Students worry about getting in to college; parents worry about getting it paid for. News of admission brings joy and relief, while the review of the details of the financial aid award can bring concern. What does a family do when they feel that the aid package, as constituted, will not allow for the student to attend?
In the 4/4/14 article in The New York Times, “Appealing To A College For More Financial Aid,” we learn that in-the-know families have been going directly to financial aid office to appeal their cases for many years. Financial aid officers don’t want to bargain and they don’t want to negotiate, but they will hear about changes in family income or expenses that have occurred since the FAFSA was filed. These changes (death of breadwinner, serious illness, loss of job, etc.) should be documented in writing to the financial aid director in advance of a meeting. Anticipated changes won’t slice it. Historically, half or more of these appeals lead to an increase in the aid award.
Many colleges are more liable to sweeten the mix if the student is the one who makes the appeal in person, not the parents. A student’s own commitment to her education and understanding of the factors at play can be very compelling.
Cornell University, for example, will match offers from peer institutions. While parents need to understand that colleges have budgets to balance, they also need to realize that discounting happens. All the time. Review the FAFSA, inadvertent errors may have been made on it when filed. Colleges have done their research, and know that students whose parents appeal for more aid are more likely to attend, whether or not they actually get more aid. So financial aid officers area ready to talk to you; they no you are in a high percentage cohort. Realistically, ours being a market economy, if a student brings high scores and/or a strong gpa into the mix, your position may be stronger.
As a student and parent appeal for more aid, realism is important. No increase from the institution is always a possible outcome, particularly at a less well endowed college, so don’t paint yourself into a corner. The institution may be tapped out. Look at loan amounts carefully and be sure, when multiplied by four, that the amount is realistic. The average loan amount over four years is now almost $30,000. Should a student really take on more than that?