Special Circumstances

Students and their families may have “Special Circumstances” due to COVID-19 or other unforeseen circumstances beyond their control that impact the ability to pay for expenses associated with college attendance. Students who have experienced a change in financial circumstances not reflected on the 2023-2024 FAFSA may initiate a review of their federal aid eligibility by completing the 2023-2024 Special Circumstance Form on our forms page. Please review the list of qualifying circumstances below before submitting the special circumstance form and remember to attach all required documents. Submit all documents in person, by secure document submission portal, or by mail.

Students will be notified via their Cortland email address if their federal aid eligibility has changed. It is important to note that not all appeals will result in increased grant eligibility. Students who already have a zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for the 2023-2024 academic year will not qualify for an increased Federal Pell Grant, as the maximum grant will already have been awarded. However, with documentation of lost or reduced income due to COVID-19, students with a zero EFC can be considered for an adjustment to a cost of attendance budget component, which could potentially result in additional aid.  Reviews resulting in increased grant eligibility may also result in revisions to the Excelsior Scholarship due to NY State regulations, if applicable.

Students are welcome to contact the Financial Aid Office before submitting an appeal to discuss potential outcomes based on individual circumstances.

Examples of eligible special circumstances:

  • Involuntary loss of employment or income from other sources
  • Legal separation or divorce
  • Death of a parent or spouse
  • Substantial medical or dental expenses paid that were not covered by insurance
  • One-time lump sum payment
Please note: Financial Aid appeals are made on a case-by-case basis based on guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education and flexibility provided under the American Rescue Plan Act. All decisions are final and cannot be appealed further.
Once all supporting documentation is received, the appeal process takes approximately 2 weeks to complete and does not extend the payment deadline. Students must make payment arrangements with the Student Accounts Office prior to billing deadlines. 

Budget Adjustments 

The Office of Financial Aid provides an estimated cost of attendance in your financial aid notification in myRedDragon. Requesting an increase to your budget increases your eligibility for loan such as PLUS loan or private/alternative loan.

Examples of budget increases considered:

  • Additional required educational expenses related to your academic program.
  • Unusual transportation expenses above what is already included in your cost of attendance.
  • Study Abroad expenses
  • Expenses due to a disability or unexpected medical cost.
  • Child care expenses while attending college.
  • Other reasonable, educationally-related expenses.
Budget increase requests can be made by submitting the Budget Increase Request Form (PDF).

Dependency Override

Your dependency status determines whose information you must report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A dependent student must report student and parent information on the FAFSA whereas independent students only report student information (and spouse information, if married). Dependent students with unusual circumstances may appeal to the SUNY Cortland Financial Aid Office. 

Eligible Circumstances

  • Parents cannot be located or are incarcerated
  • Documented case of abuse or unsafe living environment

Dependency override requests should be discussed with a financial aid advisor.