KIDS AND MONEY: It never hurts to ask for more financial aidYour daughter may be holding an admission ticket to her dream college, but the school came up short in one key area — financial aid. Making matters worse, you recently were downsized out of your job.
By: Steve Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers
Your daughter may be holding an admission ticket to her dream college, but the school came up short in one key area — financial aid. Making matters worse, you recently were downsized out of your job.
Is it worth the time and trouble to appeal for more money, or do you move on to your daughter's second choice?
As I always say, "you never know unless you ask."
There's really no downside risk in trying to negotiate a better deal, but there's plenty of upside. Financial-aid experts say money is still available to help plug gaps, and the success rate on appeals is good, especially at private schools that have more discretion over loans and grants.
"It's not mission impossible," said Kalmen Chany, a college counselor and author of the The Princeton Review's "Paying for College Without Going Broke."
Colleges and universities are being inundated with appeals for more financial assistance from cash-strapped families dealing with the darkest economy in decades.
Changing financial circumstances since you filled out federal financial aid forms — a layoff, a pay cut, divorce, or extraordinary medical expenses — are more likely to help your cause with the school rather than a nebulous request for more money because your stock portfolio tanked, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, a college financing Web site.
The best way to craft a successful appeal is to start at the schools' Web site so you'll understand how the process works.
For example, make sure you're approaching the correct department, Kantrowitz said. "Awards based on academic merit usually come from the admissions office or the president's office," Kantrowitz said. "The financial-aid office is focused on need-based aid."
State your case in a brief, factual letter, document any changes in your financial circumstances, and include any independent, third-party correspondence, for example, from an unemployment office or human resources department that can verify your claims.
Be reasonable in your request for assistance, and be tactful in how you make your pitch, said financial-aid expert Reecy Aresty of College Assistance Inc. It's not necessarily what you say, but how you say it.
"Ask for additional assistance, help or financial aid," he said. "Never ask for more money or a scholarship, and don't ask for every single thing" in your request for a review.
If you have a financial package from a rival school, include it in your appeal. But don't expect a bidding war.
"They will mostly be looking for any information about the family's financial circumstances that was provided to the other school but not to them," Kantrowitz said.
Keep in mind there are no appeals beyond the financial aid office — so it pays to be polite.
Finally, here's a what-if scenario: Everything is going along fine now on your job, but what if you get the pink slip this fall?
Chany recommends alerting the school immediately. Waiting until the end of the semester or the school year will only delay the appeals process and add stress. That's something to keep top-of-mind in an economy like the one we're experiencing today.