How To File A Financial Aid Appeal Letter
In some cases, there may be special circumstances that may entitle you to additional financial aid. For example, you could qualify for additional aid if:
- Your parents lost their jobs or experienced a loss in income
- You had a major medical expense
- You have unusually high child care costs
- Your home was damaged by a natural disaster
Filing an appeal letter also may be a good option if you need more aid due to COVID-19. To start the appeals process, contact the schools financial aid office as soon as possible to determine the correct process and deadline for pursuing an appeal.
When you start drafting the letter of appeal, include important information like why youre appealing the award and provide details about the circumstances that led to the change in your financial status. If appropriate, you may also include documents that illustrate your situation or otherwise support your appeal. Finally, include a specific request for the amount you need to attend the school as well as any competing offers you received from other schools.
Apply For Grants And Scholarships
Before turning to other forms of debt, such as applying for private student loans, exhaust all your other financial aid options. You may be able to qualify for state or federal grants and scholarships, as well as ones from nonprofit organizations and private companies.
Unlike loans, which have to be repaid with interest, grants and scholarships dont typically require repayment. In most cases, you never have to repay them. Plus, you can combine multiple grants and scholarships to pay for school, reducing how much you need to borrow.
Check out our guide to state grants for college to find opportunities.
Choosing A Cheaper College
One of the best ways of cutting college costs is to enroll at a less expensive college. Students should apply to a mix of several colleges based on academic fit and financial fit. Use the colleges net price calculator to get a personalized estimate of the net price, to evaluate the colleges affordability.
The least expensive options generally include in-state public colleges, colleges that offer no loans financial aid policies and free tuition colleges. A private college is generally the most expensive option.
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How Federal Financial Aid Eligibility Works
The Department of Education has clear guidelines for federal student aid eligibility.
There are basic requirements, such as being a U.S. citizen and having a Social Security number. There are also continuing requirements:
- Make satisfactory academic progress by maintaining adequate grades and completing enough credits.
- File a Free Application for Federal Student Aid each school year.
- Keep existing federal student loans in good standing.
- Have no convictions for possessing or selling illegal drugs while receiving federal aid.
If you dont meet these guidelines, youre at risk of losing financial aid eligibility. Some schools may give you an official warning or place you on financial aid probation.
Well use Mississippi State University as an example. MSU offers students a financial aid warning semester where they have a chance to finish in good standing, allowing them to keep their financial aid. If requirements arent met, theyll be put on financial aid suspension. Your federal aid for that semester will be canceled, and you wont be able to receive further aid until you meet satisfactory academic progress again.
If you lose your eligibility, youre left with far fewer ways to pay for college and cover your educational costs.
Save Money Ahead Of Time With A 529 Plan
Saving up is one of the best ways to pay for college. While you can save money using a regular savings account or taxable investment account, a 529 plan can help you gain a tax benefit as you set money aside for school: The funds can eventually be used tax-free for qualified education expenses.
The longer you have to save up, the better off youll be. Generally speaking, parents who started contributing to a 529 plan 10 years ago should have almost enough money in the account to pay for two years of college.
Not everyone starts saving when their children are at a young age, so its important to look for multiple savings strategies. Keep in mind that 529s rely heavily on stock market returns, so its wise to have backup savings in case of a downturn before college.
There are times when withdrawals from a 529 count as part of a students income when filling out the annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid . That said, it can make sense to put off using money from a 529 account until later in the students college career.
Withdrawals during freshman and sophomore years can affect financial aid awards. Run the numbers to see if it makes sense to use funding from other sources during the first two years of college.
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Estimate Your Expected Family Contribution
The clearest way to predict the amount of financial aid youâll receive is to view your EFC. The federal government will send your official number as part of your Student Aid Report once youâve submitted the FAFSA.
The government determines your EFC based on an elaborate formula that takes into account several financial and family factors, all given individual weighting. Some assets and portions of savings and income are protected from the calculation.
For instance, while students must report their parentsâ investments on the FAFSA , certain investments wonât be counted in the EFC, such as the value of a parentâs home or their retirement accounts. Also, up to $7,040 in student income wonât be included in the amount he or she is expected to contribute to college costs. After that $7,040, only half of the studentâs income will be included in the EFC.
