Special Circumstances and Appeals
Special circumstances refer to any changes in your finances, enrollment plans, or living situation that may affect your cost of attendance or expected contribution. Students may submit information about these circumstances and/or submit an appeal to have their financial aid eligibility adjusted.
How to Appeal
Submit your request, along with copies of appropriate supporting documentation, through the Required Info and Forms page of your FAST account. Make sure your USC ID number appears on each supporting document. You will be contacted if additional documentation is needed.
Re-evaluation of your financial aid eligibility is subject to federal, state and university regulations, and is based on:
- Availability of funds;
- Timeliness of your original application for financial aid; and
- Timeliness of your appeal and the nature of the change in circumstances
Notification: We will notify you of our decision or if we require additional information.
Changes to Federal Work-Study
DECREASING Your Federal Work-Study Amount
In some cases, it may be possible to convert unused Federal Work-Study eligibility to Federal Direct Student Loans or private loan eligibility.
Submit a request through the Required Info and Forms page of your FAST account. Explain why you are unable to use the full amount of your Federal Work-Study eligibility and state the amount you would like to convert to loans.
INCREASING Your Federal Work-Study Amount
Submit your request through the Required Info and Forms page of your FAST account. Attach a memo from your employer supporting your request and include the additional amount you are requesting, your hourly rate, and the number of hours you work per week.
Reducing or Increasing Your Loans
DECREASING Your Loan Amounts
Submit a request to decrease your loan amount(s) if you were approved for more loan funds than you wish to borrow. Please note, you must submit your request for a cancellation or reduction to your federal loans within 120 days of the date of disbursement.
INCREASING Your Loan Amounts
You may submit a request to increase your loan amounts, provided that your financial aid package does not already include the maximum annual amounts for Federal Direct Subsidized and/or Unsubsidized Loans. Please note you must submit your requests for semester loan increases before the end of the semester.
The Cost of Attendance (budget) is used to determine your financial aid eligibility and includes an amount for tuition and mandatory fees, based on your enrollment plans, as well as average amounts for standard educational expenses such as housing and dining. Also included are books, supplies, local transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. More information about the standard student budget can be found on the Costs page.
If your current school-related expenses are more than your current budget, you may be eligible for a budget increase. Budget increases are considered on a case-by-case basis, subject to federal and university policy. Approved budget increases are typically funded with Federal Direct Student Loans or private financing.
Before submitting an appeal, we ask that you visit the Federal Student Aid Website to view your current total loan debt and consider how this additional loan may affect your repayment amounts after graduation. Prior indebtedness may be considered in determining whether a budget increase will be approved.
Types of budget increases that can be considered are listed below, along with the supporting documentation that we require. To allow sufficient time to process any loans, appeals and all supporting documents should be submitted at least 30 days before the end of the term.
|Type of Change||Documentation|
|Books: Books exceeding the amount included
in student budget.
|Child care: Expenses necessary for class attendance during your enrollment period.||
|One-time computer purchase and necessary computer software: (Must be purchased no earlier than June 1 prior to the start of the academic year.)||
|Conferences: Required for your educational program.||
|Course/lab fees: Not included in student budget.||
|Course-related equipment and other expenses: Necessary for your educational program but not included in the standard
|Disability-related expenses: During the enrollment period.||
|Health and Dental Insurance: Mandatory for student/spouse/family. Note: Increase is limited to the cost of the USC Plan.||
|MD student rotations and interview expenses.||
|Exceptional dietary expenses: Exceeding amount included in the standard budget.||
|Medical/dental expenses: incurred for student during the enrollment period that are emergency in nature and are not covered by insurance||
|USC Parking Permit||
|Rent: Exceeding the standard budget ($1,323 per month for undergraduate students).||
|Professional licensing fees: Incurred during enrollment period.||
|Transportation expenses: Exceeding amount included in student budget.||
|Travel expenses: For undergraduates from out of state or out of area (maximum of two round-trips home per school year).||
|Tuition: Exceeding amount included in student budget.||
Change in Income or Resources
Families occasionally experience changes in income such and/or resources (due to job loss, illness, etc.) during the application period and/or academic year. If this applies to you, you can submit an appeal through your FAST account. All appeals will require specific documentation, as outlined below. Contact the Financial Aid Office if you have any questions regarding this process.
|Type of Change||Documentation|
|Decrease in parent’s earnings: Parent has had a significant decrease in total family income due to 10 weeks or more of involuntary unemployment, forced retirement, or other non-elective loss of earned income.||
|Decrease in student’s earnings: Student’s income will decrease due to a reduction in employment to accommodate
|Reduction of other sources: Parents have experienced a reduction in other income sources such as untaxed income, rental income, one-time capital gains, or a one-time IRA/pension distribution, etc.||
|Extraordinary expenses: Examples of expenses we will consider in determining your parent’s expected contribution are: elder care, out-of-pocket medical expenses, private elementary or secondary tuition for younger siblings and child support payments. Expenses we will NOT consider are (your or your parent’s) consumer debt and car payments.||
Strict guidelines set by both the federal government and the university govern dependency status. Almost all undergraduates are considered dependent for the purposes of receiving financial aid.
Undergraduates who meet certain conditions may be considered independent for the purposes of receiving federal and state aid (such as the Cal Grant, Federal Pell Grant, Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans).
To be considered independent for federal aid, you must meet one of the following conditions:
- You are at least 26 years of age by December 31 of the academic year you are admitted to USC.
- At the time you complete your FAFSA, and at the time of entry to USC, you are married.
- At the time you complete your FAFSA, and at the time of entry to USC, you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you during the award year and the summer preceding the award year.
- You are an orphan or ward/dependent of the court.
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces with at least one year of full-time, active-duty service for purposes other than training.
- You are verified by the USC Financial Aid Office as an unaccompanied minor or youth who is homeless, or who is self-supporting and at risk of being homeless. Submit a letter with information about your circumstances through FAST.
- You are verified by the USC Financial Aid Office as an individual who meets Special and/or Unusual Circumstances defined by the U.S. Department of Education. Submit a letter with information about your circumstances through FAST.
If you are required to submit parent information when you are admitted to USC, you will be required to submit parent information throughout your enrollment, regardless of your age, marital status, or other changes in circumstances (excluding the death of both parents).
You may submit an appeal, however, if you feel that your situation would justify independent status. Appeals should explain your circumstances in detail and include supporting documentation.
Your Financial Aid Summary indicates the housing status you reported when you applied for financial aid:
- Living with parents or relatives
- Not living with parents or relatives
Submit an updated Financial Aid Supplement if your housing plans change.
Please note: Your eligibility for aid will be reduced if you decide to live with parents or relatives.
Your eligibility for aid may increase if you decide to live separately from parents or relatives. Please submit the following documentation to confirm the change in housing:
- Financial Aid Supplement (available through Required Info and Forms)
- Copy of Lease Agreement
- Canceled Rent Check
PLUS Loan Denial - Undergraduate Students
If your parent’s application for a Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan is denied, they may reapply with an endorser, or you may be eligible to borrow additional Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan funds.
Appealing the denial or reapplying with an endorser
Your parent must contact the Federal Direct Loan Servicer for more information at studentaid.gov or (800) 557-7394.
Requesting an additional unsubsidized loan
If your parent does not plan to appeal or reapply for a PLUS loan, request an additional Unsubsidized Loan through the Required Info and Forms page of your FAST account.
We will determine your eligibility for an additional Direct Loan once the Federal Direct Loan Servicer has notified us.
The Financial Aid Office can consider appeals only from students who are awarded merit scholarships during the admission process.
Leaves of Absence
Taking a Leave of Absence
Notify the Financial Aid Office in writing about your leave of absence or send the Financial Aid Office a copy of your Leave of Absence form. Specify the reason for the leave of absence as well as its expected duration.
Returning from a Leave of Absence
Your scholarship will be on hold for the approved duration of your leave of absence. To reinstate your scholarship, submit a written request before you return to USC.
NOTE: All USC Merit Scholarships are limited to a total of eight semesters of eligibility (10 semesters for students in the five-year architecture program).
Loss of Scholarship
Due to Under-Enrollment
You are required to complete a full-time course load each semester (generally 12 units) to remain in good standing for your scholarship. If you are unable to maintain full-time enrollment, submit a written appeal that explains your circumstances.
Due to Academic Ineligibility
Scholarship recipients must remain in good academic standing with the university (as defined by the Registrar’s office). Scholarships will not be renewed for students who fail to meet academic requirements, and scholarship eligibility cannot be restored, even if grades improve.
Late Financial Aid Applications - Continuing Students
Eligibility for financial aid may be reduced for continuing students who submitted financial aid documents after the published deadline(s).
If you missed a deadline due to unforeseen circumstances, you may submit an appeal and include documentation.