A College’s Bait & Switch

Your child was accepted to a college which offered a financial aid package. And chances are good that the last paragraph of the award notice stated that the offer was good for all 4 years if a certain minimum GPA is maintained.

So far, so good. Everyone is clear on what is expected.

CAUTION: Some colleges do NOT write in this last paragraph for a reason: money. Their money. Money they don’t want to give away next year.

If your student’s award letter has no mention of maintaining a minimum GPA all four years of college, call the college and ask for the Director of Financial Aid. Ask if the award amount you received is guaranteed all 4 years. If the answer is “Yes,” but you don’t see it in the letter, it’s possible that it’s stated in the school’s financial aid policy statement. “Possible” means you’d better find out soon.

If you have access to the college’s policy statement on financial aid, but you see no mention of a guarantee for all 4 years based on a minimum GPA, ask for an email confirmation of the director’s “Yes” to be sent as soon as you conclude the conversation. If you don’t receive the confirmation within 5 days, call back the same person and discretely and gently ask for the email confirmation again. The email acts as a legal document in case you need it later.

I bet you see where this is going. Protect yourself against the possibility that the school is pulling a fast one. Most colleges don’t use this tactic, but if you don’t notice it, what will be your explanation to your child next year if there’s not enough financial aid coming from the school in the second year? What will be your recourse if the school says that they have a policy of not guaranteeing a similar aid package based on a minimum GPA, and that it isn’t their fault if you didn’t notice?

The devil is in the details.