Itâs complicated to determine your EFC on your own if youâd like to figure it out before you submit the FAFSA. But you can use the governmentâs FAFSA4Caster tool to get a more detailed sense of the federal financial aid available to you than youâll typically see using a net price calculator. To fill out the FAFSA4Caster, youâll answer simplified versions of the questions on the FAFSA.
Graduate School Funding Resources
- The Council of Graduate Schools : CGS is a national organization dedicated to graduate education and research. Its website hosts a Career Portal for higher education professionals.
- Edvisors: Compare Graduate School Loan Options: Edvisors handy chart allows you to see all the benefits and pitfalls at a glance.
- GradSchools.com: GradSchoolss graduate school directory allows you to search by subject or specialty. There is also a website section on financial aid with FAQs and advice.
- National Association of Graduate and Professional Students: Resources: As well as resources on life during graduate school, NAGPS provides information on financial aid, U.S. government fellowships, loans, grants and more.
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Apply For State Grants
While scholarships are usually merit-based, grants are typically awarded based on your financial need. If your family income isnt especially high, consider state grants for college.
In Indiana, for example, there are grant programs available for:
- Undergraduates with financial need
- Adults returning to school
- For attending trade schools
Like scholarships, grants are a form of gift aid that almost always doesnt need to be repaid. You should always prioritize this type of cash for college over other options, especially student loans.
You can learn about grants available in your state by contacting its higher education authority via the Department of Education.
Does The Schools Accreditation Matter
The U.S. Department of Education relies on a number of independent accrediting bodies to determine if a college or university is meeting baseline quality criteria. You will not be eligible to receive federal financial aid if you attend an unaccredited school. The most important accreditation for traditional, brick-and-mortar institutions is regional accreditation from one of six regional accrediting bodies .
Although the U.S. Department of Education recognizes both regional and national accrediting agencies , national accreditation is typically applied to for-profit schools that offer vocational, career or technical programs.
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Write A Detailed Letter Explaining The Reason For Your Appeal
This is what initiates the Professional Judgment Review.
Your appeal may be needs-based, meaning your initial financial aid offer is not enough to cover your costs. Or it could be merit-based, meaning you have a higher offer from another school or some significant achievement since you first submitted the FAFSA.
A needs-based appeal might be right for you if your family experienced a job loss or reduction in salary. It might also apply if your family has extra expenses for a special needs child or elderly parent care, or even if your parents themselves enrolled in college. Finally, you might need to ask for more financial aid if your family survived a natural disaster.
|Examples of special circumstances|
|Lost income or change in employment Change in marital status or family size Death of a spouse or parent Parent enrolls in college, full-time No longer receiving child support New healthcare costs not covered by insurance Experienced a total loss due to a natural disaster|
A merit-based appeal, on the other hand, is all about your academic achievements. If your grades significantly improved since you submitted the FAFSA, for instance, you might notify the school to see if it will grant you more merit-based aid. Evidence of academic awards or additional letters of recommendation could help your case.
Whether youre filing a needs-based or merit-based appeal, youll need the documentation to back up your case. Make sure you can prove your point with supporting paperwork.
Aid Through School Work
We continue down the list and come to work-related programs that are meant to provide a flexible schedule around your classes. At this point, youve exhausted all forms of funding that dont require work exchange or loans. Were now moving into funding sources that will require some sort of payback.
Work studies are common on college campuses. These programs are usually tied into your financial aid award. They allow you to work on campus within a flexible schedule. Pay is usually minimum wage, but you cant beat the flexible schedule provided by these programs. While it is a smaller source of funding, depending on your class schedule, it might be the only type of job you can take on.
Assistantships are usually reserved for graduate students. These programs are similar to work studies except they are teaching positions. Often the student will teach lower-level classes in areas they are very familiar with.
Check out our guide to Federal Work-Study Programs.
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Financial Aid For Online Degree Programs
Thinking about earning an online qualification? Check first to see if the degree qualifies for federal and state financial aid. There are regionally-accredited schools who offer online programs. A limited number of DEAC-accredited institutions also participate in federal financial aid programs. We have some more specific advice available in our article about What Every Online College Student Needs to Know About Financial Aid.
Students And Their Parents Continue To Believe College Is An Important Investment And Creates More Opportunities
Most families are willing to stretch themselves financially to help the student experience those opportunities
Paying for college tip
Our College Planning CalculatorSM shows you the full cost of college by factoring in your savings, scholarships, grants, loans, and expenses, so you can create a plan to pay with confidence.
