How to Negotiate College Fees (2023) | Scholarship

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wait what? Yes, you read the title correctly. You can actually *negotiate* tuition fees for college.

If only it were as simple as asking colleges to lower your tuition. As silly as that may sound, it might be.

but how?

If you are wondering how to negotiate college fees, these tips are for you.

Are college tuition fees negotiable?

The short answer is yes, university fees are negotiable. Colleges don’t advertise this information publicly on their website, but smart students like you know your worth, and can advocate for yourself at the financial aid office. You can negotiate your tuition fees through:

  • Request a discount or additional scholarship
  • Appeal for a financial aid award

We will discuss these two methods in detail and the steps you can take to negotiate tuition fees at your college.

Get organized

Whichever method you choose, the first thing you need to do is get organized. No one makes a compelling case by crawling into a college financial aid office unannounced. Instead, be prepared and with relevant documents that will help make your application more legitimate. More on this later in the post.

Part of getting organized is knowing how much money you can afford to shell out. For this, you will most likely need to enlist your parents and find out together what that number is. You’ll want to look at things like living expenses and consider any outside financial assistance you’ve received, such as scholarships or grants. This can help you figure out the remaining amount you will have to pay yourself.

Another good idea is to know the price of tuition Other students were shown. If you know what other students have bargained for, you know the school may offer you the same.

Option 1 – Request a discount

Step 1 – Build your case

Why should a college lower your tuition fees? You may have several reasons:

  • Financial Need – Your family’s current financial situation may look very different than it did two years ago (which your FAFSA is based on.) This could be due to an ill family member, pending medical bills, unemployment, or a death in the family. Due to the ongoing pandemic, many families are in a very different financial situation now than they were before COVID.
  • Reasons for Merit – Do you excel in school or sports? You may be able to use this to convince the college that you are worth their investment.
  • Identification as Independent – Is your family unable or unwilling to support you? The FAFSA asks for your parents’ information but your financial aid office has the power to classify you as independent. To do this, you will need a letter from a psychologist, religious leader, or other official explaining your family situation. Be aware that “being homeless or at risk of homelessness” is a qualifying factor that can result in you being considered an independent student. If you are a “couch surfing” student who is staying with many friends or family because you are unable to live with your family, you can update your FAFSA to reflect that you meet this qualification.

Step 2 – Schedule a meeting

After organizing yourself and building your case, it’s time to schedule a meeting with a financial aid officer. To arrange a meeting, contact your school’s financial aid office and select the appropriate person to speak with. Write them a polite email asking if you can schedule a meeting either in person or virtually to discuss tuition at your college. Showing up to a financial aid office without a meeting appointment can be a waste of time.

Step 3 – Be confident

At the end of the day, you are a customer and the college wants your business. Believe in yourself that you deserve an additional scholarship or reduced tuition fees.

Part of being confident is knowing what you can give the school. Do you have a good or excellent average in sports? Do you participate in extracurricular activities? If you can present yourself well, the college is more likely to convince you that you will be an asset to the student body.

In addition, if you have a financial need, or are self-employed, be confident in your case and why you deserve a deduction.

Now that you’re organized and have some confidence under your belt, let’s get to the nitty gritty of negotiating college tuition – meeting with the financial aid officer.

Step 4 – Interview a financial aid officer

It’s time for a big day, your solemn meeting! If possible, attend the meeting with your parents. Smile and have a positive attitude. The financial aid officer will be more than willing to help you if you are respectful. Remember to act confident and worthy, but avoid appearing as entitled. We cannot stress this enough.

Step 5 – Questions to ask

In addition to their direct request for a reduction in tuition fees, you might also consider asking for flexible payment options:

  • Can you pay on a monthly basis? Your family may not be able to pay for college at once. But, can they afford tuition from month to month? You may be able to negotiate this.
  • Can you pay in advance? On the other hand, if you are able to pay the entire tuition fee up front, you may also be able to get a discount.

Option 2 – Appeal the Financial Aid Grant

The next way to lower your college tuition fees is by applying for a financial aid award. If the financial aid award you received is not sufficient, you can try to appeal it. If you are not sure how your financial aid award will be calculated, Read about it here. To appeal a financial aid award, first contact the financial aid office and ask them about the appeal application process. Usually, there will be a formal form that you will need to complete, after which you will also need to provide supporting evidence of why you feel your financial aid offer should be modified. Often, this “evidence” will include either a personal statement or a letter explaining your position. You can see a sample letter below.

