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Financial Aid Horror Story

SemioverachieverSemioverachiever Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
edited April 2012 in Cornell University
Today I finally received my financial aid offer for Cornell University and I started to cry.

With a total income of less than 20k and an unemployed parent, my family is still expected to contribute $10,000 annually in addition to half that in loans + work-study. I was shocked, since I was expecting something like Micah's in the example: http://www.finaid.cornell.edu/types-aid/financial-aid-examples.
It turns out my dad (my noncustodial parent), who won't be paying a penny towards my education and has just gotten married again for the third time, is expected to pay most of this contribution. Because he won't, my mother will have to shoulder this burden instead, as Cornell disregards any court agreements between the two parents concerning college tuition payments.

On the other hand, for Berkeley, I only need to pay $5000 in loans and $3000 through work-study. The burden is completely on me, but I don't care as long as it doesn't affect my family.

What can I do? I would love to attend Cornell, but it's just not affordable at all. Is this something I can appeal? Maybe convert family contribution to more loans? Could I show them Berkeley's offer and ask them to match it, or at least lower the family contribution?

Please, advice is much appreciated.
Post edited by Semioverachiever on

Replies to: Financial Aid Horror Story

  • ColeneColene - Posts: 959 Member
    Are you an international applicant? Because if your reported family income is less than 70k/year, you should be able to get a full ride. If you are a domestic applicant, you should be able to contend with the financial aid office and get your aid. If you are an international applicant in any sense (You can still be an international even though you apply from the States), then it's harder to argue.
  • SemioverachieverSemioverachiever Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    No, I'm definitely not an international student in any vague sense of the word. Also, my reported custodial family income is far less than 70k/yr, and my noncustodial family income is less than that as well, but combined the two incomes just exceed 75k. However, I don't know my noncustodial parent very well and he will not pay for my tuition, but Cornell doesn't take that into account.
  • violaoviolao Registered User Posts: 107 Junior Member
    Appeal -- write a letter stating the facts and get a second person, counselor or clergy or someone to back up your words. Send the Berkeley offer as well. GOOD LUCK!
  • SemioverachieverSemioverachiever Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    Thanks violao --I will definitely appeal, though when I called earlier today the financial aid advisers said that the noncustodial parent is expected to contribute, and if he refuses or there is a court agreement there's still nothing that they can do. Also, how should I let them know of the Berkeley offer, since the financial aid information is completely online? Would it be too informal just to detail it through an email? Would snail mail be too slow?
  • norcalguynorcalguy Registered User Posts: 7,548 Senior Member
    I highly doubt that Cornell will match the offer of your state school. That's a little unfair to ask of Cornell. If you don't want to pay the family contribution, you can ask Cornell for some work study or take out a private loan for $5k in order to reduce the family contribution closer to what Berkeley was asking.
  • cortana431cortana431 - Posts: 5,015 Senior Member
    ^Might be. Is it possible for you to send a picture of the Berkeley offer through email? I doubt that they will match it; Cornell states that they only match financial aid offers from any other Ivy league school, MIT, Duke, and Stanford. Although Berkeley is a great school and definitely of the same caliber- maybe cornell will match some of it anyway.

    However, I think you should at least start preparing yourself for the possibility that you may not go to Cornell and to start focusing on Berkeley. It seems unlikely that Cornell will give up your offer considerably; they usually dont unless there was a serious change in the family's financial situation.
  • violaoviolao Registered User Posts: 107 Junior Member
    Scan the offer and attach that in your email. It isn't to get a match but rather to show that Berkeley has excluded your noncustodial parent. Write a factual letter stating your situation and send it to the FA person with your file.. If you do not know your non-custodial parent well and this is a case of abandonment, then state that in the letter and again get another letter emailed from a clergyman, counselor or someone similar backing you up. Berkeley is a great school so all is not lost if you are not successful.
  • NJMom23NJMom23 Registered User Posts: 127 Junior Member
    So what is the total you are expected to pay... Including all loans and work study- $10,000? What is your major?
  • SemioverachieverSemioverachiever Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    Engineering, and about $15,000, which is a little less than what my family makes annually.
  • DarkIceDarkIce Registered User Posts: 299 Junior Member
    I had the same issue - my mother's income was less than 40K, but my father (divorced) was making about 500K per year and is a multi-millionaire...but we have nothing to do with each other. I would have received no aid if he had to be taken into account, but there is a special form (it's available on Cornell's financial aid website) where you fill it out explaining you have no contact with your non-custodial parent. You must attach a letter from a counselor, clergy, or judge which essentially states the same thing. They will then disregard that parent - but it should have been done BEFORE you filled out the CSS profile and you shouldn't have included your father's info on that at all. I have no idea how to fix it AFTER the fact.
  • SemioverachieverSemioverachiever Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    I somehow thought my dad was going to actually make an effort to support me in college, but it turns out he only sent in his information because he thought I wouldn't be admitted to Cornell without it, and even though he won't speak to me or respond to my emails he still cares enough that I get accepted into college.
    So now I'm thinking of taking out extra loans, borrowing from family friends or relatives, and then working part-time to pay off the rest. I guess I'll just hope for the best, and go to Cornell anyway. Maybe next year they'll waive my noncustodial info if I show that I had taken the burden of my dad's entire expected contribution that he refused to pay?
  • 3togo3togo Registered User Posts: 5,233 Senior Member
    edited April 2012
    ^ this is bad plan. Non-custodial waivers are typically granted in cases such as parent abuse or where there has been no relationship at all for years ... and refusal to pay in not a reason for granting a non-custodial parent waiver. (Think about it for second ... if refusing to pay resulted in non-custodial waivers then tons of non-custodial parents would not pay so their kids could get financial aid). I would suggest you call the Cornell financial aid office to verify if your plan has a shot or not.
  • Saob12Saob12 Registered User Posts: 135 Junior Member
    ^^ I agree with 3togo. In many cases, if he has already filed his information, it is too late to get an NC waiver. While I don't think it's as extreme as he said, waivers are mostly granted for phone or written contact with the parent ~3 or less times a year. If the parent pays child support, it will need to have been court-ordered. Basically, the way Cornell sees it is, by submitting his information, he accepts the financial and moral responsibility of supporting you through college, whether or not he does in reality.

    However, that's just my experience with NC Waivers, so yours might be different. Best of luck to you.
  • bedmanbedman Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    @Colene: is this also for graduate students? I received merit-based aid of $25,000 but I have never heard any mention of need-based aid. I'd have to double check if my parents make over or under 70k though. (it's probably close)
  • norcalguynorcalguy Registered User Posts: 7,548 Senior Member
    I think that policy only applies to undergraduates and only for domestic applicants. There is not that much aid for international applicants.
This discussion has been closed.