College Financial Aid: Navigating the Challenging Process

As the students from the class of 2021 approach graduation and head into the final stages of the college selection process, many families are sorting through financial aid packages which will have a huge impact on their decisions. As families attempt to navigate this often stressful process, few consider trying to negotiate tuition to receive a greater financial aid package. In fact, most families don’t know that financial aid packages can be negotiated. 

You read that correctly. College tuition and financial aid packages are negotiable. Many colleges are willing to bid against each other for desirable students. 

So, how do you negotiate college’s financial aid packages? Before we answer questions about negotiating tuition, we must eliminate preconceived notions about getting into college. 

Colleges and universities are businesses. First and foremost, their priority is to profit. While these institutions of higher education are designed to open up the minds of our high school graduates, providing them with new perspectives and offering students learning opportunities, colleges and universities must do this while they earn money. 

Like most other businesses, colleges and universities want to attract competitive, well-rounded students. Having a student body filled with high-achievers creates a more appealing profile for the college. As such, colleges and universities often offer more financial aid to exceptional students to attract these students away from their competitors. Based on this philosophy, many colleges and universities will reconsider financial aid packages to ensure that a more competitive student chooses their college.

While families and students typically view college as a short-term, high-priced investment, colleges and universities take a long-term view on investing in their students. Students are assets for colleges. If a student is successful at a college or university, he will graduate, find a well paying job, and donate money back to the college. In addition, schools are aware that alumni are more likely to have a child attend their school than someone who is not an alum.

The pandemic has increased applications to certain schools, but it has also left many schools with a smaller application pool. Across the country, applications from international students dropped almost 50%. And many state schools lost close to 20% of their out-of-state population. Many smaller, private colleges need students right now. All of these factors indicate that potential students have greater negotiating power with many schools. 

There are many factors associated with negotiating college tuition and financial aid packages. However, the first step is to reach out. Before families decide that they cannot afford a certain school, students should reach out to a college’s admissions and aid office to discuss their financial aid package. 

Todd is one of GAMECHANGER’s athletic recruitment and financial aid coaches. For more information, or to connect with Todd, email GAMECHANGER now.


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