HOUSTON - If you're struggling with how you'll pay for your child's college education this fall, we're going to let you in on a well-kept secret. You can negotiate for more financial aid than a school offers you.
You may have received a financial aid offer of scholarships, grants, or loans to attend a college, but that's not the end of the story.
First, you can file an appeal if your family recently lost a job or fell on hard times during the pandemic.
The CARES Act gave colleges billions of dollars to increase student financial aid this year.
"What that means is you lost a job or your parents lost a job, you were furloughed, your parents were furloughed," said Charlie Javice, founder of Frank, a website that helps students apply for financial aid.
But a little known secret is that you can also negotiate for more financial aid. You can do this any year.
But since many colleges face dropping enrollments, you may have better odds of success this year.
"They don't really like to say they have these funds available. It's typically anywhere from 10% to 20% of a financial aid budget where all these financial aid officers can exercise their professional judgment to help enroll students," said Javice.
Javice said that her site Frank also helps students negotiate for larger financial aid packages.
"We will help you negotiate with your school on the tuition rate, and some schools have granted students as much as $20,000 more aid just to have them attend their college," said Javice.
Other organizations, such as CollegeVine, help negotiate with schools, too. But experts say you can also negotiate on your own with a letter.
Here is what they suggest:
- If your appeal is need-based, write to the Director of Financial Aid and show proof of the job loss, health expenses, or other costs, such as caring for a grandparent.
- If your appeal is merit-based, write to the Dean of Admissions and show proof of improving grades or a recent accomplishment.
- In the letter, put in writing how much you can afford or how much you'll need.
- Let them know if the school is your first choice and why.
- If you received a better financial aid offer from another school, include a copy and ask them to match or beat it."
- Outline your goals while attending the school and what you hope to do with your degree.
- Be sure you file the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Only 60% of students fill it out, which means 40% may be leaving money on the table.