Not rich enough to bribe your child's way into college? Here's some help to appeal for more financial aid

Posted3/23/2019 1:00 AM

In contrast to the reports that super-wealthy parents have paid six-figure bribes to get their children into the best universities, many families struggle to find the cash to pay for their children's education.

Part of the outrage over the college-admissions scandal - in which the FBI claims uber-rich parents spent a total of $25 million to get their children into elite colleges - is the amount of money that didn't go to pay for tuition, room and board.


In just a few weeks, families across the country will find out how much their children will receive in financial aid from the colleges where they were legitimately accepted. Immediately after these letters arrive, there will be shock and dismay, because, for many, it won't be enough. This will send students and their parents into a frenzy over how to persuade the colleges to give them more assistance.

Negotiating for additional financial aid isn't easy. Colleges are besieged with requests from financially strapped families with equally qualified students. But if you want to plead your case for more money, there's a way to strengthen your argument, according to Mark Kantrowitz, a leading expert on the college-finance process and publisher and vice president for, which provides information about 529 plans.

For this month's Color of Money Book Club, I've chosen Kantrowitz's new book, "How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid."

Of course, your child is brilliant. However, reiterating accomplishments isn't likely to make your case for more money. The appeals process is much more formulaic, Kantrowitz says.

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Here's the reality: Most demands for more money fail - miserably. Although appeals are seldom successful, you have a slightly better chance at private nonprofit schools and high-cost colleges, which often have a policy of providing more aid to needy students.

"Only about 1 percent of students nationwide receive adjustments to their financial-aid awards or packages each year as a result of a professional judgment review," Kantrowitz writes.

If, however, your financial circumstances have changed, it's worthwhile to submit an appeal. There are a number of special circumstances that can affect a family's ability to pay. These include a recent job loss or salary reduction, unusually high childcare expenses, or medical costs not covered by health insurance.

Kantrowitz provides very useful suggestions on writing an appeal letter, including the do's and don'ts. For example, don't ask for a specific amount of money. Do detail a significant financial hardship.


One thing families can do to make sure they get the most aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) correctly. Kantrowitz's book covers a lot of the common errors made on the FAFSA.

College can be frighteningly expensive. So, it pays to learn all you can about the financial-aid process.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

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