Financial Aid Let Down

<p>I got accepted to CMU for engineering and art, both of which I intend to pursue in college. While this makes CMU nearly perfect match for me, the financial picture currently makes it impossible. </p>

<p>I just got my financial aid forms today and they expect me to pay over $45,000/year. There is no way that I can afford that without taking over $150,000 in loans which is unacceptable, especially since I will need to go to grad school afterward. Is there any way to get them to increase my aid? I am looking at the request for aid review, but they make it sound as though you need to have received aid from another private institution. </p>

<p>Unfortunately I was wait listed or denied at all of my top choice schools (wait listed at penn, columbia) and was only accepted to pitt or schreyers honors college. Since the other two schools where I was accepted are private, it does not look like CMU is inclined to provide more aid to give more aid. I only got the $3500 everyone gets at schreyers (now $21,000/year) and $2000 at pitt (now $22,000/year). Otherwise, of the over $100,000 of scholarships I have applied to, I have yet to receive even 1. My parents make about $180k, but due to other expenses (cars, house, loan, remodeling, siblings, retirement, health care, etc) and the market crash can only afford to give me about $5000/year. Personally, I only have a few thousand which will be eaten up by the time I furnish my dorm and purchase a laptop.</p>

<p>Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but I need some advice.</p>

<p>Try to appeal your financial aid decision I guess. Tell them about your difficulties and ask them to reconsider. It can't hurt to ask. =)</p>

<p>yeah, it can't hurt to ask... but $180,000 IS a lot of money, no matter how you slice it up :P I can understand if you had 100,000 but that's still a nice 6 figures.</p>

<p>it seems to be happening with alot of folks these days. economy tanks, people stop giving to endowments, financial aid suffers, we screwed.</p>

<p>it blows</p>

<p>I will certainly have to ask. Can I send in a letter explaining my situation? They only seem to ask for finaid packages from other private institutions which I do not have. </p>

<p>$180k seems like it would suffice, but my parents have made so many bad financial decisions over the past 10 years. My parents have not made a single wise investment and have not saved anything for me for college.</p>

<p>Anything that I should highlight to increase the likelihood of an increase? </p>

<p>Thanks</p>

<p>^yeah write them a letter. It can't hurt. I wrote a letter asking for more money due to financial circumstances to one of my schools and they granted more money, though barely anything more. I don't know if CMU would do the same.</p>

<p>I certainly feel for you. You do however have some good choices.</p>

<p>I do believe only financial statements from comparably priced schools (private) will work. But I don't think it would hurt for you to write a letter if that's all you've got...choose your words carefully. </p>

<p>I mean no disrespect to your parents, please understand that, but $5000 is a very minimal contribution for a combined income of $180,000, and from your posts you understand that. Unfortunately I think so will CMU and honestly I'd understand CMU's reluctance (they don't have a huge endowment). Still, I'd write them. Perhaps they can at least put CMU in the ballpark with PSU/Pitt. Good luck.</p>

<p>"Anything that I should highlight to increase the likelihood of an increase?"</p>

<p>jvgig, you are not alone with this problem...you are the offspring of the middle class and they were busy trying to keep up with the Jones (no disrepect intended).</p>

<p>While you do indeed seem to be a perfect fit for CMU, you also say you need to go to grad school. Keep in mind that your undergrad will pale in comparison to your master's or PhD school. By all means, be CAREFUL with taking on too much student loan debt...the banks are pushing the loans hard on 17-year-olds who NEED to go to a particular college and then upon graduation the debt is mountainous and stifling. Make sure you see the numbers and how much you will be paying back each month and how soon you will be required to start. (some terms don't let you off the hook during grad school). Banks are not consolidating debt like they used to.</p>

<p>If you were accepted to both the engineering and art departments, then you are a VERY desirable student. The cheaper schools know that and rewarded you in order to entice you. Perhaps you need to take a closer look at the other schools and realize that you can make the most of them and position yourself for some nice offers from your dream grad schools.</p>

<p>The other idea is to defer for a year and <em>gasp</em> WORK for $! I know this sounds crazy these days but it could be a very eye openning experience. Do you have a younger sibling? If so, and they are starting college next year, your EFC will be split and you will have more opportunity for aid at CMU.</p>

<p>Check this out:
<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/business/14year.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/business/14year.html&lt;/a> </p>

<p>I know this sounds radical, but your priority should be getting your grad degree if that's your goal.</p>

<p>I have no idea if CMU would let you defer a year, but many Ivys do and even encourage it.</p>

<p>You are obviously very smart. Now you are going to have to be creative. Don't give up...you have worked hard to get here. You are right when you say the $150k is unacceptable. It is!</p>

<p>Does your state have an honors program? Can you work a year and apply to that? </p>

<p>While it seems to be a big letdown to consider other options, in the end, when you are nearly debt free and have been offered a great position in a pretigious masters program despite on the struggles you endured, you will be much better off than MANY other young people who blindly accept ever loan offer handed to them to enroll at Private U and come out to no job prospects, and they are competing with high school grads for a job they are "over qualified" for.</p>

