College Planning Center of Rhode Island

College Planning & Financial Aid Advice

Figuring Out How Much to Borrow for College

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jul 28, 2014 4:00:00 PM

The cost of college tuition has taken a drastic turn upwards in the past few decades, increasing the amount that most students will have to borrow for college. While there is nothing wrong with taking on some student loan debt as long as it is done responsibly, it is important to be aware of how much you will be making straight out of college, and how much per month you will be paying back on your student loans.

What are your career plans? 

If you do not know exactly what you want to major in or pursue as a career your first year of college, it might be best to err on the side of caution and not take out too much in the way of loans to begin with, especially if you have any reason to believe you may go into a field that typically pays lower wages. General education classes your first year is a great way to feel out what you like and what you don't like, hopefully leading you to make a decision about what you'd like to major in by your second year.


Once you have an idea of what you'd like to do after college, and what you want your major to be, you can start taking a look at some hard numbers to help determine how much you will need to borrow in order to pay your tuition and graduate. Professions that have higher starting salaries can allow you to borrow more money in order to get your degree as opposed to those with smaller starting salaries.

As a general rule, you probably don't want to borrow any more than 90-100% of what your expected starting salary will be once you graduate. By keeping your total amount of money that you will borrow for college under this number, you are keeping your monthly payments low enough that you should be able to afford them on your salary. The payments will be even easier to make the longer you are out of college since you will hopefully be getting promotions and raises which will make the percentage of each paycheck going towards student loan repayments smaller.

If you do have an idea what you'd like to do as soon as you start school, great! Knowing an approximate starting salary for your desired job will help you make a decision about student loans before you even step foot in the classroom (Calculate your earnings and max borrowing for all years here). When you know what your starting salary should be before starting, you can borrow for college keeping that number in the back of your head. 

In addition to tuition, you will also want to be able to have enough money for room and board, which can sometimes come close to the amount of tuition you pay directly to the school every year. On-campus living can be surprisingly expensive, with your dorm room being pretty comparable in price to an off-campus apartment, and your dining plan will probably not be cheap either. Moving off campus and preparing your own meals may save you a little bit of money, but you will then have increased living expenses in the form of utilities and transportation to campus.

While the majority of students should be able to get under the 90-100% borrowing suggestion, you can help yourself out by getting even a part time job or paid internship during you first year or two of college. This will reduce the amount of money you need to borrow for college, and give you valuable work experience that could help you land a job in the future.

Anyone going into, or already in college, should do some research into how much they can expect to make their first year. This is the best baseline to work with to determine how much you should be borrowing for college, and it can help give you a realistic estimate of what you need to do to become financially secure after you graduate. Start your research here

Topics: student loans, borrowing for college

Last-minute saving for college

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jul 24, 2014 10:33:41 AM

In the ideal situation, saving for your child’s college expenses and tuition began when they were quite young and has built up over the years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way for a variety of reasons. So what to do now that your child is entering their junior or senior year and you don’t have enough to send them to college?

Don’t panic, there are still methods you can use to help them afford the college experience. Your child hasn’t taken college level Economics 101 yet, but she will soon learn there are two ways to increase your liquid money: either bring in more money, or reduce your expenses.

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Your student should apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. Unfortunately, most students don't qualify for a full scholarship. Now is the time to knuckle down and figure out a few ways to save a substantial amount of money in a short time period to avoid the dreaded choice of your child taking a year off from school to work before going to university or borrowing outside of your means.

Some people may have the option of either taking a second job in the evening or working overtime hours at their current job. This is perhaps the simplest, although not the easiest, way to bring in extra money quickly for the short term. A more valid option would be if the parents are together and one works as a homemaker that the stay at home parent take on a part time job to increase the family’s cash flow.

To deal with the added stress of the long hours, you just have to remind yourself that it’s only a temporary situation. Don’t look back at what you could have done to prepare better; instead focus on how this is in the best interest for providing your child the tools she needs to approach life as an adult successfully.

