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Can’t Afford College Even With Financial Aid? Read This!

This article is slated to be updated with the latest FAFSA, Scholarship, and Financial Information. For more updated information, please refer to our 2023 and 2024 articles.

Many families think the financial aid process ends once a student accepts a financial aid package and enrolls in college. However, it turns out that contacting a school’s financial aid office can help a student stay in school when that package turns out to not be enough.

According to a recent report, money is the most common reason students drop out of college. In 2017, more than 38% of students cited financial pressure as the main reason for discontinuing their studies.

Although many colleges across the country have transitioned to remote learning, admissions and financial aid staff are still working and can assist families who are struggling to pay for their expenses. If you find yourself frustrated that you or your student can’t afford college even with financial aid, then we highly recommend that you contact your college’s financial aid office today to inquire about the following strategies for obtaining additional aid.

Can’t Afford College Even With Financial Aid? Contact Your College’s Financial Aid Office To Discuss These Strategies!

1. Ask about restructuring an award if your financial circumstances have changed.

If your family’s financial circumstances have changed, a school can often restructure a student’s financial aid package to make up for the family’s loss in income. This applies to both current and prospective students. Also, there is no time limit on appeals.

Reasons for an appeal typically include…

  • a job loss
  • unexpected medical expenses
  • illness that affects the ability to work
  • the death of a parent
  • if another comparable school your child is considering attending has offered a more attractive financial aid package

Consult the school’s website for their specific process of appealing an award.

2. Ask about adding a work-study option.

Just because your child’s original financial aid package didn’t come with a work-study option doesn’t mean they won’t qualify for one once they are on campus. Not everyone offered work-study accepts it, so the school may have surplus funds to offer your student.

The income from a work-study job can help your child cover expenses like food and books. As a bonus, unlike other part-time jobs, the money your student earns from work-study employment won’t factor into your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) when you fill out the FAFSA for the following year.

3. Ask about an emergency or short-term loan.

If your student just needs money to cover a one-time expense or shortfall, they might talk to their financial aid office about an emergency or short-term loan. Both loans are interest-free but need to be paid back in a short amount of time, typically 30 to 60 days, and come with a processing fee.

An emergency loan typically covers unexpected expenses while a short-term loan is restricted to education expenses, such as tuition. Either might be a good option in cases where a student needs to pay tuition to register for classes before their financial aid is finalized.

Because of the loans’ short-term nature, students should only rely on these options if they know they have money coming in to pay them back on time. If they fail to repay these loans by the deadline, a school can place their registration on hold. Not only that, the student may have to pay interest when they do eventually pay off the loan.

4. Ask about a grant.

Schools want to keep good students. If your child has a strong GPA but is struggling to pay for school, they may be offered a grant.

The amount will depend on factors like…

  • your financial circumstances
  • your student’s GPA
  • how much money the school has left in its fund for that academic year

If a student’s need isn’t immediate, they can explore options on their own such as scholarships offered through the school-specific to their major or outside scholarships. Keep in mind, though, that an outside scholarship can impact a student’s financial aid, reducing the package their school offers.

Take-Home Message

College is expensive, but families who do their homework can find ways to keep it from busting their budgets. Remember, it’s in a school’s best interest to remove financial barriers for your student.

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Billie Jo Weis

After receiving her BA in Accounting from San Jose State University and quickly attaining her CPA license, Billie Jo gained over 20 years of experience in accounting and finance at a variety of companies including Symantec Corp, Thomas Weisel Partners (a San Francisco investment firm), several Silicon Valley startups and at a Certified Public Accounting firm serving high net worth individuals with their taxes.

She has assisted hundreds of college-bound families with strategies on how to pay the least amount for college and she is also the Head of the Appeals Team.

Billie Jo Weis is a mother of three high school boys. With a passion for family success, she has devoted the past 15 years to her boys' athletic, social and academic lives, including volunteer work at her children’s schools with such programs as Junior Achievement.

Billie Jo is driven and passionate about helping families with financial strategies on how to find the most cost-efficient options to pay for college. With three teenagers in high school, Billie Jo knows first-hand the challenges and concerns of preparing for the cost of college.

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