Can You Negotiate Merit Aid?

Financial aid -- need-based and merit -- is much on the minds of students and parents these days. As we get questions on these subjects, we will be posting responses here as blog post when we feel they may be helpful to a range of our readers  Today we answer one of our readers who posed this question in response to an earlier post titled "Can You Negotiate Merit Aid?"

Darryl wrote:  St.John University offered my son a 10k merit award. He also was accepted to Howard University. His first choice is Howard. Can I use the 10k merit award from St. John University as a bargaining chip so Howard could match or make a counter-offer?

Different colleges will handle this differently. Some schools will be flexible. For other schools, merit aid awards are final and non-negotiable, as noted by Purdue University's Pamela Horne in the article in this post.

However, colleges usually welcome all information about a student's financial situation. So it doesn't hurt to ask. But how you approach the college is key.

Try calling the financial aid office at Howard and explaining that your son really hopes to go there but was offered a $10K merit award from St. John. Explain that you hate for him to have to attend there versus where he most wants to go (Howard), but you really can't afford to walk away from $40K. Then ask if there is anything they can do.

Let the financial aid office know how much you appreciate their time and their assistance - and be careful not to make them feel as if you are bargaining. Simply be straightforward, direct and respectful (of the financial aid officer and of the colleges), letting them know what is happening for you as a family and whether there is anything they can do to help your son attend his first choice school.

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