Of course, this is assuming your child is working as well. School may be her full time job, but she can work an age appropriate part time job on the weekend or perhaps an afternoon or early evening during the week. This can be a great opportunity to teach her what she doesn’t learn at school about how to responsibly manage her own money as you set rules about what she will be expected to pay for once she starts higher education.

Reducing the Costs of College Expenses

Taking AP or early enrollment classes for early college credit can shorten the length of time spent at college. Over the Junior and Senior high school years a student can usually take enough college level classes to eliminate a semester. Consider that although it varies depending on degree, a typical college career degree takes 8 semesters to attain, so it’s a quick way to cut 12.5% of the total costs from your budget.

Attending a local community college and taking transfer courses is another way to eliminate expenses. Not only is the college less expensive, but in many cases the student can eliminate the additional expense of living on her own in either a dormitory or apartment. This plan does eliminate the social aspect of college life to some extent, but that sacrifice is a much better option than simply not attending. This option further allows the student to continue working at her part time job from high school, bringing in her own money to help with the expenses and begin her own savings.

Some people may have an acceptable university close enough that their child can attend while still living at home. Again, part of the college experience is that your child becomes an adult, living on her own and managing school and work with her social life, but again, it’s a better option than not attending. Just remember, if you and your child decide on this plan, she is still a young adult and needs to start learning how to behave as one. She deserves a bit of freedom from the rules and curfews of high school. This is the age when many children move out of the house, eliminating any parental rules concerning their lifestyle, and they turn out to be just fine as adults.


In this day and age it is essential to attend college to assure a good, consistent career. College is not the cliché of going off to party for a few years before joining the work force. It provides the skills needed to pursue a successful adult life. By all means, encourage your child to go and help her with college expenses however you can but remember, pay what you can with "free money" such as grants and scholarships, borrow responsibly and only if you have too, and have fun!

Topics: paying for college, saving for college

5 Reasons to Save Summer Earnings

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jul 2, 2014 2:21:00 PM

If you are a high school or college student, you may be tempted to blow your summer earnings on tasty meals out, trips to the amusement park, or a new wardrobe - but there are many good reasons that you should be paying yourself first before you spend your income. 

Trust me, I get your temptation to take home that beaded mini or a new set of hubcaps! I did plenty of spending and little saving when I was in high school and college and, believe me, I had little to show for it in the end. After graduation, I was left with a big credit card bill and no safety pad. This was not an ideal way to start out life on my own.

Learn from my mistakes and remember these 5 top reasons to save every time you get paid and each time you are thinking about pulling out your wallet. 

1. Reason #1: You will graduate with less debt. 

The average student graduates from college these days with over $29,000 in student debt, according to the Project on Student Debt. If you are going to school in Rhode Island, that figure is more like $31,000. You can easily be one of the students that brings that average down, but it takes some careful planning and serious will power. Just put a little aside each paycheck before you spend a dime. 

2. Reason #2: You will thank yourself later. Credit_Card_iStock_000019484812Web

Have you ever heard the saying, "live like a college student now so you don't have to later?" Not a lot of students really get excited about taking that advice, but you should! Would you rather be eating Ramen Noodles now or when you are done with school? 

3. Reason #3: You're going to want get rid of that sweater next year anyway. 

"But I neeeeeeed it!" There are lots of expensive (and even not-so-expensive) things that you like now and  feel like you need that you could care less about in 6 months or a year. Plan your purchases very carefully, don't make impulse buys, and ask yourself, "will I really still want this in a year, a month, or even next week?!?!?" If the answer is no, or even worse, if you are going to have to pull out your credit card to pay for it, simply walk away. I repeat, walk. away. 

4. Reason #4: Books are not cheap. 

Yes, you can get used books. And yes, you can buy some online. But college text books are still not cheap. When I was in college (and that was more than ten years ago, to date myself a bit), I would regularly spend $500 or more a semester on books, reading packets and other college supplies. Remember that. If you save your summer earnings, it will still hurt to spend this much on books, but at least you won't have to swipe your credit card to pay for them! 

