Client Question: My son was accepted into his top choice and then a few of his lesser choices. The only problem is that School #1 presented us with a financial aid package that is about 1/3 less than what some of the other schools offered. Is there anything that we can do? Do schools ever reconsider their financial aid packages?
Boston Money Coach Answer:
Absolutely! You have the right to appeal and discuss the findings with the financial aid officer. Your case may be strengthened by mitigating circumstances in your income or asset situation (change in job status since the base year income used for calculating your Expected Family Contribution, for example). Also, consider gaining leverage with the financial aid officer by leveraging off of any aid packages offered by a competing institution where you applied.
Some amount of aid is kept in reserve to enhance offers for kids schools really want. Contact the financial aid officer indicating that the school is your child’s preferred choice but that other schools offered better packages. Competition never hurts and here it may help you. Provide specifics of the other aid packages. Do this as soon as possible, before the reserve funds are exhausted.
Financial aid officers may exercise “professional judgment” to review and change offers. “Special circumstances” are the basis of exercising such judgment. In your appeal, be specific about the amount that you are seeking. Be prepared to provide documentation about the mitigating circumstances or, in this case, the kind of financial aid offers received from other schools. It’s a good idea to make contact with the financial aid officer in person. The personal touch may go a long way to helping you with your appeal. At the very least make contact by phone and don’t rely on email.
Special circumstances may include unusual or one-time income in the Base Year used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). It can also include large expected travel expenses to and from the school for the student. Special family situations such as divorce, separation, illness or death of a parent or family member may also be considered grounds for appeal. And generally, anything that you can negotiate with the financial aid officer to be considered a special circumstance is valid. You need to provide the aid officer a reasonable basis for changing the numbers for assets and income provided by you and your student on the FAFSA that were the original basis of determining your EFC and need.
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