Financial assistance decisions should be based largely on a family's ability to pay for college. But what happens if the financial situation changes after the FAFSA is submitted?
This is just one of the reasons why you can appeal against a financial support decision. It is happening more and more often as families come to terms with the economic consequences of the pandemic. Here's what to do if the financial help that is offered to you is not enough.
When you are admitted to college, the university will submit a letter detailing how much support you will receive, including federal student loans, grants, and scholarships. Colleges use information from your Free Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Application to determine your expected Family Contribution (EFC).
The EFC is the total amount you think the college can afford for your college expenses.
If that amount is not enough to cover your expenses, you can appeal the decision and ask for more money. Both new and returning college students can appeal their funding decision.
In order to successfully file an appeal, you will need to show that your financial situation or that of your parents has deteriorated since you received your grant letter. Examples of evidence include a notice of termination, unemployment benefits, a parent's death certificate, petitions for divorce, and unexpected medical bills.
Other examples of negative events include marriage and non-dependence, experiencing a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado, or being disabled by a parent.
Don't underestimate what counts as evidence. Your parents adding a dependent parent e.g. A grandparent or a new child, for example, will also affect your EFC. The more data you provide to support your claim, the greater the chances of success.
Once you've collected these documents, scan the original and save it on a cloud-based system like Google Drive or Dropbox. If you need to make a physical application to your university, make copies of the original documents. You could lose or damage the originals, so do not use them. Make sure to send the documents by registered mail so you can check that they have been accepted.
Write an appeal letter
When submitting a financial assistance application, you will likely need to write a letter explaining your financial circumstances and why you need more money. This letter is your best chance to convince the grant administrator that you need more money.
Be polite and respectful when you write the letter. Have a friend or loved one read it to make sure your tone is appropriate. Remember, the college has no obligation to offer you any further assistance.
Use hard numbers, such as a parent suffering a $ 20,000 wage cut or being hit with $ 10,000 in surprise medical bills.
"It may be tempting to make an emotional appeal, but it will likely be more effective when you have a specific reason why you need to adjust your financial aid," said Rebecca Safier, Certified Student Loan Counselor, StudentLoanHero.com.
Submit the appeal as soon as possible after your circumstances change. Safier says you can object at any time – even in the middle of the semester.
Don't ask for a specific amount in the letter as the university may offer more than you expect. If you received more financial support from another university, you can use this offer as leverage to apply for further support. Just make sure this isn't the only reason to ask for more money.
Ask for more performance-based help
The most common reason for an appeal is a decline in income. However, Saifer said the second most common reason was because an incoming student got better grades in their senior year. In this case they can apply for additional performance-related grants.
If you've received private scholarships from third-party organizations, you can contact them and ask if there is an opportunity for more money.
Safier said that performance-based help is much more common in public universities, so students in private schools may be less successful in this regard.
Safier said it takes most grant departments between two and four weeks to make a decision. Contact the administrator if you haven't received any feedback after a month. You may have follow-up questions or require further evidence that your financial situation has worsened.
If you receive any new information during the review process that further affects your financial situation and that of your family, you can contact them to request that these details be considered.
What if they refuse your request?
There are other ways to check if the university is rejecting your application or not providing as much help as you need.
For one, your parents can take out a federal Eltern-PLUS loan to finance your education. The total amount a parent can borrow with a Eltern-PLUS loan is the cost of participation minus other loans, grants, or scholarships.
The college will review your parent's credit report before a Parent PLUS loan is issued, and parents with robberies, defaults, bankruptcies, foreclosures, or other adverse events may be declined.
The interest rate on a Parent PLUS loan is currently 5.30%, similar to other state student loans. The loan remains in the name of the parents, so there is no statutory payment obligation for the student. In addition, the parents cannot transfer the loan to the student's name. Like other types of student loans, PLUS parenting loans qualify for extended deferral and deferral periods, as well as income-based repayment options.
If your parents do not want to take out a loan on their behalf, you can take out a personal loan on your own behalf. Usually you will need a parent to co-sign the loan, but you are still the main borrower. Private student loans often have higher interest rates and fewer deferral and income-based repayment options than Parent PLUS loans.
You can refinance a parent PLUS or personal loan for a lower interest rate or monthly payment. However, when you refinance a Parent PLUS loan, you lose all of the related benefits that federal student loans have.
Sign up for Mint today
From budgets and bills to free creditworthiness and more:
Discover the effortless way to stay on top of things.
Learn more about security
Zina Kumok (126 posts)
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finance. As a former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four, and everything in between. It has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth, and Time. Read how she paid off $ 28,000 in student loans at Conscious Coins in three years.