Financial Aid Awards: How to Negotiate/Appeal

What happens when you wish to appeal the amount of financial aid offered to you or your college-bound student? Who should be the person negotiating for more money? Should parents speak with a college financial aid administrator or should students make contact the office of financial aid?

The answer to all of these questions is: It depends.

Verbal Negotiation of Financial Aid Awards

Verbal negotiation of financial aid awards (typically done by telephone) should only be handled by a parent . Students do not have the knowledge nor experience to effectively negotiate finances, nor do they fully understand the impact of the financial aid offered by their colleges. In addition, students do not have the business sense needed to make logical decisions and often have so many “stars in their eyes” that they will take any offer just so they can enroll in their favorite school.

Before beginning negotiations, parents should gather all information that supports their request for increasing financial aid, examples being: documents showing the family’s expected reduction in income due to a parent’s loss of employment or other unforeseen reason, financial aid award letters from other colleges, records showing abnormally high income in the previous year was due to a one-time windfall of money (such as the sale of financial assets or receipt of an inheritance), medical bills associated with a severe family illness, etc.

As a parent, during negotiations your voice should express concern, not aggression. Don’t be pushy — you don’t want to be perceived as a meddling parent that will be a problem to the college every time something happens that doesn’t benefit your son or daughter. If you call, work with and not against the financial aid administrator. The worst the financial aid administrator can say is nothing can be done to increase financial aid. Be prepared to send documentation proving your change in family finances or a copy of the financial aid award letter from another college.

Written Appeal of Financial Aid Awards

Written appeal of financial aid awards should be done by students under the supervision of a parent. At this late stage of the college selection process, it is recommended that appeals be completed by email (regular U.S. Mail may take too long); students should email a letter of appeal to the financial aid administrator responsible for their file (or to the financial aid office if you do not know the name of the financial aid officer) explaining the situation. Ask if there is anything that can be done to increase your financial aid awards.

Students’ tone in their written letter of appeal should be one of explanation and concern, not aggression or finger-pointing. The letter should be proofread by parents before sending.

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