College-Aid Offers Aren’t Set in Stone

Sometimes the financial-aid package a college offers isn’t enough to make the school affordable. Your family’s financial situation also may have changed since your student filed for aid earlier in the school year.

The process for filing an appeal varies by college, as each financial-aid office has its own procedures, says Elizabeth Fontaine, deputy executive direction of the Massachusetts Educational Financial Authority, which runs the state’s 529 plan. You may have to submit an online or paper form or send a letter or email to the college’s financial aid office outlining what about your finances has changed. Check the financial-aid office’s website or call the office for instructions.

“If a financial or household situation has changed since you applied for aid – for example, a parent job loss or large medical expense – explain the circumstances,” Ms. Fontaine says. Be sure to attach documentation, such as proof that a parent was laid off or a medical bill. Rather than an open-ended request, ask for a specific amount of additional aid, based on what your family can afford, she says.

And while you are appealing, you might want to continue making plans to attend another college where you have been offered sufficient money to pay for school. There’s no guarantee that your appeal will be successful, and you don’t want to lose a year of college.

“Keep in mind that while many schools have a budget to offer additional financial-aid funds through the appeal process, they may not be able to award you any additional funds, or the amount they are able to award may be smaller than your request,” she says.
But again, schools have different levels of funding and enrollment goals, she says, so this strategy might not help you receive additional money.

(With permission of WSJ, April 9,2018)