (expected family contribution), which will result in additional need eligibility.


Adjustments to Student's Cost of Attendance:

The following items can be taken into consideration for an increase of a student's cost of attendance during an award year.


  • Dependent student not living with family but living in an apartment. Student must fill out Rent/Lease form and submit the documents requested
  • Computer purchase (note: this expense will only be taken into consideration once per undergraduate and once per graduate career). Student can obtain form either from an advisor or Front Counter staff
  • Dependent Care costs (student will need to meet with an advisor)
  • Costs related to a disability (student will need to meet with an advisor)


Ask Rio - Resource Information Online

  Search Ask RIO: