NASFAA Survey Results Highlight COVID-19 Impact on Professional Judgment Requests

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

A newly released survey from NASFAA has found that the majority of financial aid administrators surveyed anticipate an increase in professional judgment (PJ) requests related to expected family contribution (EFC) and cost of attendance (COA), following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The survey, completed by 11% of primary contacts at NASFAA member institutions, aims to provide additional information on how COVID-19 could impact the number of PJ requests that aid offices receive throughout the upcoming calendar year, as well as gauge how institutions plan to respond to those potential increases.

Of the institutions surveyed, 47% saw an increase this year in the total number of PJ requests as compared to the same period between March 1, 2019 and May 26, 2019 — with 21% reporting an increase of 50% or more — while 32% recorded roughly the same number of requests.

Going forward, 90% of those surveyed anticipate experiencing an increase in PJ requests — split between increases of somewhat and great — between May 26, 2020 and Oct. 1, 2020. 

Additionally, 22% of those surveyed are aiming to manage this anticipated increase by proactively reaching out to students to inform them about the PJ process.

In order to further address this anticipated increase and reduce the number of PJ requests, 37% of those surveyed are making plans to alter staff policies and procedures, 32% are considering altering student documentation requirements, and 27% are considering increasing the frequency of meetings of their financial aid appeal committee. A number of institutions reported that they already began taking these steps when COVID-19 emerged. Still, 78% of respondents said they do not plan on offering discounts on future tuition, room, board, or books to reduce the number of PJ requests.

Respondents also indicated that a number of resources would be most helpful to their staff in preparing for an increase in these requests, such as a list of best practices for PJ requests, legislative or regulatory relief, downloadable or printable training materials, and on-demand training workshops or webinars.

The survey provides helpful insights into the way financial aid offices are preparing for spikes in PJ volume and will also aid in NASFAA advocacy efforts surrounding PJ, including seeking clarification from the Department of Education (ED) on whether GEN-09-05 is still in effect. GEN-09-05 was issued on the heels of the Great Recession in 2009 and allows for an exemption to the general PJ rule that all adjustments be made on a case-by-case basis by permitting schools to have a general policy to zero out income-earned from work with proof of unemployment benefits, as well as to exclude unemployment benefits as income. 

For more information and resources on how the spread of the novel coronavirus is impacting student financial aid, please refer to NASFAA's COVID-19 Web Center.

 

Publication Date: 6/11/2020


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