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Practicing Smart Student Loan Habits
Before you borrow, for instance, you could make sure youve exhausted all of your other options to get money to pay for school, including getting a job and applying for scholarships and grants. Also, you could avoid borrowing more than you need to limit how much youll owe in the long run.
As you get closer to graduation, you might consider refinancing your student loans once your credit and income are in good shape. Refinancing could potentially help you score a lower monthly payment, a lower interest rate, or both.
Know that if you refinance federal loans, youll no longer be eligible for programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans or other federal benefits. To see what your new refinanced student loan could look like, take a look at our student loan refinance calculator.
Learn more about refinancing your student loans with SoFi today.
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Apply For A College Grant
College grants are need-based, and like scholarships, grants don’t have to be repaid. So what’s the difference between a grant and scholarship? College grants for undergraduates are provided by nonprofit organizations often the federal and state governments and are often tax-exempt.
The Federal Pell Grant is the most common at Saint Louis University. It offers undergraduate students a maximum of $6,895 in 2022-2023. What other grants are available? The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need. In Missouri, look into the Access Missouri Grant. And at Saint Louis University, grants are awarded annually to full-time students with financial need through grant programs through the SLU Grant.
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How Do Average Parents Pay For College
On average, most parents pay for less than half of their kids college education. Students use their own income, scholarships, and loans to help pay for the rest of their schooling. Parents should consider not taking out loans for their kids to go to school because they can hurt their retirement chances. The best thing parents can do is to open a 529 plan and save as early and often as possible.
Scholarship & Loan Scams
It can be hard to spot a scholarship or student loan scam. Scammers often imitate official agencies and education lenders by the time you realize theyre not legitimate, your money is gone.
The best way to avoid these scams is to go through reputable scholarship matching services and double-check any offers with your college financial aid administrator or high school guidance counselor. You should also keep a record of all your correspondence and copy of any telephone conversations with scholarship companies in case you wish to report any potential scams.
Be especially suspicious of companies who:
- Pester you with unsolicited emails and insist you must act quickly
- Request personal information
- Claim to have endorsements from the federal government or universities
- Use official sounding names
- Trumpet their high success rates
- Tell you theyll apply on your behalf
Common scams include:
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All About Apples Latest Announcement
The goal of this change is to alleviate concerns some parents might have about saving for a child who never ends up going to college or who attends a college that costs less than the amount that has been saved. Anyone who pays attention to the ever-increasing college of college knows that the second fear is less well-founded than the first.
There are some important limitations to what you can and cannot do with these rollovers.
- Up to $35,000 can be rolled over from a 529 plan to a beneficiary’s Roth IRA
- Annual Roth IRA contribution limits apply to rollovers
- Conversions can only be made to a beneficiary’s Roth IRA a parent saving with a 529 plan in a child’s name cannot shift unused funds back into their own retirement account
- Rollovers are not allowed until a 529 account has been open for a minimum of 15 years
- Funds converted from 529 plans to Roth IRAs must have been in the account for at least five years
In addition to being able to withdraw funds from a 529, including earnings, tax-free, 34 states provide a tax deduction to incentivize families to save for college expenses.
Do we need to provide additional ways that well off families to sock money away? Probably not the problem is that people went nuts the last time someone tried to reform 529 plans, and the plan was quickly dropped. Now, the terms are being improved instead of making them less generous to wealthy families.
Paying For Textbooks Before Financial Aid
Oftentimes, tuition is not due at the beginning of the term, which means financial aid is not disbursed at the beginning of the course.
You may be required to purchase textbooks, course materials, and even pay rent before you receive aid. This can be a challenge for many students. If you find yourself with this problem, try to make sure you have enough aid leftover from the previous term to pay for expenses in your next term.
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Accepting The Financial Aid Offer
You are not required to accept all types of aid offered. On your student portal, you will likely be given the opportunity to select which forms of aid you would like to be applied to your student bill, and which you reject.
You may find that you were only offered one type of aid, or you may find that you were offered several types. Do your research on what the terms are of each loan, and if you have any concerns or questions, reach out to your schools financial aid office to clarify what is written on your aid letter.
The financial aid offer is given once per year, and you will need to accept it before tuition is due so that the aid can be applied to your student bill.