3 legitimate reasons to negotiate your aid plan

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Talk to a financial aid administrator or admissions consultant, and the advice is the same: never ‘negotiate’ your university award letter. For them, the word belittles the process.

“However, any student can try to ‘appeal’ on their financial aid program,” Deborah Fox, veteran college financial planner, told personal loan Hero.

Fox said such calls have exploded in his 20+ years of counseling students and their parents.

“But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should,” she warned. “With the larger volume, it creates more competition and therefore more difficult to achieve a good result in general.”

So, yes, call it ‘bargaining’, ‘begging’ or whatever, but you can request a financial aid adjustment. Here are three scenarios where your odds are the best:

1. Your family is facing financial difficulties

If your circumstances change between filing your FAFSA and when you receive your aid kit, you may be eligible to appeal. This is called professional judgment and, in the words of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), it is not “negotiation” per se.

“It is rather a basis for the change of Expected family contribution (EFC) based on documented facts that are present in the student’s current circumstances, ”NASFAA Vice President Dana Kelly told Student Loan Hero.

Phone special circumstances understand:

  • Divorced
  • The parent dies
  • The breadwinner loses his job
  • A family suffers from a natural disaster
  • Household income decreases
  • Increased household emergency expenses (due to medical care for example)

Fortunately, you may not even need to update your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Thanks to the Higher Education Act of 1965, the school’s financial aid office can independently recalculate the CFE that your FAFSA previously pumped out.

Just be prepared to hand in evidence – anything from an employer letter to copies of medical bills – in order to defend your case.

2. Your academic record has improved

If your family’s finances have suffered since filing your FAFSA, you would seek another dose of help as needed. But if your academic record has improved, it is merit aid that you would be after.

Temper your expectations, however. You will either need to be an excellent student or have significantly improved your performance to earn additional funding.

Fox, the founder of Fox College Funding, advised looking at resources like the College Council to check GPA and school test score thresholds. You can also inquire about average college financial aid scholarship online or by contacting their admissions office.

If you were offered a $ 15,000 merit scholarship from a school that gives out an average scholarship of $ 10,000, for example, Fox said that an appeal would likely not be successful and could even have a bad one. student image.

“However, if the student was offered a scholarship of $ 5,000 and their profile appeared to meet or exceed the college average, a call would be appropriate,” she said.

To convince a financial aid administrator, you can send your latest transcript or letter of recommendation referring to your new award. Fox recommended that students (not parents) write the appeal letter because it shows ownership of the process.

“The tone of the letter should be respectful and appreciative of the money that has already been offered,” Fox added.

Also be aware that some schools, such as Boston College, only offer help on a needs basis. As a result, your academic results will not influence their financial aid officers.

3. You have a better offer from another school

Maybe your last semesters of high school were more or less the same, but one college or university sees more promise in you than another. Speak to the financial aid office about other pending college aid offers might prompt them to sweeten the deal.

On the other hand, Lynn University in Florida told Student Loan Hero that, at least for its part, it will not budge from the initial offering.

“We believe it is important to provide the student with the optimal financial aid package from the start, rather than putting a student and their family to work through a negotiation process that can prove fruitful for some and not for others, ”said Morgan O’Sullivan, director of Lynn. communications on financial services to students.

Sullivan added that he was not aware of which schools would match a competing school’s package. Bargaining is not a topic financial aid officers like to discuss, and many colleges and universities are even keen to say that they will not participate in making deals unless professional judgment is made (see below. above) is not appropriate.

As Kelly of NASFAA put it emphatically, “There is no negotiating policy when it comes to student financial aid.

When negotiating financial aid isn’t enough

According to a survey carried out by a private student loan company College Avenue, 26% of students said they had asked their financial aid administrator for additional help, and 37% said they wished they had asked for it.

On top of that, college aid offices keep 15-20% of their budget set aside for additional aid (although the majority is for professional judgments) – and often only about half. is deployed. That’s according to Charlie Javice, founder of the personal finance website Frank, who writes appeal letters on behalf of his college clients.

Of course, even in one of the three scenarios described above, asking for more help doesn’t mean you will receive it.

As you try to improve your aid program and compare university prices, heed O’Sullivan’s advice:

  • Evaluate the annual – and total – aid: Some schools are known to “bring forward” offers with grants and scholarships for your first year that will not be renewed for the remaining years in college. Project your personal expenses for grades 2 to 4 at various schools before making a decision.
  • Accounting for secondary costs: A school may provide more financial aid but require you to pay other expenses out of pocket. A school further away from you, for example, may cost you more in gasoline, reducing the real value of that school’s aid program.
  • Find out about indirect aid: Your financial aid administrator might not be able to offer more funds for schools, but they can still be a useful resource. Ask them about grants from your state and scholarships from private donors, as well as your access to federal programs and private student loans.

Finally, ask yourself how far your money would go in each school on your college list. We could offer more financial aid (perhaps in the form of a merit-based scholarship) but less academic support (perhaps with a poorer student-teacher ratio). It’s all part of the cost-benefit analysis.

“It is important that students choose a school that is academically and socially suitable for them,” said O’Sullivan. “While finances are a big factor, you want to be successful with your degree and create a meaningful college experience. ”

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