7 Strategies for Appealing a College Financial Aid Package

by Admin

The escalating price of college is a barrier to attendance for many students, even with financial assistance. In-state tuition and fees at public national universities, for instance, have increased by 211% over the last 20 years.

But students can get extra money to pay for college, in some cases, by filing a financial aid appeal letter.

“Families may be surprised how often colleges say ‘yes’ and send a few more thousand dollars their way as an enticement to enroll,” says Shannon Vasconcelos, senior director of college finance at Bright Horizons College Coach, an education consulting company.

Here are seven strategies financial aid experts recommend for appealing a college financial aid package:

  • Assess your current financial circumstances.
  • Don’t call the process a negotiation.
  • Have a conversation with the financial aid office.
  • Reach out to the admissions office.
  • Use a competing offer.
  • Hold back on the deposit.
  • Appeal as soon as you know your needs.

Assess Your Current Financial Circumstances

Schools use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine financial aid eligibility. The form uses tax information from the “prior prior” year, so families completing the FAFSA for the 2022-2023 academic year, for example, need their 2020 tax return.

Applicants who experienced a change to their financial circumstances over the last two years – like layoffs, furloughs or pay reductions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic – should consider filing a financial aid appeal.

Other reasons to appeal may include a death of a family member or an unexpected expense, such as a large medical bill.

“We do recognize that family situations have changed,” says Donna Kendall, associate vice president of enrollment and dean of undergraduate admission at Bentley University in Massachusetts. “There’s a lot of anxiety out there right now, even for families whose income hasn’t changed. Their expenses have gone up because everything is more expensive.”

You can file an appeal for both need-based and merit-based aid. But this year, Blaine Blontz, founder and lead consultant at Financial Aid Coach, has seen less effectiveness in appeals for additional merit-based aid, perhaps because total applications are up.

“Families from the past two years who decided not to enroll in college have decided to apply for the 22-23 school year,” he wrote in an email. “I am hopeful that the process will return to a more typical opportunity for families in the 23-24 school year when application totals may not be as high.”

Don’t Call It a Negotiation

Colleges don’t like the word “negotiation” because it sounds like you’re bargaining at a bazaar or a car dealership, according to Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert and author of How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid.

Instead, Blontz advises families to use the word “reconsideration” in letters and emails to colleges.

Have a Conversation With the Financial Aid Office

If you’re filing for a need-based appeal, send an introductory email to your financial aid counselor and request a time to talk over the phone to discuss special circumstances, experts suggest.

“Having only emails back and forth and numbers on paper really doesn’t give the financial aid counselor a chance to understand what the situation is,” Kendall says.

For reconsideration, families need to provide documentation, preferably from a third party, of any financial changes that affect their ability to pay for school. Schools can use this financial information to recalculate the minimum families are expected to pay for a year of college, a figure known as the expected family contribution.

You can file an appeal for both need-based and merit-based aid. But this year, Blaine Blontz, founder and lead consultant at Financial Aid Coach, has seen less effectiveness in appeals for additional merit-based aid, perhaps because total applications are up.

“Families from the past two years who decided not to enroll in college have decided to apply for the 22-23 school year,” he wrote in an email. “I am hopeful that the process will return to a more typical opportunity for families in the 23-24 school year when application totals may not be as high.”

Don’t Call It a Negotiation

Colleges don’t like the word “negotiation” because it sounds like you’re bargaining at a bazaar or a car dealership, according to Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert and author of How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid.

Instead, Blontz advises families to use the word “reconsideration” in letters and emails to colleges.

Have a Conversation With the Financial Aid Office

If you’re filing for a need-based appeal, send an introductory email to your financial aid counselor and request a time to talk over the phone to discuss special circumstances, experts suggest.

“Having only emails back and forth and numbers on paper really doesn’t give the financial aid counselor a chance to understand what the situation is,” Kendall says.

For reconsideration, families need to provide documentation, preferably from a third party, of any financial changes that affect their ability to pay for school. Schools can use this financial information to recalculate the minimum families are expected to pay for a year of college, a figure known as the expected family contribution.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment