Short on College Funding at the Last Minute? Don’t Panic.

Empyrion Kimberly Foss - Short on College Funding at the Last Minute

The beginning of the fall semester for 2018 is practically upon us. In fact, in many college towns, it’s almost impossible to rent a moving trailer or truck because of the number of parents helping their kids get moved into the dorm, frat house, or off-campus housing.

For many other parents, time is running out to address the last few gaps in the financial arrangements for their student’s upcoming academic year. Even though everyone knows when the semester begins, for some the reality of educational sticker shock has only now become unavoidable. If you’re looking at the final bills for your child’s enrollment and wondering where the last few (or few thousand) dollars are coming from, you aren’t alone. Here are some ideas for rounding up the needed financing, even if it’s last-minute.

1. Ask for a payment plan.

If your student still has a balance due, even after the application of all financial aid and grants, you may be able to arrange a no-interest payment plan to liquidate the balance over several months instead of having to pay it all at once. Such plans are fairly common and can provide a more palatable alternative than either using a credit card (and typically paying high interest) or taking out some other type of loan.

2. Ask about scholarship cancellations.

Believe it or not, sometimes students who already have an aid package in place change their minds at the eleventh hour. Also, colleges sometimes receive unanticipated donations to boost the scholarship coffers. Either way, the financial aid office can suddenly find itself with additional funds. By contacting the financial aid office and asking about scholarship cancellations, you can sometimes capture a portion of the additional money your student needs to cover a remaining balance.

3. Appeal for additional aid.

Has your family’s financial situation changed materially since you filed the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA)? If so, you may want to contact the financial aid office at your student’s college and make an appeal for additional aid. Many financial aid offices have a “special circumstances form” that you can request in order to file and substantiate your last-minute request for additional aid.

4. Look for last-minute scholarships.

There are programs available with much later deadlines than you might expect. Sites like the College Board’s BigFuture search can help you locate legitimate scholarship opportunities and also avoid scams that promise to find scholarship money after payment of a fee.

5. Check out college work-study or other part-time employment.

Most campuses have employment opportunities for enrolled students and are willing to work around your child’s class schedule. And there may be other opportunities off-campus. If your student works even 8–12 hours per week, they can contribute significantly to their own expenses. Be careful, though: studies have shown that kids who work 20 or more hours per week make lower grades, on average, and are at higher risk of dropping out.

These are just a few quick ideas, and a call to the financial aid office at your child’s college may turn up additional solutions to your short-term college funding problem.

Stay Diversified, Stay Your Course!