DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College, a three-campus community college in Maryland, said using the SwiftStudent tool was invisible to grant officials, but helped the students create a clear, comprehensive appeal.
“It enables and empowers students to stand up for themselves,” said Dr. Pollard.
In a survey last fall, college financial aid advisors reported a “remarkable” increase in requests for professional assessment reviews, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The group will conduct another survey next month to update their results.
Here are some questions and answers about financial support:
I am confused by my letters of help. How can I ensure that I am comparing offers correctly?
Colleges are encouraged to use standard auxiliary letter formats and avoid jargon, but not all do. Be careful to distinguish between “gift” aid such as grants and scholarships that do not have to be repaid and loans that do. Subtract the gift aid from the college’s cost of attendance – the total cost of tuition, housing, meals, books, and supplies – to get a net price. Do this for each school before considering how much of the cost you can recover from savings and income, and how much you would have to borrow to cover any deficits.
U.Aspire, a nonprofit committed to helping students afford college with less debt, has created a free online expense calculator that applicants can use to compare “apples to apples” offers of help. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also offers an online bid comparison tool and the Institute for College Access & Success has a leaflet.
And remember: you are under no obligation to borrow all or any of the loans included in your auxiliary letter, said Jessica Thompson, vice president at the institute. On the other hand, some colleges may not include the maximum federal student loan amount to which you are eligible. So if you think you may need to borrow more, give the financial help office a call to discuss your situation, she said.
What documents do I need to file an appeal?
Colleges differ in how they rate an appeal. But collect anything that indicates reduced hours or wages, such as letters from employers, pay slips or unemployment records, and medical bills to represent your case, Ms. Warick said.
Can I make a deposit in more than one college?
Colleges disapprove of this practice because you ultimately won’t be able to attend more than one college. If you make two deposits, another student – one on the waiting list or a late applicant – will not be offered a place, Hawkins said. It also affects less affluent applicants who may not be able to afford more than a security deposit. Therefore, members of the admissions advisory association advise against it, he said.