Color of Money: If you're a middle-class family and can't afford the college sticker price, here's how to appeal for more financial aid

Michelle Singletary on

The key thing is to focus on factors beyond your control.

Q: My wife and I have a combined gross income that on paper looks like we won't qualify for need-based aid. But we live in the District of Columbia, where housing and the cost of living are extremely high. So how do you best explain that, while our salaries look great, practically we can't foot the $60,000-a-year full price of the college tuition?

Kantrowitz: College financial-aid administrators are aware of the impact of the high cost of living in certain geographic areas. Stanford University, for example, recently stopped considering the net worth of the family's principal place of residence because of recognition that the appreciation of home values has significantly outstripped increases in family income.

You could try appealing for more financial aid, but most colleges will not make an adjustment. The choice of residence is often seen as a discretionary one.

Q: Should I not appeal the already-appealed decision?


Kantrowitz: If you have new information or there has been a subsequent change in your family's situation since you filed the first appeal, you can appeal again. If you made an error in your original appeal, you can bring this to the financial-aid administrator's attention. But if there has been no change, nothing will be gained by appealing again, other than annoying the financial-aid administrator.


Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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