Edmit logo

Do Colleges Take Into Account Medical Expenses in Financial Aid Calculations?

Featured Stories

Filter By Categories

If health problems have caused you (or a dependent) to incur significant medical expenses, then you may be wondering how those expenses affect your eligibility for financial aid.  Schools that utilize the College Board’s College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile in addition to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine financial need may consider your medical expenses somewhat differently.  (About 250 schools use the CSS Profile to award state and institutional aid - find out here if yours is on the list.)  If you or a dependent are incurring significant medical expenses, especially on an ongoing basis, then you may want to prioritize schools that treat these expenses the most favorably.


Medical Expenses Under the FAFSA

The FAFSA form does not specifically ask about medical expenses.  However, after submitting the FAFSA, you can request an adjustment to your financial aid package from each school.  Your first step is to submit the FAFSA as you normally would, then contact schools’ financial aid offices directly.  


Medical Expenses as Unusual Circumstances

Under the FAFSA, abnormally high medical expenses qualify as unusual circumstances, provided that the costs were not covered by insurance and the procedures were medically necessary.  (Pro tip: Non-necessary medical procedures are not specifically disallowed; however, you are much less likely to receive a favorable Professional Judgment for elective procedures.)  Costs incurred for herbal remedies, vitamins, other over-the-counter medications, and holistic health treatments are generally excluded.  The types of medical expenses that qualify include:

  • After-tax health insurance premiums;

  • Co-pays and deductibles;

  • Prescription medications; and

  • Expenses paid for durable medical equipment such as eyeglasses, crutches, thermometers, blood pressure meters, and glucometers.


Documenting Your Medical Expenses

For all qualifying expenses, you will need to provide sufficient documentation.  You may need to document the medical necessity of a procedure in the form of a letter from a qualified medical professional.  To the extent possible, you will need to provide copies of medical or dental bills (especially large bills) and letters from doctors.  You should also prepare a detailed summary of your medical expenses, and if you have more than one condition, break out the different expenses associated with each condition.  


Obtaining a Professional Judgment

Once you clearly understand the qualifying criteria and have gathered the necessary paperwork, it is time to contact schools’ financial aid offices to request a Professional Judgment.  


Financial aid offices are authorized by Section 479A of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to conduct Professional Judgement reviews of students’ and prospective students’ FAFSA applications.  While financial aid administrators cannot modify the U.S. Department of Education formulas by which financial aid needs are calculated, they can assess your specific circumstances and make corresponding adjustments to the data inputs on your FAFSA application.  These adjustments will typically result in a reduced Expected Family Contribution (EFC), enabling you to qualify for more substantial financial aid.  

  • Pro tip: If your EFC is already zero, financial aid administrators can offer more financial aid by raising your cost of attendance.


In addition to the required documentation, the financial aid office may ask you to provide a letter that formally summarizes your medical circumstances.  Many schools also require you to complete a form that can be downloaded from the school’s website. Upon receiving Professional Judgment approval, you will be issued a revised financial aid package.


The Importance of Timing

If you need to request a Professional Judgment, start the process early.  Schools often distribute financial aid to eligible students on a first-come-first-served basis, so the possibility exists that your Professional Judgment will be approved but the school no longer has sufficient funds to provide you with increased financial assistance.


You will need to request a Professional Judgment from every school that you are seriously considering attending.  In addition, you will need to request a new Professional Judgment for every year that you experience unusual circumstances.  You can request a Professional Judgment mid-way through a school year if necessary, although a school may not act on the results of a Professional Judgment until the following year. This will be depend on the nature of the unusual circumstances and the school’s available funding.  If your Professional Judgment is denied, there is no appeals process.


Medical Expenses Under the CSS Profile

Unlike with the FAFSA, the CSS Profile does include a section on medical expenses.  Qualifying expenses include medical and dental expenses incurred by you or a dependent, and encompass both health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.  If your medical expenses were unusually high, or you are expecting to incur high medical expenses in the relatively near future, then you can document this in the Special Circumstances section of the CSS Profile.  For any special circumstances, you will need to provide evidence in the form of written documentation.


Maximize Your Options

If medical expenses constitute a significant part of your financial profile, then you may want to apply to schools that accept the FAFSA only and schools that accept both the FAFSA and CSS Profile to maximize your alternatives.  Even if you receive unfavorable results from one school, you may still get what you need from others.  Get organized and get started early! Your future self will be grateful that you did.

Sign up for updates

Popular Tags

Financial Aid and Scholarships* paying for college financial aid Cost of College* grants and scholarships FAFSA Student Loans* Saving for College* federal student loans college tuition cost of attendance 529 plan college financial planning financial aid award expected family contribution private student loans taxes room and board college savings plan on-campus housing college applications application fees merit-based financial aid private universities public universities student loan assistance college expenses federal financial aid merit scholarships Salary and Career* budgeting for college edmit hidden gems tuition discount financial need parent PLUS loan southern colleges CSS profile college costs edmit team education expenses living expenses western colleges financial aid appeal income midwestern colleges off-campus housing affordable college college majors loan forgiveness northeast colleges application fee waivers degree programs edmit scholarship institutional aid loan repayment new england colleges choosing a major net price prepaid tuition plans work-study SAT career choosing a college in-state tuition international students need-based financial aid need-blind colleges private scholarships qualified higher education expenses repayment plans tuition guarantee 401k ACT UGMA UTMA budget college ranking systems discretionary income education savings accounts fees free tuition full ride scholarship grants great lakes region colleges health insurance options investment ivy league schools meal plans mid-east region colleges need-aware colleges plains region colleges rocky mountain schools southeastern colleges southwestern colleges student loan debt tuition payment plans 568 presidents group Inversant MEFA applying to college asset protection allowance best price campus life college advisor college deposit college search college spending concurrent enrollment cost by region cost by state crowdfunding educational expenses esports fee waivers financial literacy fraternities and sororities full tuition gap year home equity loan income share agreements internships liberal arts degree line of credit medical expenses military benefits out-of-state students out-of-state tuition percent need met private college consultant retirement savings saving school-based scholarships small business standardized testing state aid state schools student bank accounts student organizations title IV schools travel expenses tuition decreases tuition increases tuition reciprocity undocumented students