5. Reason #5: Savings grow. 

Unlike borrowing, where you pay interest back on your puchases (Yes, that $30 meal could cost you $70 after you get around to paying it back!) savings actually earn you cash. While the APY (Annual Percentage Yield) isn't super high these days on most standard savings account, it is still better than nothing. Look for an account with a good interest rate, or consider saving your cash in a certificate of deposit or mutual fund if you won't need it right away and you can find a good yield. Put a little aside each time you get paid and watch it grow!


For free helping decided on where to go to school - or how to pay for it - make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of Rhode Island

Discerning Differences: Private Student Loans, Federal Student Loans and State-based Student Loans

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Jun 17, 2014 2:03:27 PM

If you are looking to borrow for college, you may have heard about federal, private, and state-based student loans. But what is the difference between these loan types and which ones are the right ones for you and your family? 

Federal Student Loans

There are several types of federal education loans that can help your family pay for college. Federal education loans fall into two categories: student loans and parent loans.

Federal Student Loans

When you borrow a federal loan, your lender is the US Department of Education. Students are advised to use up their Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans (also offen referred to as "Stafford" loans) before seeking a loan elsewhere. These loans carry a low fixed interest rate (currently, they are set at 4.66% for undergrads) and have an array of flexible repayment options to help new grads afford their monthly loan payments - or delay their payments, if necessary. To apply for one of these loans or for the Federal Perkins Loan, another low fixed rate federal student loan which is awarded through the school financial aid office, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. LoanApplication_iStock_000019962865Small

Federal Parent Loans

There is also a federal college loan option for parents, called the Federal PLUS Loan. These loans do offer some repayment flexibility and deferment options although not quite as much as the Stafford or Perkins loans, but they also carry a higher interest rate than the federal student loan options.

Currently, the Federal PLUS Loan rate is set at 7.21% with a 4.288% origination fee.  

You can get more information on federal education loan programs at

State-based Student Loans

State-based student loans vary from lender to lender depending on the state in which you are borrowing. Not all states have a state-based student loan program, but these programs are typically available to students who are either a resident of the state or are going to a school in the state. These loans are often offered with low fixed interest rates and low or no fees. They are worth looking into if you think your student will need to borrow beyond the federal Stafford and Perkins loan limits.

Are you a resident of or going to school in one of the below Northeastern states? Check out the state-based student loan options. 

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are another alternative to the federal PLUS loans. Private student loans usually offer credit-based pricing and variable rates which means you don't necessarily know what rate you will pay on your loan until you apply. Variable rate loans may seem enticing right now as markets rates hover at historical lows. But you must assess whether or not you will be able to afford a higher monthly payment if rates increase prior to paying off your loan. Most variable rate loans are based off of Prime or LIBOR. Clicking these links will show you how Prime and LIBOR have changed over time.   

Fixed rate private loan programs are more rare and typically also have credit-based pricing. Unless you have some of the best credit out there, keep in mind you may not qualify for that lowest advertised rate. 

Comparing Student Loans

College is an enormous financial commitment, and loans can no doubt add to your costs. Before borrowing, make sure you have completed the FAFSA and fully explored your eligibility for grants and scholarships. Also, pay what you can from your salary and savings before taking on any debt. 

If you do decide you need to borrow, make sure you understand how much the loan will really cost you. What you repay is not only the amount you borrow, but also interest and fees. If you borrow a state-based or private student loan, you will receive a set of disclosures at the time of application that will give you information on all rates, fees and will display the total cost of the loan. Federal student loans are not subject to the same disclosure requirements but you can get an idea of your total costs by comparing rates and fees, as well as looking at your final loan disclosures. Also be sure to understand all of the loan benefits, from deferment to income-based repayment, to loan forgivenss before committing to any loan. 

