How to get more money: Navigating the ins and outs of the financial aid office

By Asah Whalen

When Owen Sandburn ’20 got the email from the Office of Student Financial Services in July asking whether or not he accepted certain aspects of his financial aid package, he immediately sent a letter to the office asking for additional help.

For Sandburn, like many students, the hardest part of college is figuring out how to pay for it. At St. Michael’s College more than 90 percent of the student body receive financial aid. As colleges and universities continue to raise tuition, families are seeking ways to lessen the financial burden. Most start by filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). But for many families, that isn’t enough.

Like Sandburn, they might add other approaches, including writing a letter to the Office of Financial Aid elaborating on their circumstances and why additional money would be helpful.

“Providing additional context to the FAFSA is important in making sure that students are able to maximize the amount of aid they can get from the school, said Director of the Office of Financial Aid Matthew Desorgher. “What we see in the FAFSA [are] your household income and maybe savings, things of that nature, but we know that every one of those has a story around it which can help us tailor what services we can provide to students and families.”

In the experience of Sandburn every time he has written a letter, it has been answered with an increase in his aid package.
“They always increase the cost of the school without increasing the aid, that’s where they get ya,” Sandburn said.

“Year after year if you send a letter to them they might give you more money so you don’t have to pay that cost increase.” He suggests touting your GPA and describing how great of a student and community member you are.

Desorgher pointed out that they are working with a tight amount of resources and they cannot meet every request. “We’re not holding anything back. We’re putting the money that we have available out to students by way of awards.”