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HOME > Money > Bridging the Financial Aid Gap

Bridging the Financial Aid Gap

(ARA) - For many college-bound students, the anticipation of higher education is overshadowed by financial anxieties. With tuition rising faster than financial aid dollars, more students are finding gaps in their financial aid packages. The gap appears when the studentís expected family contribution (EFC) plus the schoolís financial aid package donít equal the cost of attendance.

How can families bridge the gap? One way is to appeal the financial aid offer. If the collegeís package of loans, grants, scholarships and work-study come up short, meet with the financial aid office. Write a letter to request a meeting and explain why the school should consider adjusting your aid offer.

Some pointers for the meeting:

* Prepare documentation for the financial aid office to review in support of your case, particularly circumstances not revealed on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

* Demonstrate that your familyís financial circumstances have changed dramatically since you filed your FAFSA (i.e. death, unemployment, medical expenses).

* Different schools have different attitudes toward financial aid appeals. Some schools like to see the aid packages offered by other schools youíre considering, while others might be put off by its inclusion.

* Be courteous when requesting additional assistance. Youíre not trying to drive a bargain on a used car. Approach the aid officer as an ally, not an adversary.

Another approach to take is to look for scholarships. Conduct a free scholarship search on ( Searching an online database of more than 600,000 scholarships, you can quickly find out what scholarships you might qualify to apply for.

Consider a part-time job. If work-study isnít part of your aid package, ask if itís a possibility. Research the campus and surrounding community to find other viable employment options.

Get the most from your loans. First, be sure youíre borrowing the maximum you can in subsidized loans. For instance, Stafford loans allow dependant undergraduate students to borrow up to $2,625 their freshman year, $3,500 their sophomore year and $5,500 for each remaining year. You can find more student loan information at (

If you still donít have enough money to cover the gap after maximizing your subsidized loans, you can approach a private lender for a supplemental loan. This loan wonít have all the advantages of a Stafford loan, but it could get you to your dream school.

Reduce expenses. Explore ways to reduce the cost of attending school. Is the school in an area where the student might be able to live at home or with relatives? Can you meet the same academic goals at a lower cost institution? Consider accelerated programs where you might complete a degree in three years rather than four; or the idea of attending a community college for two years, then transferring in to complete your degree.

Courtesy of ARA Content 2005. All Rights Reserved.