College financial aid help

March 29, 2009 5:34:40 AM PDT
Now is the time when students in our area are receiving their college acceptance letters. With that, comes questions on how to finance it all. Rod Bugarin, counselor and financial aid advisor with IvyWise, joined us with tips on how families can negotiate for the best financial aid package. What do colleges consider when awarding financial aid?
Financial aid officers award aid using a methodology that primarily evaluates five variables: 1) income (taxed and untaxed); 2) taxes; 3) how many members are in a student's family 4) non-retirement assets; 5) the number of children enrolled in college concurrently.

What type of aid is available to students?
Financial aid is awarded in three areas. First, students can apply for scholarships and grants. Given by need and/or merit, these are monies that do not need to be paid back. A second form of financial aid is work-study. These are funds that the student should earn through campus employment during the academic year. Lastly, a college may award loans. Loans can be awarded to the student and/or parent and can come from several sources: the federal government, private banks, or the institution itself.

High school seniors are receiving their college acceptance letters and financial aid packages now. Can anything be done if families find they need more financial aid then the college is offering?
Yes. If a family isn't satisfied with a college's initial offer, then they need to pick up the phone and speak to their assigned financial aid officer. These professionals are there to help make a college education feasible.

So students can ask to have their financial aid awards reevaluated?
Absolutely. Once a family understands how their child's financial aid award was determined, it would be smart for families to share new information that would increase their eligibility for need or merit based aid. At IvyWise, we encourage our students to have individual conversations with financial aid officers as soon as possible and not wait till the last minute.

What tips do you have for students?
First, many financial aid applications were processed before a family completed their 2009 Federal Tax return. So, it is a good idea to have parents file their federal taxes before having a conversation with the financial aid office. Second, let your financial aid officer know about any changes to your financial situation since your application was submitted. For example, you may have a financial aid offer from a comparable institution that varies greatly. Sharing this information might yield in additional financial aid. Finally, let your financial aid officer know if there are any mitigating circumstances that has an impact on your family's ability to pay for your child's education in the next four years. Usually, eligibility for financial aid is based on historical information. Thus, make sure the financial aid officers have the most accurate information about your family's financial profile.

Are there any negative consequences of asking for more financial aid?
In most cases, it does not hurt to ask for a reevaluation of your financial aid package. Financial aid officers enjoy helping students and parents understand how financial aid is determined. Many times, students will receive better aid, more loans, grants and work study. However, be aware that if you submit new information to the financial aid officer, your financial aid award can be adjusted upward or downward.

Why is college, regardless of cost, a good investment?
College is an investment that pays off for the rest of your life. It's where you form your professional and social networks. And, the more you learn, the more you earn. We need to remind students and parents that over the course of one's lifetime, those with a 4-year college degree earn about half a million dollars more than those with just a high school diploma. For more information, visit