Topics: student loans

5 Things to Do in RI the Summer Before College

Posted by Lindie Johnson

May 27, 2014 1:54:50 PM

High school seniors are surely breathing a sign of relief at this point, with college applications behind them and college life in the horizon. For students that are planning to live on a college campus, this summer is often a last hoorah in their hometown. Students can follow this guide to help make the most out of their last summer at home. 

1. Get a job!

Okay, so this may not be the most exciting way for a student to spend their last summer before college, but hear us out. Getting a job, and more importantly saving earnings from that job, can significantly reduce student debt. A couple thousand dollars can go a long way in covering the cost of college books and everyday living expenses. 

2. Sink your toes in the sand.

Now that we got that out of the way, it's time to have some fun. Rhode Island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the US. Students should take advantage of them while they are here and have free time. Check out GoLocal's 10 Best Beaches in RI

3. Hit a home run.

What would summer in Rhode Island be without watching a Pawsox game? Go in early July to catch a fantastic fireworks display after the game. Buy tickets here. 

4. Plan for some island time. 


Get together a group of high school friends or your family and (with parent approval, of course), take a day trip to Block Island. The Block Island Ferry offer daily trips with round trips rates around $26 from Point Judith. Take a walk through Mohegan Bluffs and grab some delicious eats at the Poor People's Pub

5. Light up your night. 

Waterfire is one of the biggest cultural events in the US, and here it is hosted in tiny little Rhode Island. Maybe you've never been before, or maybe you go on a weekly basis. Either way, it is a great way to spend a Saturday night. Start at Harry's Burger Bar for some sliders and walk through downtown, taking in all of the greatness. 

Just remember, no matter where you are going to college, and now matter how you spend your last summer as a high school student, make it a relaxing and memorable one!

Need some help trying to figure out how you will pay the tuition bill? Contact the College Planning Center of Rhode Island.

Need to learn more about student loans? 



Topics: college planning

Comparing College Costs: The Net Price Calculator

Posted by Lindie Johnson

May 13, 2014 11:34:19 AM

Comparing the “sticker price” of various colleges may seem like a reasonable first step to determining what your family can afford for college costs. But if you are like many families in the Ocean State, you are probably going to be paying less than the sticker price when all is said and done. Before you make yourself crazy searching on websites trying to figure college and university sticker prices - which may not mean much for your family in the long run - consider using each college’s Net Price Calculator. 107077-resized-600

The Net Price Calculator measures your family's financial ability to pay for college and uses other information to estimate the amount of grants, scholarships, and other financial aid you could potentially receive. Your "net price" is the difference between the amount of financial assistance you receive from the school, federal government and state - and the total cost of attendance at that school.

All schools are required to have a Net Price Calculator on their website. It’s often housed on the school financial aid site, but if you can’t locate it, search for “Net Price Calculator” in the search box of the college website.   

Before you sit down to examine Net Price Calculators at different schools, there are some things that you will need to have handy.  Start with your most recent tax return for both you and the student.  W-2’s may be needed if you file a joint return. Depending on the school, it may be handy to know your child’s CSS profile user name and password, but you will also have the opportunity to sign in as a guest.

The Net Price Calculator is a valuable tool in the college shopping process. We recommend you start using it to narrow down your college list, whether the student is in 10th or 12th grade.

Also, remember to sit down with your child before their junior year in high school - if you haven’t already - and give them a realistic idea of what money you are able to contribute towards college.  Make clear statements about your financial goals and use all the resources available to find a school that meets all of your family’s needs.

Need some assistance narrowing down your options? Make a free appointment with the College Planning Center of RI.

Topics: financial aid

Have an honest conversation about finances with your child

Posted by Lindie Johnson

May 4, 2014 5:35:00 PM

When it comes to finances, some parents are reluctant to discuss their personal information with their children. But when preparing for college, you will have to break down and have an important discussion as a family as to what you are willing to pay (and can realistically afford to pay) towards a college education. 

If you have not saved towards your child's college education - which for many parents, is the case - loans may be inevitable. Just remember, borrowing for college is not always a bad thing, as long as it is done responsibly.

