College acceptance letters are out and decision day is looming which is prompting some students to hire professional hagglers to negotiate their financial aid packages.
Most families sending a child off to college for the first time don’t realize that paying the sticker price for college isn’t a foregone conclusion. With that in mind, there is room to get some discounts and more financial aid which has prompted some to turn to help. After all, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is complicated enough, but appealing for an aid package from a school can be downright impossible. Despite the difficulty, pulling it off can save big bucks.
Take a professional college tuition haggler, Joel Peck. The certified public accountant who advises on college admissions told the New York Times that haggling could lower the cost of tuition by anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. With the prospect for some serious discounts, some families are paying for professional hagglers—Peck charges as much as $1,300—which is well worth it if families can save several thousands of dollars in tuition each year.
Peck isn’t alone in offering professional haggling services to families with college bound children. According to the New York Times, which cited data from the Independent Educational Consultants Associations, the number of full time education advisers has skyrocketed during the last decade. Interestingly enough, the cost of a college education rose right along with it.
In 2005, there were 1,500 independent education advisers; in 2015, that figure stood at 8,000. Twice as many people do it on a part time basis or as a side gig, noted Mark Sklarow, the chief executive of the trade group. While Peck is charging as much as $1,300 for his services, the association says the median fee for college advising services is $4,600 with many charging on a per hour basis. The professional hagglers clearly aren’t for everyone. Sklarow told the New York Times that the main people using this service are families with a child in a big public high school in an affluent neighborhood who is gearing up to attend a private college or university.
These professional hagglers may see increased business this year as the number of appeals is expected to increase thanks to changes in the FAFSA application. Families can now file paperwork earlier than in the past and base it on the tax returns from two years ago. By using older information, families can appeal on the basis that the college financial aid award wasn’t based on the most up to date financial situation for a college bound student. Also, a potential driver of appeals: cuts in student aid programs under President Trump’s proposed budget. Moreover, there have been rumors swirling of increased privatization of student loans in the United States. If that actually ends up happening, more families could appeal their awards.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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