<p>Good luck...you are a smart guy.</p>

<p>deedles.....very sound advice!!!</p>

<p>Oh yes...I forgot another obvious alternative for CMU.</p>

<p><a href="http://www.cmu.edu/nrotc/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.cmu.edu/nrotc/&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Thanks for the advice. I have looked into several of those options, but due to the difference in age between me and my siblings, taking a gap year will not be helpful. I am working on a letter, but am not very optimistic that it will amount to anything. </p>

<p>Fortunately, Schreyers is a respected school and sends many of its students to top grad programs. Also, PSU has several top 10 engineering programs. While this eases any academic concerns, I am still a little worried about the student body. There is no denying that PSU has some very able students as can be noted by their honors school and the cars I see their graduates driving around, but overall, the average student is not of the same caliber as the average student at CMU. Truthfully, I hate being in the top 1% of my class.</p>

<p>Unfortunately, PSU or Pitt are nowhere near free, both will put me over $50k in debt upon graduation. While that is at least better compared to the $150k that CMU will dig, it will result in substantial financial hardships as the years go on and I have to make monthly payments on interest. I am beginning to feel as though I am in the worst possible financial situation. I cant get any aid or scholarships and I have no money set aside, but since there is a high number on the annual income line, schools have to assume that I can afford it. It seems as the only way to escape debt would be if my dad lost his job or if my mom got one. Neither were fond of the idea.</p>

<p>Without adequate parent support college is virtually impossible. I doubt you'll
get any more money from CMU. Options - huge loans from PSU or Pitt,
or go to local state or CC for a year or two before transferring. Your dad
losing his job would only make things worse. You could probably get 15 courses
done at a CC fairly quickly and still work a job before transferring out. Unless
your parents change their position you're looking at some tough choices.</p>

<p>I looked into local colleges for a senior year alternative and in all honesty, the professors are not very knowledgeable and the students are mainly high school students or those who could not even get a spot at a large state school. As an example, this year for math I ended up teaching myself linear algebra (MIT OCW) after leaning that the community colleges did not even offer the course due to lack of demand. If I even start back a few courses in math, I will already be at the upper end of the community college offerings. Similar story in science/engineering.</p>

<p>I have found through this process that the kids who are really screwed when it comes to college costs, are those whose parents are upper middle class or higher and are unwilling or unable to pay for their kids college. If your parents make less money, then just hold out your hands and grab the money that the colleges or the government are blessing you with. Apparently the colleges think that kids are all entitled to their parents money, and the student who is actually responsible for paying for it themselves are the ones who end up with the huge debt. Why it is acceptable for a student whose parents make a good living to end up with $150K+ debt after graduation, but a kid whose parents make a lower income can get a free ride and no debt is beyond me. They both end up with the same degree, the same jobs, but one kid is enslaved by the debt. Or their parents are.</p>

<p>Kind of like taxes. If you're rich, by definition, you might have enough money to pay for all those extra taxes coming. If you're middle class or lower, hey you're going to get a nice tax break (even if you have an enormous net worth). But if you're above that, you're getting it stuck to you (because you obviously didn't deserve to make that kind of money anyways). And you or your kid get to pay the entire college cost, too! Sometimes it pays to lose your job, good luck getting more aid!</p>

<p>jvgig, unless CMU comes through big time, it sounds like making Schreyer work is your best option at this point. Even if you get off the waitlists, odds are you'd be saddled with huge debt in order to make private school work for you. Anything approaching $150K is choking.</p>

<p>I hesitate to say this but I don't think 50K is out of line. I say this having seen my son, who graduated with 40K debt, repaying his loan without any great difficulty. Of course, each case is different. You need to determine what's your loan limit...run the numbers, see what monthly payments would be...you're basically taking a gamble---on yourself.</p>

<p>My family makes far less than half of what yours does yet I will probably graduate with about 75000 in debt. I asked my college counselor and he said that this wasn't an awful lot. </p>

<p>Alternatively, you could try and become independent over the next year. That way you will get a much better package if next year if you deferred for a year. Im not sure for how long you have to live without any help from your parents (maybe a few grand max) but you could find these things out.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Alternatively, you could try and become independent over the next year.

[/quote]

You can't 'become independent' for financial aid purposes. You either are or you aren't according to specific questions on FAFSA. The questions include age (over/under 24), marital status, having a dependent of your own etc. Not getting financial help from your parents will not make you independent. (My son returned to school after dropping out for 2 years - in that 2 years he worked full time, lived in his own place, payed all his own bills. For financial aid purposes he is still a dependent until he turns 24).</p>

<p>Unfortunately, CMU is fairly "young" even by U.S. standards: it dates back to the early 20th century only and just rose to national prominence (barely) two decades or so ago. As a result, the university has a relatively small endowment, which has got even smaller lately with the stock market crash, and cannot afford to offer generous financial aid. That is why it is so important for us alumni to give back to the university, even in those troubled times.</p>