What are some of the things that you need to think about when looking at loans?  

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Interest rate/APR. It's easy to overlook the impact interest has on the amount you pay towards a loan. For example, if you were to borrow $20,000 at a rate of 6%, your monthly payment would be about $222.04 per month for 10 years (assuming no fees). That means over the course of those ten years, you would pay over $6,500 in interest in addition to the original $20,000 borrowed. Look at the interest rate on your loan and make sure you are getting the best option available for our family.

Monthly payment. Know what the monthly payment will be on your loan before you borrow. Think about borrowing not only for the first year of college, but for two, three or four. Will you be able to afford this monthly payment? If you need to borrow for all 4 years, and your first year's payment will be $222.04, the question then becomes, "can I afford $888 per month?"

Fees. Fees can add up. Pay attention to origination fees, late payment fees, etc. Any fees on non-federal loans should be disclosed to you in the lender's Application and Solicitation Disclosures. To learn more about fees on Federal PLUS Loans, visit

Future Goals. How old are you? When do you want to retire? How many other children do you have?  Do they want to go to college? Assess what your family's future goals are and determine how much you can afford to borrow and still be able to meet those goals. 

If you are not comfortable with going into debt  - or the amount of debt your child would like you to take on in order to go to their dream college - you need to be upfront about it early on. It's easier to have this conversation before your child starts their college search, in either in 10th or 11th grade. For example, if you can only contribute $5000 per year towards your child’s education, make sure they understand that your contribution is not negotiable. Setting up an early guideline may initially be met with some frustration by your teen, but this eventually will pass. Borrowing responsibly will bring peace of mind for the entire family.

Also, make sure your child understands that the sticker price on a college website isn't necessarily what you will pay if you qualify for financial aid. After you have had a discussion with your child about college finances, go through a few Net Price Calculators (you can usually find a link to them through the college financial aid website), and see what typical costs are at some colleges your child is interested in. The Net Price Calculator, which every college is required to have, is intended to give you an estimate of what a family like yours generally pays at the college after financial aid has been awarded.

Once your child has some guidelines to work with, he or she is more likely to find schools that meet both their personal needs and your family's financial needs.

Topics: federal student aid, college financial aid, borrowing, borrow for college, education loans, education financing, education loan

College Planning: What to Expect at Orientation

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Apr 30, 2014 10:51:00 AM

Your child has finally been accepted to college and its only a few months until your little bird flies the nest. Even so, the college planning isn't over yet. Going to college can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for students and parents, especially if your child will be living on campus. College orientation, which is mandatory at some schools and optional at others, is intended to help your child make a smooth transition into college. 

Whether orientation is required at your college or not, you should definitely register your child to attend. 

So, what's the big deal about orientation? 

Orientation will give your child their first glimpse of what real college life will be like. Going to college can be stressful for some students. They are put into a new environment, with new people, and a new set of rules, services, etc. Orientation can help both you and your child attain a new comfort level with the school and help students understand better how they will fit in. 

At orientation, students get to meet their future classmates, attend information sessions about campus services and policies, stay in campus dorms, and pick out fall classes in some cases. As a parent, you will also have the opportunity to attend information sessions as well.GradHugwithParent iStock 000035259354XLarge WEB

The college will provide instructions on how to register for orientation and give you some guidelines of what to expect while the student is there. If you didn't receive something the the mail, research college orientation on the school's website. 

If your child is attending a college where class registration is done during orientation, he or she should prepare by researching mandatory classes for their major. If your child is starting college undecided, classes in the school's core curriculum might be a good place to start. Encourage your child to check out the school's on line course catalog so they have an idea of what is available before they head to orientation. 

While at orientation, your child will likely also have the opportunity to meet their academic adviser, giving them a resource to turn to when they arrive on campus. 

