Special Circumstance Appeals

Special Circumstances Appeal (changes in income or costs)
Unusual Circumstances (changes in dependency)

Special Circumstance Appeal

A financial aid appeal is a way for a student and their family to communicate with the Financial Aid Office about financial or household changes that could not be reflected or explained on the FAFSA. Appeals are a request for re-evaluation of an original offer of aid due to extenuating circumstances beyond the student's/family's control. They are not a comparison of scholarships offered by other schools.

If your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), as determined by the FAFSA, is equal to Zero (0), filing an appeal will not change the outcome of your financial aid offer since you are already receiving the maximum federal aid allowed.  

Binghamton gives its best offer of financial aid upfront; therefore, appeals are used to determine federal financial aid adjustments only.  Appeals processed by our office do not determine your eligibility for NYS aid, however, please be aware that an increase in federal grants could impact any NYS Excelsior funding you may receive. If you wish to pursue your appeal with NY State, click here to discuss your situation with a NYS HESC representative.

If you are currently experiencing an immediate, acute financial crisis, please review the following Binghamton University Dean of Students webpage.  In addition to providing information about the Binghamton Emergency Fund, other emergency resources are listed that you may want to explore:


Short-Term Emergency Loans are available through the Binghamton University Foundation Student Loan Program.  For more information, please visit the following webpage for more information:


Examples of Eligible Appeal Circumstances

  • Significant or catastrophic loss of family income/benefits (student and/or parent) due to loss of job, retirement or disability.
  • Change in marital status (separated/divorced) or death of a parent after the FAFSA was filed.
  • High medical and/or dental expenses which have been paid out of pocket, and were not/will not be covered by insurance.
  • Additional educational expenses not currently being considered in your financial aid cost of attendance budget that may increase your eligibility for further loan borrowing.
  • Other special circumstances outside of the student’s control.

How to File a Special Circumstance Appeal

  • File the aid year-specific FAFSA (i.e., 2023-24 FAFSA for fall 2023 and spring 2024). Binghamton University’s Federal School Code is 002836.
  • Before filing your request you must be admitted to Binghamton University and have received an initial 2023-24 financial aid offer.
    • Appeal review for newly admitted students - beginning late-February.
    • Appeal review for returning students - beginning May 1.
  • Submit a letter explaining your circumstance(s), along with all documentation requested to verify your circumstance, to Financial Aid and Student Records. The Special Circumstance Form is available on the Financial Aid Forms webpage, located under the applicable aid year.
  • Students will be notified via email within 10 business days as to whether additional documentation is required or a determination has been made.

Budget Increases

  • Requesting an increase in your budget can increase your eligibility for PLUS Loans, Private Loans, and Federal Work Study.

  • Write a detailed letter and attach documentation to confirm your additional educational costs. 

    See examples below: 

Examples of Expenses Eligible for a Budget Increase

  • Additional required fees and/or educational expenses during the period of enrollment (typically August-May).
  • Additional transportation expenses for students residing outside states other than New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
  • Additional educationally-related expenses due to a disability or unexpected medical cost.
  • Childcare expenses required to attend classes. See the appropriate aid year Childcare Expenses form, located on the Financial Aid Forms page.
  • Other reasonable, education-related expenses reviewed and approved by the Financial Aid Associate Director or Director at Binghamton University.

Unusual Circumstances and Dependency Status

All applicants for federal student aid are considered either "dependent" or "independent." Dependent students are required to include information about their parents on the FAFSA.

However, dependent students can be declared independent by the financial aid office, if there are unusual circumstances that warrant such a change. Before the financial aid office can change a student’s dependency status, the student must be able to provide documentation including third party testimony (i.e., mental health professional, high school counselor, clergy, etc.) to justify the request. Note:  this applies to federal aid eligibility only, and does not apply to NYS aid.

Dependency changes are most often made in the case of parental abuse or abandonment where the parents can't be found or shouldn't be contacted. Dependency is not changed simply because the student is self-supporting and/or resides separately from parent(s), the student and parent(s) are estranged, the parent(s) does not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes, the parent(s) refuses to provide information on the FAFSA, or parent(s) refuses to contribute to the student's education.

In very limited situations, a student who cannot provide parental information and does not meet the criteria for a dependency change (not currently eligible for federal funding) may receive Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan funds at the dependent, undergraduate level, based on class level. See Binghamton’s Direct Loan webpage for more details: https://www.binghamton.edu/financial-aid/types-of-aid/loans/federal-direct-loans.html

Steps to Request a Review of Your Circumstances

To request a review of your FAFSA due to unusual circumstances, please schedule a ZOOM/phone appointment with a financial aid counselor or stop by in-person to the Financial Aid office. Your specific circumstances will determine what type of documentation is required, if applicable.  For more information about our servicing options and hours, please visit:  https://www.binghamton.edu/financial-aid/

All decisions regarding such requests are at the discretion of the Binghamton University financial aid staff and cannot be appealed. Students who have received dependency changes at other schools will be required to provide documentation from the prior school to Binghamton University.