How to negotiate more college aides for fall 2021

Stony Brook, NY First day of the 2020 fall semester at Stony Brook University.

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Some of the more selective colleges and universities are seeing an increase in applications for incoming freshmen this fall. Yet other schools are struggling.

This can be an opportunity for families to try to get more money for tuition.

“We could see a year similar to last year in terms of families having more purchasing power from consumers, having more clout with these smaller, less selective and less well-known schools,” said Shannon Vasconcelos, who works with new freshmen and their families. as Director of University Finances at Bright Horizons College Coach. She is also the former Deputy Director of Financial Aid at Tufts University.

“Schools really depend on tuition fees,” she said.

Financial aid offices are well prepared for a great year of financial aid appeals.

Shannon Vasconcelos

Director of University Finances at Bright Horizons College Coach

College applications are up 10% this year, according to common application, the most used university application. Yet these more selective public and private schools have seen a 17% jump.

However, small institutions have experienced a general decline, with the exception of the more selective private institutions. Applications to public schools fell in the more and less selective categories, by 3.76% and 4.71%, respectively, and applications to less selective private colleges fell by 1.28%.

“Colleges and universities are businesses,” said chartered financial planner Lawrence Sprung, president of Mitlin Financial, based in Hauppauge, New York. “They are very well managed and well oiled machines.

“Like anything else, there are opportunities.”

Sprung is currently following the process with his 17-year-old son. The couple plan to negotiate a better financial package once their son receives the third and final letter of acceptance they are hoping for.

However, there are different tactics to get more money, depending on whether it is need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarship.

Request more financial assistance

Financial aid decisions for the incoming freshman class are based on 2019 income levels. So if your family’s finances have taken a hit during the pandemic, or if there has been some other change in your financial situation, you can file an appeal for more money.

Vasconcelos said common reasons include:

  • A job loss.
  • A big blow to your savings since you completed the application.
  • High medical costs.
  • Accompaniment of an elderly parent or a family abroad.
  • Additional medical or child care expenses for a child with special needs.
  • Private high school lessons for a younger brother.
  • Capital gains on shares in 2019 that have not been repeated.
  • You no longer receive the child support you received in 2019.
  • Parents’ student debt.

To file your appeal, go to the school’s website and complete an official appeal form. If there is no form, email the school’s financial aid office. Explain the change in circumstances and ask for additional help.

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You will need to include documents to support your request, such as a termination or discharge letter, a large medical bill, your W2, or updated bank statements.

“Financial aid offices are very prepared for a great year of financial aid appeals,” said Vasconcelos.

Merit scholarships

While waiting for your acceptance letters and before starting any negotiations, make sure you already establish a relationship with school admissions offices, Sprung advised.

“Students need to be in constant contact with admissions counselors at their top schools to constantly show interest,” he said.

When the time comes to apply for more scholarships, contact the admissions office with a personalized message.

Ideally, you will have an offer from another school that you can use as leverage. If so, be sure to include the documentation in your email.

“What you want to avoid is requiring that one school match the offer of another school,” advised Vasconcelos.

“You want to pass on a small increase from them would make a big difference in your decision,” she added. “This is when the colleges will be most willing to work with you.”

If there aren’t any cheaper options, it still doesn’t hurt to give it a try. Just let them know that you are not sure you can balance the costs, especially under the current circumstances.

Asking if there are other scholarships you can apply to is a good way to ask for more money, especially if you don’t have competing offers or cheaper options to negotiate with, said. Vasconcelos.

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