What to bring to orientation

At orientation, your child will be provided with a lot of information, from registration procedures, to general rules and policies. Bringing a notebook and writing utensil is a must, as well as a bag to carry around any handouts. There is also likely to be a lot of walking around as students move from session to session, so comfortable walking shoes and weather appropriate clothing are a good choice (remember an umbrella if it is supposed to rain!). Students should silence their cell phones during sessions to make sure they don't miss a vital piece of information during an important session. 

After daytime informational sessions have included, your student may have the opportunity to attend more social sessions, such as dances, sports and other activities. These activities give students the chance to learn more about each other, interact, and make new friends.

Remember, orientation is meant to be fun and informational. Take advantage of this great opportunity and encourage your child to make some new connections.  

Topics: college planning, college major, college orientation

How to compare college loan options

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Apr 23, 2014 11:00:00 AM

College is expensive and comparing college loans can be a bit tricky, especially when you're just getting started. That's why students and parents need to carefully consider their funding options based on crucial factors such as total cost, future earnings and ability to pay. 

While the process can be stressful, a little bit of planning and patience will help you find a financial program that works best for you and your child's situation. And it all starts with a thorough research on comparing college loan options.

Here are a few planning tips you might want to consider:

Learn about federal education loans.pricetag

Student loans issued by the federal government, such as the Federal Stafford Loan and Federal Perkins Loan, have low fixed rates and low fees, in addition to having the most liberal repayment flexibility. The Federal Stafford Loan should be a student's first option for borrowing.  

Perkins loans are available to financially needy graduates and undergraduates. These loans are directly provided by the college or university and if your family qualifies, it will be included in your financial aid award letter.

Federal PLUS Loans are in the parent name only, meaning the student has no obligation to repay this debt. The rates on these loans, which are set annually (but are fixed for the term of your loan) are not as low as those on the Stafford or Perkins loans and these loans do not offer as many repayment benefits as the Stafford or Perkins loan. 

Explore your state-based loans options.

State-based loans, such a those made by RISLA, are another alternative. State-based loans are available to residents of the state where the agency serves or to students from other states who come to the state to study.

For example, if someone from Connecticut goes to Rhode Island to enroll to one of the colleges and universities there, he or she may be eligible to apply for RISLA's state-based loans. The same is true for students who live in Providence, RI, whether they enroll in a school in or outside the state.

State-based loans are different from both private and federal student loans in a lot of ways. For one, unlike most private loans, state-based loans typically offer fixed rates. State-based loans also often offer better rates than those on even the Federal PLUS loan. 

Talk to a non-profit, state-affiliated lender if you're interested in exploring your child's state-based college loan options. 

Consider private loans.

If you are unable to exhaust your federal or state-based loans options, or if you need additional loans, then you may consider shopping for private loans. Check with your trusted bank or other financial institutions.

While private loans usually have higher interest rates than federal and state-based loans and often offer variable rather than fixed rates, they are typically better than credit cards.

Pay attention to terms, rates and fees. Compare and save. 

When shopping for a college loan, you need to pay attention to specific disclosures. Here's a quick overview of the crucial details you should look into.

Interest rates 

College loan interest rates vary. It's one of the most important factors to consider when shopping for college loan options.

Education loans come with two types of interest rate: fixed and variable. Fixed rates remain stable for the life of the loan, while variable rates fluctuate depending on economic conditions. Right now, variable rates are at historic lows, so it's very possible they will increase before your loan is paid in full if you take on a varible rate loan. If a rate on a variable rate increases, so does your monthly payment. 

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

Other things being equal, you'll want to get the lowest possible APR. It takes into account the interest rate and other fees assessed on your loan.

Repayment terms

The term refers to the amount of years borrowers are expected to repay their loans. Banks usually offer 5, 10, 15, and 20 years of repayment terms.  It's best to decide on how much you can afford to pay. A 5-year repayment term, for instance, will accrue a lesser amount of interest (and sometimes comes with a lower interest rate) than a 10-year term—but your monthly payments will likely be higher.

Monthly payments

Before borrowing any loan, it is important to understand what your monthly payment will be and ensure that it will be affordable for whoever has agreed to repay the loan. 


