Financial Aid Directors Discuss Increase in Professional Judgment Requests Due to COVID-19

By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Three financial aid administrators were on hand Wednesday for a virtual webinar to paint a picture of how job loss stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will impact professional judgment (PJ) requests for the fall 2020 semester, during the third session of NASFAA’s 2020 Summer Training Series.

Each of the financial aid administrators present shared tales of their most unusual past PJ requests to start the webinar, and agreed that this upcoming summer and fall have and likely will see an unprecedented amount of PJ requests.

Jim Brooks, director of financial aid at the University of Oregon, said he started seeing an increase in PJ requests as early as February, well before a national emergency was declared.

“Once the economy started changing, we started hearing from families right away,” he said.

Andrew Hammontree, director of financial aid at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, underscored how different the landscape of PJ requests is based on institution type, saying he expects to deal with an increase of requests for the next two to three years as people seek additional degrees or certifications amid the recession in the economy, but had yet to see a significant uptick.

He also stressed the importance of having those in the financial aid office be on the same page and understand the policies and procedures that are in place when making decisions on PJ requests.

Kelly Morrissey, director of financial aid at the Community College of Rhode Island, said her student population is high-need, with nearly half of her students receiving a Pell Grant. She spoke on the necessity of being flexible on the types of documentation beyond a student’s FAFSA that a financial aid office can accept when deciding on a PJ request.

Morrissey noted that with an expected influx of PJ requests amid the pandemic — likely due to job loss or a reduction of salary — documentation will be vital.

For those who missed the webinar and wish to view it on-demand or register for future sessions in NASFAA’s Summer Training Series, you can still do so online.


Publication Date: 6/25/2020

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