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Ethics, Prejudice and Professional Judgment Catherine Boscher-Murphy.

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1 Ethics, Prejudice and Professional Judgment Catherine Boscher-Murphy

2 Goals of this Session Quickly define professional judgment Review current statute and areas where professional judgment can be exercised Outline ethical and prejudicial stumbling blocks to performing PJ’s Interactive discussion

3 What is Professional Judgment? Professional judgment is the authority provided under the Higher Education Act for financial aid administrators to exercise discretion in specific areas of student aid administration Professional judgment is not regulated by the Department of Education

4 Why is PJ Important? Enables FAA to respond appropriately to student’s individual circumstances that were not anticipated in legislation or regulation –something unique –merits individual attention

5 Areas where PJ does not apply Professional judgment may not be used to: –Change a student’s status from independent to dependent –Devise a new category of costs –Adjust the bottom-line EFC –Change the EFC formula itself

6 Areas where PJ does not apply –Make an otherwise ineligible student eligible for Title IV aid –Circumvent the intent of the law or regulations –Include post-enrollment expenses in COA ( except where allowed in regulation ) –Circumvent FSEOG selection criteria

7 Cases where a dependency override is not allowed Parents refusing to contribute to the student’s education Parents unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification Parents not claiming student as a dependent for tax purposes Student demonstrating total self- sufficiency from DCL GEN-03007 May 2003

8 Using Professional Judgment Some financial aid administrators (FAAs) are reluctant to use professional judgment – why?

9 Ethics - a definition from the Josephson Institute Principles that define behavior as right, good, and proper –provides for respect for others –provides a means of evaluating and deciding among competing options –not the same as values (which can change from person to person and over time)

10 Ethics in PJ Focus on circumstance that impacts family’s ability to pay Review entire financial situation –may be items that offset the circumstances Collect data from other campus staff –can they round out or complete the picture? Although there is no requirement that the FAA reach the same decision in two similar cases, an ethical approach suggests consistency be the guiding principle

11 Institutional Issues Does your school/director allow for PJ’s? Has staff been trained? Is there a consistent process? Are you pressured to do PJ’s by institutional colleagues? Admission, athletics

12 Personal Prejudice in PJ Does your background or upbringing get in the way of performing a PJ under certain circumstances? –Let’s explore different opportunities for PJ and see if prejudice may exist and inhibit decision making

13 Objectivity in PJ Are all students completing same form Are all students submitting similar documentation Do different staff members do things differently

14 Subjectivity in PJ Discretionary vs. non-discretionary items –cost of living expenses, credit card expenses, allowances Necessities vs. lifestyle choices –vacations, weddings, expensive cars Decisions made by one school are not binding at another school Administrators do not have to agree Do your policies include or exclude circumstances? Can you make a logical argument for the PJ?

15 Typical Examples of Unusual Circumstances Loss of employment of family member Separation/Divorce of parent or independent student Disability or Death of parent or independent student’s spouse

16 Typical Examples of Unusual Circumstances Unusual family medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance Tuition expenses at elementary or secondary school for student’s siblings or dependents Prejudice? Extraordinary dependent care expenses

17 Would you consider… COA adjustments for: computer or computer software trips required by the class equipment/tools/supplies uniforms

18 Would you consider… Independent status: –living with relatives due to violence, abuse but no official intervention no court papers or DYFS involvement –cultural differences related to higher education

19 Would you consider… Reducing student income if they help pay for family expenses? –Student earned $12,000 last year and gave $10,000 to parent for household expenses

20 Would you consider… A PJ for a student who willingly and deliberately quit their job to go back to school?

21 Would you consider… Unemployment of a dependent student?

22 Would you consider… One time events inflating the AGI: –insurance payout –pension distribution –gambling winnings

23 Would you consider… Reduction in over time pay?

24 The Wilder Side of PJ Subsequent year requests? –year 1 - loss of employment –following year, loss of unemployment benefits –what about the second year of a pension distribution (again, to pay for basic living expenses or college) –What about the teacher or construction worker that is unemployed every year for several months

25 The Wilder Side of PJ How about this one?

26 The Wilder Side of PJ

27 Transgender student –Unusual expenses –Surgery

28 Documentation Documentation serves the following purposes: –Provides information in addition to that reported on FAFSA and other application documents (e.g., third-party documentation, copies of receipts, or canceled checks) –Provides history of student’s circumstances for future reference

29 Two Types of Documentation One type encompasses materials collected to support the student’s request Other type constitutes a clear record of school’s decision, how it was reached, and the actions taken

30 Things to remember: Performing PJ’s is optional, not mandatory Are the decisions following the intent of the regulation? Decisions must not discriminate against the student Are multiple cases treated in the same way?

31 Things to remember: For Dependency Overrides, the situation must be revisited each year to determine that the circumstances are still in effect PJ decisions combine common sense and economics with ethics What you do on the federal side cannot always be repeated for state grant funds

32 For further review NASFAA Statement of Ethical Principles NASFAA Guide to Addressing Special Circumstances (2003-04)

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