10 Tips for Getting More Financial Aid

During previous years when the economy was expanding, many people obtained student loans and spent grant money on non-education related expenses. In many cases, money was spent frivolously on such luxuries as vacations and extravagant weddings. Some parents took out loans on behalf of their children only to spend the money on things unrelated to their children's education.

However, during economic recessions, requested demand for aid often exceeds the available supply. To respond to the many student requests for additional financial aid, many colleges and universities make efforts to provide financial aid to students who've been affected by economic downturns. However, many people attempt to take advantage of a school's effort to provide more assistance in response to downturns in the economy by not fully disclosing income. This is illegal, and students caught concealing income to receive more aid can be denied it or be required to return any aid they've received.

Since the American economy has slipped deep into recession, there has been a large increase in demand for financial assistance at most universities and colleges around the nation. One financial aid officer has stated that approved aid is up by more than 30 percent from previous years. Likewise, students whose parents earned six-digit annual incomes in previous years are being awarded financial aid in the present environment. This is because of job losses and stock and other security equity losses during the recession. As a result, few, if any, requests for financial aid to spend on luxury or other non-education related expenses are being awarded.

During previous years, financial aid awarded to students was based on their parents' annual income during the year prior to applying for aid. However, in response to job losses and the overall economic downturn throughout the United States, the Department of Education is requesting that colleges and universities base their financial aid awards for students whose parents are unemployed on their parents' current salaries. Colleges and universities are also taking into consideration medical and other expenses that weren't reported in the past when determining financial aid awards.

The following are recommendations from experienced financial aid officers for college students in need of additional financial aid on top of what they've already received:

Do:

  • Complete and return all the required financial aid applications before deadlines, including the FAFSA. Also, complete and return the College Board's CSS/Financial Aid Profile if it's required. Before returning financial aid applications, review them carefully to ensure your parents' income from the previous year, or, if not required, your previous year's income is 100 percent accurate.

  • Carefully review information about financial aid provided by your school. Websites and brochures are great resources to learn about financial aid policies. Pay close attention to any special instructions on application forms.

  • If you require additional assistance, send a written request to the financial aid office requesting a professional judgment consideration. In your request, specify justifications for requested additional aid. However, avoid generalities and be very specific in why you require additional assistance. For example, if you're a single mother, instead of saying, I'm a single mother in need of additional assistance, detail your expenses and unusual circumstances.

  • Include copies of bills, W-2 forms, or other important documents with financial aid forms when requesting additional assistance.

  • Be very prompt in your request for additional assistance since most schools usually have a certain amount of money allocated for financial aid, and once it's spent, there is no more available. In some cases, students may be in a position to receive additional aid, but they applied late.

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