If you're heading off to college this fall, but didn't get all the financial aid dollars you were hoping for, 2008 may be your lucky year.
And you have the weakened economy to thank for it.
Amid the credit crisis and lingering uncertainty over the nation's employment and housing markets, a record number of students this year applied to multiple schools, sending deposits in to lower-cost "safety" schools while they waited to find out what kind of loans, scholarships and grants their top-choice schools could cobble together.
As a result, the size of this year's "summer melt," a term used to describe students who send their deposits in to one school but select another one late in the game, is unusually large.
That creates headaches for admissions officers who need to budget for the size of their incoming freshman classes and decide how deep into their wait list they should dig.
It may also, however, create opportunity for some students to get more financial aid.
You have nothing to lose by asking for more financial aid, so take advantage of the summer melt.
Money talks "To fill their seats and bring in those qualified students, private colleges and universities, in particular, are more willing to sweeten the pot a little this year," says Chuck Moore, a college consultant in Louisville, Ky., who teaches a program on college affordability to high school guidance counselors.
"I've seen two or three cases this year where students ended up getting a better offer because they notified their school that they were admitted off a wait list from a better university," he says. "The (lower tier) school then notified them that they had 'found more money' in their budget for financial aid."
Another university this year with which Moore works closely fell far short of its enrollment goal.
"They called to tell me that if I knew any qualified students who wanted to attend they would give them an automatic $10,000 to $12,000 scholarship," he says. "I've been doing this for 26 years, and though colleges will always deny that they do this, it happens all the time."
Get your share According to Moore, students who are starting college this year and have need of additional aid should contact their financial aid officer and make their case for more money.
If you have other offers from competitive schools, be sure to let them know.
"You're never going to get a lesser offer by asking for additional money," says Moore. "Just ask. If you are a good academic student, and they know you have a better offer from a university they compete with, they may come up with more money."
David Hawkins, director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Alexandria, Va., agrees.