Check for other fees that may significantly increase the total amount you need to repay. It's easy to overlook these fees. Be sure to consider returned check fees, administration fees, late payment fees, origination fees, repayment fees, and other fees.

Benefits & protections

What benefits does the loan offer? Do you get an interest rate discount for making automatic monthly payment by debit? Are there any reward programs available? Also, what protections are in place on the loan? What are the deferment and forbearance options? Are there extended or income-based repayment plans? What happens if the student or parent becomes deceased? It is important to know what happens if you land in an unfortunate and unexpected situation. Consider the answers to these questions when you are determining the overall best loans for your family. 

Topics: student loans, student borrowing, student debt, student loan, student lending, education loans, private loans, college loan, education loan, private student loans

Appealing Your Financial Aid Award

Posted by Lindie Johnson

Apr 17, 2014 10:50:00 AM

Finally, it happened! Your child received his or her acceptance letter. And with it came what you were waiting for - the financial aid award letter. Lots of parents are surprised to see what the school offered and sometimes were excepting to contribute less to tuition costs than indicated on the financial aid award letter. If you fall under this category, you don’t have to just accept the award as it. The award letter is just an offer. You can accept, decline or appeal any part of the financial aid award.

1. Contact the financial aid office.

Every financial aid office has specific rules about appealing a financial aid award letter. These rules are called appeal procedures. As the parent, you will likely want to handle this part instead of letting your child appeal. Also, you may want to call or go to the financial aid office in person rather than emailing them. It might help you get quicker results. InstitutionalGrants

When discussing the appeal, tell the financial aid officer exactly what you expected. You don’t want to be harsh or nasty. Just let him or her know that you believe you deserve a specific dollar amount. You want to use terms that include special circumstances. When a financial aid office calculates a financial aid award, it uses information from the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FASFA) and sometimes from the CSS Profile as well. Your circumstances may have changed since those forms were filed. Special circumstances gives the financial aid office a way to recalculate your child’s financial aid award letter.

Some special circumstances include:

  • You or your spouse losing a source of income (job, child support, social security benefits).
  • You or your spouse being enrolled in a degree program.
  • Bankruptcy.
  • Remarriage.
  • Divorce.
  • Elder care expenses (you are taking care of a relative).
  • Illness.

A financial aid office doesn’t include things like standard of living, paying money to your church or vacation expenses as special circumstances (although it would be nice!).

2. Tell the financial aid representative exactly what you want.

You want to know the procedures to appeal the financial aid award letter. This may be a certain appeals form or a letter you must write. Depending on the school, it may be both. So once the financial aid representative tells you about the appeals process and deadlines, request the needed form. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget.

3. Use correct terminology when discussing the financial aid award letter appeal.

Whether you are talking to the financial aid representatives or writing an appeal letter, use the right terminology. For instance, if you have to write a letter you want to start with the fact that you are requesting reconsideration of aid offered to your child. Be clear about why you are making the request. Try to avoid phrases like "negotiate," "bargain," "re-do" or "money your child deserves" in your request.  

Remember to provide specific documentation to support your appeal. For example, if you lost your job, you want to include your last pay stub or unemployment documents. A financial aid office won’t take your word alone regarding a change in circumstances. Always be specific as you can regarding the details that changed your finances.

4. Complete the appeals process on time.

The majority of schools have a deadline for appealing financial aid. You don’t want to wait until it’s time for your son or daughter to start school. Pay attention to the deadline the financial aid office provides and adhere to it. 

5. Submit the appeal.

Once you submit the financial aid award letter appeal, ask when to expect a decision. The appeals committee typically decides each appeal in categories. For instance, they may make decisions on transfer students at a different time than early admittance. The time may vary by date.

Remember a financial aid award letter is an offer that may be changeable depending on your financial circumstances. The important part of the appeals process is documenting the need for more financial aid for your child. Without documentation, you may not have a positive outcome.

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Topics: financial aid, college financial aid, Financial Aid Award Letters, award letters