As some colleges struggle, there may be an opportunity for more aid. Here’s how to negotiate


Stony Brook, N.Y. First day of the 2020 fall semester at Stony Brook University.

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Some of the most selective colleges and universities are seeing a surge in applications for incoming freshmen this fall. Yet other schools are struggling.

That may present an opportunity for families to try to get more money towards tuition.

“We could see a similar year to last year in terms of families having more consumer purchasing power, having some more leverage with those smaller, less selective, less well-known schools,” said Shannon Vasconcelos, who works with incoming freshmen and their families as director of college finance at Bright Horizons College Coach. She is also the former assistant director of financial aid at Tufts University.

“The schools are really dependent upon the tuition dollars,” she said.

The financial aid offices are very prepared for a big year of financial aid appeals.

Shannon Vasconcelos

Director of college finance at Bright Horizons College Coach

College applications are up by 10% this year, according to the Common Application, the most widely used college application. Yet those more selective public and private schools saw a 17% jump.

However, small institutions saw a decline across the board, except for the more selective private ones. Public school applications fell in both the more and less selective categories, by 3.76% and 4.71%, respectively, and applications to private, less selective colleges dropped 1.28%.

“Colleges and universities are businesses,” said certified financial planner Lawrence Sprung, president of Hauppauge, New York-based Mitlin Financial. “They are very well-run, well-oiled machines.

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“Like anything else, there are opportunities.”

Sprung is currently going through the process with his 17-year-old son. The pair plan to negotiate for a better financial package once his son receives the third and final acceptance letter they are hoping for.

However, there are different tactics to getting more money, depending on whether it is need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarship money.

Requesting more financial aid

Merit-based scholarships

As you await your acceptance letters, and before you start any negotiations, make sure you are already building a relationship with the schools’ admission offices, Sprung advised.

“Students should be in constant contact with the admissions counselors at their top schools to consistently show their interest,” he said.

When it comes time to request more scholarship money, reach out to the admissions office with a personalized message.



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