In the letter, explain why you need more financial assistance. As mentioned earlier, there can be several reasons for this, including needs-based and merit-based reasons. Perhaps you have received better offers from other schools or have experienced a loss in the family. Whatever it is, include it in the letter.

Attach all documents you have that support your appeal to the letter. These may include your family’s bank statements, which show a change in finances, or your school’s records, which show your academic achievements.

Keep your message or personal statement short and to the point. Explain why you need or qualify for additional support based on your situation.

Include all the information you can think of

Do not leave anything out of your appeal letter. Are you a student from a disadvantaged community? Do you have a disability? Are your parents exposed to divorce? Was there another event that had a negative impact on you? These are all things that can support your argument and you’ll want to include this information in your letter.

Use offers from other schools

You can use the financial aid awards you have received from other schools as a way to convince the college to lower their tuition fees for you. Make sure to include awards in your letter. You can ask the college you hope to attend to match the offer you received from an affordable school. State the reasons why you would prefer to attend their college rather than the more affordable school. Emphasize that they are your first school but that price is a barrier to getting into their college. Show your commitment and desire to go to their college. This strategy will be most successful with private universities, but you can also try it with public universities.

be realistic

Be realistic about what you can pay. Many financial aid officers will want to help you, but they likely won’t be able to give you a full ride. Decide with your family how important price is in your decision. If that’s the most important factor (remember, spinning out thousands of dollars in debt is no fun), then Choose a school That’s more With generous financial aid Or try your luck at one of these Full scholarships.

Make your message personal

If you are writing resume letters to multiple colleges, make sure they are customized. What do you really like about that college? Be specific and avoid writing a generic letter that appears to have been sent to multiple colleges.

Don’t give up!

If the college rejects your application the first time, try negotiating again after a semester of schooling. They might change their mind if they had the extra space, or if you could show them how much you’ve accomplished since then.

Ask about other financial assistance options

If you are not successful in fulfilling your requests, all hope is not lost. There are tons of different ways to pay for college, including thousands of scholarships at Scholarship platform! Look at federalism Work study Or simply get a part-time job. Check out “side hustler” opportunities that can supplement your income, such as driving for a ride-sharing company or food delivery company.

Finally, although loans are not ideal, they can also help you pay for school as a last resort.

To help you with your financial aid appeal letter, here is a sample resume letter that you can use as a template.

Appeal letter template

Dear Mrs. Samson,

My name is Dan Coolidge and I am a student at Carlisle High School in Carlisle. I am so excited that you accepted me to be a student at the University of Iowa next semester.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t dreamed of this moment since I first visited my brother at the University of Iowa two years ago. I’d love nothing more than to join him on campus and cheer on the soccer team together.

I worked very hard during high school, as evidenced by my transcripts, which I have attached to this letter. I even started college with a few credits, thanks to my scores on my AP Record and AP Calculus exams.

[Use this paragraph to list valid reasons for a discount – in this example we’ll use unemployment of a parent, but make it unique to your situation] Unfortunately, my family’s financial situation took a huge hit this year. Unfortunately, my father lost his job in October of this year. This has greatly affected my family’s finances and of course our ability to afford both my brother and me for college at the same time.

I received an attractive scholarship from Drake University for $4,000 annually plus a $3,000 scholarship from Briarcliff University. I have attached these awards for you to see.

However, I still want to attend the University of Iowa where I plan to major in Finance. I heard you have a great program. I hope to learn a lot in the program and get an MBA one day.

I am writing this letter to ask you to consider reducing your college tuition fees. I’m $3,000 short. I am very grateful to be accepted into the University of Iowa and really hope to be able to enroll in the next academic year.

Please let me know if I can provide you with additional information.


Dan Coolidge

Final thoughts

It may feel awkward and intimidating to negotiate your financial aid and ask for what you want, but remember that most college staff are more than happy to try and help. While they may not be able to offer you a full ride, they can still help you lower your tuition and pursue your degree at their college. College is expensive and you really have nothing to lose by trying to negotiate. Many students succeed, so if you have a good reason, we think it’s definitely worth a try!

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