Corrections That Make a Difference

1. Student A. was admitted to the University of Southern California. His parents were quite shocked when they received A.’s financial aid award from the university, and it showed they would owe almost $70,000 for his freshman year. After looking at the bill, A. was convinced he would have to attend community college due to the high cost.

A.’s parents owned their own business and had experienced a business loss of $150,000. Their income was not even 0, it was negative.

A’s mom decided to reach out to me because she saw one of my social media posts. She was quite skeptical that I could help her son. She had already reached out to the financial aid office at USC and they told her there was nothing that could be done.

After I reviewed A.’s student aid report from FAFSA and CSS Profile form, I realized the CSS Profile form incorrectly showed their business loss as income instead of as a loss. The system based the calculations on an income – not a loss – of $150,000. I drafted an appeal form to the financial aid office describing the CSS Profile form had an error and they should re-evaluate A.’s financial aid offer. The result was A. attending his dream college because the remaining balance of $60,000 was covered by the university.

2. Retirement rollover – I often get to share tears of joy with the families I work with after successfully executing their student’s college plans. But this time, the mom of a student was in tears of sorrow because she simply couldn’t afford her child’s college education while earning $35,000 annually. I carefully reviewed her child’s student aid report and realized when she used the Data Retrieval Tool, the system transferred her retirement rollover as an addition to her income. We were able to correct that with the financial aid office of the university and her son was able to attend college.

It is troubling to me that many students who are using the Data Retrieval Tool don’t know they may be disqualified for financial aid if their parents had retirement rollovers that year. I thought I would do everyone a favor by addressing that issue with the Department of Education and my local congressman.

Unfortunately, 7 years later, that issue is still not resolved. But I’ve been able to help families who are in the same circumstances receive what they are eligible for by finding this error and helping them correct it.