Aid Adjustments due to Special Circumstances


When you fill out the FAFSA or CA Dream Act Application, we use the income data you provide to calculate your expected family contribution (EFC).  We calculate your unmet need by subtracting the EFC from your cost of attendance (COA).  Your unmet need forms the basis for eligibility and amount determinations for funds like the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, and the California College Promise Grant (BOG waiver). 

However, you may find that you (and/or your parents’) income in the current or prior year is lower than what you earned in the base tax year that the FAFSA/CADAA uses.  Some examples of these special circumstances include:

  • a major change in employment or layoff;
  • divorce after the original application was filed;
  • death or disability of a wage earner;
  • loss of benefits;
  • unusually high paid expenses (e.g. medical bills, child care, child’s tuition);

You have the ability to file an appeal to have your EFC or Cost of Attendance adjusted to reflect your unique situation.  You can do this by requesting an EFC Adjustment appeal yourself through and using the personal statement to explain your special circumstance. Of course, you can always contact the Financial Aid Office if you need help completing the process. 


EFC Adjustments

Before your need can be recalculated, your current income data will need to be verified.  To verify that data, you must provide us with the signed IRS Tax Return for the tax year that matches your filled out FAFSA/CADAA application and the current year or prior year that you are enrolled in. Example: 22-23 FAFSA would require the 2020 and prior or current year 2021/2022 taxes. 

Please note:

  • We review requests on a case-by-case basis and there is no guarantee that we will adjust your income information.  We will not approve any special circumstance request that would result in reducing your unmet need.
  • The documentation that you would provide is either your current year tax data when you file, or prior year data. Example: 22-23 FAFSA would require 2021 or 2022 taxes. Whichever is more beneficial to the student. 
  • If the special circumstances request involves a non-income item in the base year (such as an IRA rollover or expensive medical bills), the request can be reviewed and approved without having the next year’s tax return transcript.


Adjusting Cost of Attendance

Cuesta financial aid specialists are also able to adjust your cost of attendance if your situation warrants it.  This ability is helpful when students have financial aid that exceeds their cost of attendance.  The appeal process is the same with EFC adjustment: request an EFC adjustment appeal on our document site. Be sure to provide a good explanation of your situation as well as documentation of your additional expenses.

Note: that we can add your child and dependent care expenses to your cost of attendance if you provide adequate documentation to allow the Financial Aid Office to determine your expected expenses for the aid year in question. Again, this is only beneficial if you have no unmet need left and want to make space for an additional amount of financial aid that you have been award (e.g. your student loan was reduced to keep your total financial assistance under your cost of attendance).



You must have filed your FAFSA/CADAA and designated Cuesta to receive the information BEFORE your last day of enrollment in the aid year. Professional judgment cannot be used to waive general student eligibility criteria or circumvent the intent of the law or regulations governing financial aid administration.



All appeals involving professional judgment (EFC adjustments, CoA adjustments, and dependency overrides) must be submitted by the last day of the academic year.  Be aware that rules on late disbursement may prevent you from obtaining funds if you wait too long to submit your appeal.