Updated February 2021
Q.The award letter is for next year only. Can we expect the same amount of financial aid every year?
A. The major factors considered in a need-based financial aid award include the cost of education (which may increase from year to year) as well as family income, assets, household size and number of family members in college. If costs go up and all of those other factors are consistent, you may qualify for additional aid to handle the additional costs.
If your income is decreasing due to a change in employment, as is happening with many families due to the pandemic, you may want to approach the Financial Aid Office earlier in the year and not wait for an annual application process. But those kinds of changes can certainly be taken into consideration during this annual check in.
On the other hand, if the student was awarded a merit scholarship from the college, they should pay close attention to the requirements needed to continue receiving the award. Requirements could include maintaining a minimum GPA or staying in a specific program of study. Not meeting these can mean losing the scholarship entirely and can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
Policies do vary from school to school especially regarding institutional financial aid. As you review financial aid awards, it’s a good idea to contact each college’s financial aid office to ask how these or other changes can impact the award moving forward.
Q.Do I have to accept loans or work study if included in the aid package?
A.Students can accept, decline or reduce any aid offered in the package. For example, if you have enough set aside in savings or prefer to use a payment plan offered through the college, you may decide to reduce or decline any interest-bearing loans. Likewise, If the student has a part-time or summer job to save for books and personal expenses, they may decide to forgo work study.
If borrowing is in the cards, make sure to compare all options before landing on your financing strategy, and consider maximizing federal student loan eligibility before turning to private education loans. Unlike many private loans, Federal Direct Loans have fixed interest rates and flexible repayment options including income-driven payment plans.
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