Great Falls College MSU

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Unusual Circumstances

Unusual Circumstances

Great Falls College MSU understands that students and their families may at times experience unique situations. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may no longer reflect current dependency status. Section 479A of the Higher Education Act provides institutions with authority to adjust, on a case-by-case basis and with appropriate documentation, a student status. This category is known as unusual circumstances.

Starting with the 2024-25 Award Year, both first-time and renewal applicants who indicate on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form that they have an unusual circumstance will be granted provisional independent status. They will be able to complete the FAFSA form without providing parental information. They will also receive an estimate of their federal student aid eligibility, which will be subject to a final determination by the institution they attend.

***Note*** with the rollout of the new FAFSA for 2024-2025 year, many students appear to have inadvertently selected Unusual Circumstances and received what is called a provisional independent status. This status is ineligible for student aid until corrections can be made. Review the situations below and if these apply, please contact Great Falls College and have an interview with the staff in financial aid. If none of these situations apply, you will need to log back into the FAFSA and make corrections to add parental data information.

If you answered “yes” on the FAFSA to having unusual circumstances that prevent you from contacting your parents or that contacting them would be a risk, then you must contact the Great Falls College Financial Aid office for guidance. An appeal form is available by request after you have spoken with Great Falls College Financial Aid staff about your circumstances. The Financial Aid office will then review and make a determination on your appeal. If it is approved, based on the student statement and supporting documentation, the provisional Student Aid Index (SAI) would become the actual SAI.

Unusual Circumstances are those conditions that support a change to the student’s dependency status. Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Parental abandonment or estrangement.
  • Physical or mentally abusive family environment.
  • Human trafficking.
  • Refugee/asylee status.
  • Unaccompanied homeless youth determination.

Unusual circumstances DO NOT include but are not limited to:

  • Parental refusal to contribute or be a contributor to the student’s education,
  • Parental refusal to provide information for the FAFSA or where the parent(s) do not claim the student as ‘dependent’ for IRS tax purposes,
  • A different university offering more aid.

If you do not meet the criteria or cannot provide documentation, you will need to return to your FAFSA form and change your answer “no” to the unusual circumstances question, invite your parent(s) to provide consent for the direct data exchange for their tax information, and add their other financial information. You will then be a dependent student. The provisional SAI will become void, and you will be notified of an updated one based on your family’s income and assets.

If you marked on the FAFSA that you are unaccompanied and homeless, or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, but do not have an official designation of homelessness from a designated agency, you will also receive a provisional independent determination. Please visit the Homeless Circumstances page for additional information.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:
Financial Aid Office
2100 16 Avenue South
Great Falls, MT  59405

Voice: 406.771.4334   
FAX: 406.771.4410