The award letters for colleges are arriving and with it come the detailed comparison of net price. It can be a very exciting time but it is also a time when emotions can distort the financial consequence of the decision. For many parents and students, this is the most important and maybe the most expensive decision they will make together.
For some families, a change in your financial status may have occurred since the submission of your FAFSA. For this reason, I will be reviewing reasons for appealing your financial aid award letter and will be including a sample letter titled, “Financial Aid Appeal letter” to use as a guide.
Reasons to Appeal Financial Aid Award Letter
There are several reasons or circumstances that may warrant a review of your award letter. Specifically, the family will need to list any financial changes that will hurt their ability to pay that college’s tuition. Here are changes that may have occurred since filing the FAFSA. Most of these events are due to a change in income or increase in personal expenses. Some of the possible reasons include:
- Parent losing a job or reduction of income
- Unexpected medical expenses
- Death of a parent
- A one-time increase in family’s income reflected in the based FAFSA year
- Support of an elderly parent
- Damage due to natural disaster
- Divorce or Separation
Steps in the Appeal Process
The first step for a family should be to contact the financial aid office. The appeal process is unique to each institution. Most colleges have a specific form that needs to be completed but some just require a formal letter.
The family needs to determine where the appeal letter needs to be directed to and list the specific information about the student. This typically will be the student’s name on the application and a student id number that was on the award letter. Part of the process also includes finding the relevant dates needed to process the appeal.
It is the responsibility of the family to justify any changes with hard financial facts for any appeal. For this reason, I always suggest that families include any financial numbers that show the adjustments in their income when submitting their appeal. We recommend that your appeal letter be short, polite and concise. It is highly recommended that the appeal include the numbers associated with the change. This will help the reader during the appeal process. An important fact to having success in the appeal process is to consider the reader when writing the appeal.
The financial aid office may request further documentation to support your appeal request. This means that third-party documentation of this adjusted income should be available to support your appeal. This process may take several weeks to review and if approved the family would receive a revised financial aid award letter.
One of the key documents to have ready is a family’s most current tax return. With the change to prior prior, the most current tax information is not used. By having the current tax return available, it will reflect the change and improve your chances of success. If you are considering appealing the financial award and are thinking about filing your taxes on extension, it may be a good idea to get them done during the appeal process. As stated above, having the current information may better support the appeal.
Professional Judgment Adjustment
During this process, a family may hear the word professional judgement in reference to their appeal. This refers to the ability of the financial aid administrators at the college to make adjustments to a student’s federal aid application (FAFSA) based on special financial circumstances provided by the family. It is important that the family knows that it is a professional judgment and not all changes in circumstance will result in a positive financial adjustment for the student. Depending on the college, each result can be different and will be based on their financial situation and the need of the college for the student.
Financial Aid Appeal Letter Sample
To help you better understand how you should format your appeal letter, I am going to give you a specific family situation.
A family filed taxes married/joint in tax year 2016. One of the spouses was recently laid off and this change occurred after the FAFSA filing. There is now a loss of income of $70,000 per year. This family’s Federal (FAFSA) Expected Family Contribution or EFC was $42,406 using the tax year 2016. If the college accepts the full impact of this loss of job, it could result in an EFC change of over $31,000. This would result in a significant change in the financial award letter for the student.
Appeal Letter based on above scenario:
Financial Aid Committee
Name of College
Address of College
Dear Financial Aid Committee,
My name is “Student Name”, and I will be a freshman student at your college beginning in September 2018. Since submitting the FAFSA, my family has had a significant change in our financial position due to my mother losing her job in December of 2017. This has resulted in the following change:
- Mother’s 2016 reported income on the FAFSA was $70,000. My mother was laid off from her job on 12/1/2017. Attached is her lay off letter.
Due to the loss of income, the FAFSA submitted does not accurately depict our family’s current financial situation. Our ability to pay for the current college expenses has been affected. Attached please find documentation that supports this extenuating circumstance. I appreciate you reviewing our special situation and appreciate a response to this request as soon as possible.
Student ID number if available
Student Phone Number
(Attach any financial documents that warrant a review of your financial changes)
If you are planning to appeal your financial aid award, I recommend that you start the process as soon as possible. As other student’s decline their offers, there may be new college money available and that may result in a favorable outcome for you. Ultimately, the professional judgement of the college will determine if your appeal request is successful. Providing the institution with the proper financial documents in a concise and easy to read appeal letter could be the key to your success.
You may want to view our Understanding Your College Financial Award Video. That resides on our You Tube Channel. Click the link to view.