More Financial Aid for College with Appeals

The financial aid for college process now includes a long-overlooked step: the award appeal. With encouragement by government officials and financial aid administrators, this step has resulted in students getting increased federal, state and institutional aid.

Albany, NY – June 10, 2010 (PressReleasePivot) — Seeking financial aid for college is not necessarily a process that ends with receiving an award letter from the school. More and more, students are successfully appealing their initial awards. The key to a successful appeal is to understand the rules that govern the process and to know how to apply them.

While the rules (Section 479A of the Higher Education Act of 1965) have always allowed adjustments to be made to a student’s financial aid for college (, the Obama administration’s U.S. Department of Education has continually reminded financial aid administrators of this option.

Beginning in April 2009, the Department of Education issued a series of “Dear Colleague Letters”, update announcements, recorded training sessions, and amendments to the FSA handbook which reflected a new emphasis on the role of professional judgement in determining financial aid awards. At first, financial aid administrators were reluctant to use their authority to increase aid for more students (fearing that this activity would trigger higher levels of federal scrutiny) but the Department took action to remove this obstacle:

“We know that many financial aid administrators have been reluctant to use professional judgement because the Department has used the percentage of students for whom a professional judgement determination has been made as part of its risk-based model to select institutions for program reviews. For the 2008-09 and 2009-10 award years*, the Department will make appropriate adjustments to its risk-based model.”

Secretary Arne Duncan
May 8, 2009

– This has been extended to the 2010-2011 award year and to future award years.

This development has not gone unnoticed by financial aid consultants. The industry, which had formerly concentrated on helping families prepare and file FAFSA’s, expanded their efforts to include the composing of customized financial aid appeal letters. While there are no reliable statistics concerning the number of students who have received more money for college on appeal, most consultants offer a 100% money-back guarantee- an indication that the financial aid appeal letter ( is a successful tactic.

Families who wish to submit their own financial aid appeals need to know several things:

An appeal can only be based on special individual circumstances that differentiate the student.

A financial aid administrator cannot alter federal methodology or federal eligibility rules to grant an appeal.

An appeal cannot be granted for more than one school year at a time and cannot be granted for a previous school year once the term has ended.

An appeal can only be granted if the appropriate documentation is submitted to the financial aid office.

In addition, each school has its own forms, procedures, and rules for appealing financial aid for college. Learning these and knowing which type of adjustment to ask for, for each type of situation will increase the chances of approval by the college financial aid office.

Students and their families can learn more about the regulations and guidelines for financial aid appeals at (, a website that provides up-to-date, detailed information about how to meet college costs.


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