Will colleges negotiate financial aid packages?

by Grace

“We won’t ‘negotiate,’ but we might ‘review.”

Some colleges are open to “negotiating” their financial aid offers, but families should be careful in the language and manner of their approach.  From Smart Money:

So how do you request a “review”? When contacting your aid office to discuss your child’s package, start by avoiding such words as “negotiate” or “bargain,” says Virginia Tech’s Simmons, and don’t throw another school’s financial aid award in an officer’s face. Instead, thank them for their work and the school’s generosity, and follow up by expressing doubt at being able to meet your family’s contribution. If you haven’t already done so in writing, explain any special circumstances you have, such as recent unemployment, a death in the family or medical bills. Then politely ask if there’s anything the aid office can do to help. Once you’ve established a rapport with the officer, try casually mentioning that you have a competing offer and where else your student has been admitted. At the very least, aid officers may refer you to outside borrowing opportunities or payment plans.

I think it never hurts to ask.  Here are two schools that are unusually open about their policies.

Dartmouth College

What can admitted students do if they are not happy with their financial aid award?

The student should first contact the Financial Aid Office. In many cases, more information from the student or from his/her family, including copies of better packages from other schools, will result in award adjustments consistent with a fair and equitable treatment of all applicants. The Financial Aid Office will talk with families about financing options such as parent loan plans and monthly payment plans.

Carnegie Mellon University

We have been open about our willingness to review financial awards to compete with certain private institutions for students admitted under the regular decision plan. Unlike most institutions, the university states these principles openly to those offered first-year admission under the regular decision plan. While early decision students are not eligible to participate in this aid review process, we will meet their full demonstrated need as calculated by the university.

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