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  • Writer's pictureJason Flurry, CFP

Playing poker with college financial aid offices

Most colleges swear they don't negotiate financial aid awards, but more and more people are successfully calling their bluff - and winning big!

"We don't negotiate financial aid packages."

That's what many a financial aid officer will say. Liar, liar, pants on fire. That's my response. Because the simple fact is, colleges will often negotiate for a better financial aid package when parents or student initiate the conversation. They might not call it a negotiation. In their language it could be called something else like, "the appeals process," but whatever they want to call it, it is a negotiation. That's why this article I stumbled upon recently was really interesting.

In it, a financial aid officer flat out admits what I’ve been telling people for years - that colleges will negotiate their prices and that parents should do everything they can to get the best packages possible at each of the schools on their kids’ lists. In my experience, about 80% of the time, we can get more money for our clients just by asking for it. In other words, the award letter is not the end of the conversation. It is the beginning of the conversation!

When asked if college tuition is negotiable, Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, Vice President of Enrollment at Otterbein University in Westerville, OH answered, "Certainly. At some schools, it's very negotiable.”

But then not every aid officer is willing to admit that... Kudos to him for being honest.

Susan Dileno, Vice President of Enrollment at Ohio Wesleyan University also said, “You could say it's a buyer's market. We want students here. We want good students here. So we're willing to do our best to try and make it work for families. We are always open to taking a second look. If a family calls us and has a concern about the expected family contribution, or if they're looking at other packages and they're seeing quite a big differential between packages, and they're confused, we would encourage them to call, So I wouldn't say it's negotiable. But I think the better term is, there could be a "reconsideration" of aid."

A "reconsideration" of aid

Okay Susan, you can pretend it's not a negotiation if that helps you sleep at night - but it is. And it’s a process parents need guidance on in order to maximize their chances of success, especially if they haven’t done it before.

We have negotiated aid at dozens of colleges and universities ranging from the Ivy Leagues all the way down to the local college down the street. Every situation is different and the approach for some colleges differs greatly from others, but our average appeal usually yields over $4,800 in additional aid – free money for college.

If you’re not appealing your financial aid awards, you are likely leaving money on the table. If you don’t even know what an average award is based on the school’s history or on your family’s needs, you need to get answers to those questions today! Even merit awards can be negotiated when you have no financial needs. The colleges have the money. You just have to persuade them to share it with you and show them why it is a smart investment on their part to help you make college more affordable.

It's your play

Don’t be ignorant about this little known secret to saving money for college. Financial aid forms will only do so much for you. You have to take control and work your best offer to get the best results. If you want to learn more about how to do this like a boss, let me know.

Check out the full article here...



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