College Scholarships: Can I Ask for More?

I heard this week from the mother of a college freshman at a private college in Texas, who posed this question:

Is there any possibility of the school renegotiating my son’s scholarship if we made less money in 2009?  Do most schools give money on a year-to-year basis?

Let me explain why the answer to both questions is yes.

First off, let me say that I have never seen a college student receive a higher non-need-based merit scholarship after his or her freshman year. Typically, the school will award a merit scholarship for a freshman and the amount will remain the same for four years. Often the student will keep this scholarship through college as long as he or she maintains a certain grade point average. These merit scholarships or grants are not based on a family’s need. Wealthy, as well as middle- and low-income students can earn these scholarships.

But this family could be in line for need-based scholarship money from the college because the family’s income dropped in 2009. A lower family income could qualify the student for need-based financial aid. And the best financial aid you can get from a school is a grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid.

Here are posts that I wrote recently that could be helpful in this situation:

Student Aid: 5 Ways to Negotiate for More Financial Aid

How to Decode a Financial Aid Letter

College Grants: Decoding a Financial Aid Letter Part II

A family won’t receive financial assistance, however, if a parent hasn’t filed out a financial aid application. Most schools only require the FAFSA, but a few hundred private schools also want to see the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.

Colleges make financial aid decisions on a year-to-year basis. So just because a family doesn’t qualify for financial aid one year doesn’t mean they won’t get it the next.

That’s my own situation this year. My daughter who is a junior at Juniata College, received a merit scholarship her freshman year. Because of our income, we didn’t qualify for need-based financial aid grants, but this year I’m hoping that we receive more money from the school. The reason is my son will be a college freshman in the fall. Having two students in college simultaneously will significantly increase a family’s chances of need-based financial aid.

Consequently, I filed the FAFSA for my daughter and son this year.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.

Read more:

7 Myths About Financial Aid

No. 1 FAFSA Myth: College Savings Are Penalized

Getting an Extra $30,000 from Rutgers

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