Part 1:  Tips for Appealing Your Financial Aid



Sometimes even after you have received all of the aid your school can provide to you there still is a good amount of money that is left to be paid. While some students are able to afford it, there are a handful of others are not. For those who aren’t capable, don’t lose hope just yet!

You may be able to appeal your award letter and possibly garner more funds through a process called professional judgment. Professional Judgment refers to the authority of a school’s financial aid administrator to make adjustments to the data elements on the FAFSA and to override a student’s dependency status. The school does not have the authority to change the need analysis formula itself or to make direct adjustments to the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Instead, the school may make adjustments to the inputs to the formula. The changes to the inputs are dictated by the impact of the special circumstances on the family’s income and assets. The standard formula is then applied to the new data elements, yielding a new EFC figure.

The decision of the financial aid administrator is final. There is no appeal. By law, neither the school’s president nor the US Department of Education can override the financial aid administrator’s decision. This was created because FAFSA does not cover every little detail  that can drastically alter your award letter. These rulings are based on a case by case basis, so just because one thing worked for someone you know doesn’t mean that it will work for you.

Here are a few tips for when you are pursuing a professional judgment:

  • Watch Your Language: Even though this is technically a negotiation, you do not want to say the word ‘negotiate.’ Instead, thank the financial aid office for what they’ve given you but highlight that you are still incapable of paying the remaining balance.
  • Be Friendly: These people hold your future in their hands. Come correct and be respectful. No need to offend the person you need assistance from.
  • Be Honest: There is no point in lying. Tell the truth and only the truth. Fabrication will get you a 20K fine and up to 5 years in prison. That is the last thing that you would want!
  • Be Specific: Let them know what the situation is, when it occurred, and how it is affecting and effecting you.
  • Provide Documentation: Be able to back up the things that you have claimed with the appropriate evidence.
  • Ensure Delivery: Make sure said documentation reaches the right people in a timely fashion!


*Information for this post was taken from the Black Enterprise Magazine, September 2011 Issue

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