Understanding college costs and the difference between tuition negotiation and professional judgment
March 02, 2021
Controlling the cost of higher education is an issue on the minds of many students and parents – especially as many people face economic losses due to the pandemic.
The cost of an education can be controlled by taking actions, like choosing a less expensive college, staying at home and attending a local institution, or attending two years at a community or junior college and then transferring to a four-year institution.
In addition to those steps, students can ask the college to reduce the tuition costs or ask for more financial aid. While both actions could result in less educational costs for the students, there is a difference between asking for reduced tuition (also known as negotiating tuition) and asking for more financial aid funds (also known as asking for a financial aid review or professional judgment):
- Tuition negotiation – Many students don’t pay the sticker price for a college education because they receive institutional scholarships, not because the actual the cost has been lowered. Still, the student can ask for more institutional funding to help cover some of their tuition costs. Before doing so, the student should review the average amount of institutional scholarships awarded by the college. The information can be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator website. Along with that information, the student should be prepared to present information as to why they should receive lower tuition, such as their potential for success at the institution.
- Financial aid reviews or professional judgment – Financial aid reviews or professional judgment are used by financial aid offices to adjust a student’s eligibility for financial aid if they have special circumstances like job loss or unusual medical expenses. It must be done on a case-by-case basis and it must be unusual circumstances that affect a student’s ability to pay educational expenses. Because of job losses and other economic situations in the past year, many students have been seeking professional judgment.
Students can also work while they are in school to fund some of their college costs. The number of hours worked per week will depend on the student's courseload and other factors, but typically it is recommended that full-time college students work no more than 20 hours per week.