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Institutions are reporting an increase in the number of financial aid appeal requests they've received since last March, pointing to the financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have on students' ability to pay for college, according to a new survey from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

Of the 224 community colleges, public and private nonprofit institutions, and for-profit colleges surveyed, 56 percent said they had received an increase in professional judgment requests from the previous year. One in five colleges reported their number of requests had increased by 50 percent or more.

Professional judgment requests allow financial aid administrators to review students' financial needs for federal aid on a case-by-case basis and decide whether to override a student's dependency status, adjust data elements for calculating the student's expected family contribution or revise the student's cost of attendance.

The latest survey, conducted last month, had almost identical responses to a survey on the same topic conducted in September 2020, said NASFAA, showing that the economic effects of the pandemic are still ongoing.

"The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, but students and families will continue to feel the financial impact for months and possibly years to come," Justin Draeger, president of NASFAA, said in a statement.

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they expect the trend to continue and anticipate professional judgment requests will increase for the upcoming award year.