Special Circumstances

 

At Duke, we take the time to personally consider each individual family's financial circumstances. We make every effort to be as accommodating as possible when determining your financial aid award, and we have developed guidelines to help you understand what we can and cannot consider as special circumstances.

Circumstances Already Considered in Your Aid Award

The following circumstances are automatically considered when evaluating your financial aid:

  • Federal, state, and other taxes
  • Medical expenses that are either
    • 4% of your total income or less, or
    • reported on your IRS Form 1040 Schedule A, line 1
  • Routine household expenses
  • Routine vehicle and travel expenses
  • Tuition expenses for children in private primary/secondary schools
  • Multiple children in college
  • Previously reported special circumstances

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What Qualifies as a Special Circumstance?

When determining financial aid eligibility, the following qualify as special circumstances and should be included in a letter at the time of application or at the time the event occurs:

  • Support of multiple households (married family members living apart, elder care, or care of family overseas)
  • One-time income
    • Withdrawal of retirement funds for emergency purposes
    • Moving allowances or similar expenses incurred and reimbursed by an employer
  • Funeral expenses or unreimbursed medical and dental expenses that are both
    • 5% of total income or more, and
    • Not reported on your IRS Form 1040 Schedule A
  • Educational debt
    • Note: we will only consider parental educational debt that is currently in repayment, documented, and for students (parents and/or siblings) who are no longer enrolled
  • Job loss or significant reduction in income

If you have experienced one of the situations above (other than job loss or income reduction), please click here to download the Special Circumstances Form. For the 2020-21 academic year, please email us at finaid@duke.edu for submission instructions.

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What Doesn't Qualify as a Special Circumstance?

When determining financial aid eligibility, the following are not and will not be considered in our analysis, and therefore would not qualify as special circumstances:

  • Expenses related to
    • Pets
    • Housekeepers
    • Vacations
    • Weddings
    • Extracurricular Activities
  • Consumer Debt
  • Fraternity/sorority dues
  • Graduate school expenses for siblings and/or other family members
  • Financial aid offers from other institutions
  • Unwillingness to contribute to educational expenses
  • Inability to pay the calculated family contribution from current income*


*Please note: It is our expectation that families will use all resources available to them to finance the expected family contribution (EFC) including current salary, savings, investments, payment plans and parent loans if necessary.

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Special Considerations for Income Reductions or Job Loss

  • Duke's current policy regarding income reduction or job loss is to collect information once the calendar year has closed and the full impact can be assessed.
  • If you experienced a significant reduction in pay in the most recent tax year due to job loss/termination, wage/salary reduction, or mandatory furlough, we will reevaluate your financial aid when you are able to provide tax documents from that tax year so that all earnings information can be assessed.
  • How to Submit an Appeal: Please email finaid@duke.edu or your financial aid counselor and request a secure link to upload your files. Do not send sensitive documents over email. 
  • When considering financing options, we recommend looking into monthly payment options, additional federal student loans, federal parent loans, or other private/alternative loan options.  Find out more about your financing options, and contact us if you need assistance.

 

For Changes that Occurred in 2019

If you experienced a significant reduction in pay in 2019, you may submit your 2019 taxes for a reevaluation. Please email us at finaid@duke.edu for submission instructions, including the student's name, student ID, financial aid ID, and any other information you feel may be important. You will be asked to submit your complete 2019 tax return, including all statements and schedules, and your complete 2019 W2s/wage statements.

 

For Changes that Occurred in 2020

Regarding the 20-21 aid year:

If you experienced a significant reduction in pay in 2020, you may submit your 2020 taxes for a reevaluation of your 20-21 aid prior to March 1, 2021. Please email us at finaid@duke.edu (or email your financial aid counselor) for submission instructions, including the student's name, student ID, financial aid ID, and any other information you feel may be important. You will be asked to submit your complete 2020 tax return, including all statements and schedules, and your complete 2020 W2s/wage statements.

All appeals for 20-21 aid need to be submitted prior to March 1, 2021. If you qualify for additional aid based on this appeal, your Fall 2020 financial aid award will be retroactively adjusted based on your finalized financial information for the year.  

Please Note: If you are a business owner, reductions in income as a result of business operations cannot be considered under the special circumstance process unless your tax returns for your family and all businesses can be completed and submitted by March 1, 2021. 

For non-business owners, families should be aware that data must be collected from the entire household who wishes to appeal on the basis of income loss (i.e. wage statements must be received for all wage earners) to determine the net change in household income for the current aid year.  Applications submitted citing only one family member's change in earnings will not be considered.

 

Regarding the 21-22 aid year:

You also have the opportunity to submit your 2020 taxes for your evaluation for 21-22 aid. Please follow the same process for evaluation for 20-21 aid above. However, the March 1, 2021 deadline applies only for appeals regarding 20-21 aid; if you wish to use your 2020 taxes only for 21-22 aid, please submit these documents before mid-summer 2021.

 

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How to Submit an Appeal

In order to submit an appeal, please take the following steps:

  • Gather your relevant documents. For example, if you are appealing based on job loss in a previous tax year, please gather your W2s/wage statements and full tax documents from that year.
  • Please email finaid@duke.edu or your financial aid counselor and request a secure link to upload your files. Do not send sensitive documents over email. When you reach out, please include the student's name, student ID (for current students), financial aid ID (CBFinAid ID, for applicants), and any other information you feel may be important.
  • When you have received the secure link to upload your files, please upload all relevant documents at one time, including the cover sheet if instructed to do so.
  • Appeals generally take 8-10 business days for processing, and this time frame may change depending on the volume of appeals we receive. Please wait to hear back before checking in regarding the status of your appeal.

 

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