For Financial Aid that Makes the Grade, Speak Up

Education Is PowerIt’s a nerve-wracking time for parents of college-bound kids: Financial aid offers are on the table, but what do you do if your child’s desired school is expecting you to pay more than your budget allows?

Negotiate, says Scott Anderson, founder of college search website, which pays special attention to schools’ costs.

While many parents assume a college’s financial package is iron-clad, Anderson says many people can appeal. Here’s how:

Search schools on the National Center for Education Statistics website to see average financial awards. If yours is below average, that alone may get the school to improve it, says Anderson.
  Even if it’s above average, there’s no harm in asking for more.
Changes in family income or expenses? Most schools post their appeals process on the financial aid section of their websites. If not, call and ask for the financial aid officer in charge of your file or the administrator of your department. “If you have a situation that can’t be expressed on a FAFSA, you need to make sure the schools are clear on your unique circumstances,” Anderson says. Some common ones: a parent who’s also in school, grandparents who need extra support, big medical expenses, or recent job loss.
When you appeal, get specific. Is your package missing a certain grant or loan? Requesting something by name may bump up your chances of getting it, Anderson says. Interested in a community service work-study job? Mention it. “Colleges have to fill a certain percentage of work-study jobs, and usually have trouble,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of scholarship and financial-aid websites and

B-E aggressive. What was your first lesson in negotiating?

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