Financial Wrongs from the Past

graduating studentI recently found out that my family got kinda screwed over by the financial aid office at my college.  I don’t know if my parents were mad about it at the time because they didn’t discuss it with me – when my dad mentioned it to me over this last Thanksgiving he seemed pretty casual so I don’t think they’re still hurt about it.


I received one merit scholarship from my college for about 25% of the cost of tuition and room and board – so that’s great.  But apparently there was another scholarship that my parents thought I should have received, again for 25% of the cost.  The scholarship was supposed to be given to all accepted students whose high school class ranks were in the top 10% and scored a 1450 on their SATs.  (Kyle confirmed these details.)


My SATs were high enough to qualify, but there was a problem with my class rank.  My high school did not rank its students.  This is a common practice among magnet schools – they want to foster a collaborative instead of competitive environment and they don’t want to penalize the students with lower GPAs just for having qualified classmates.  Only the top couple percent of students in my school district gained admission to my high school, so I think it would be clear that in a typical, ranked environment my GPA would almost certainly have been in the top 10%.  I have even been told directly by admissions representatives at my college that they recruit heavily from my high school because they recognize its value.  Yet they did not award me the scholarship.


This attitude of my college to follow the letter of the qualifications (kind of – not to make an exception, at least) instead of the spirit (of recruiting top applicants) cost my parents about $40,000 plus interest.  That is just a mind-blowing sum!  I guess I’m not too mad about it because my parents were the ones paying the extra money, not me, and it happened so long ago.  I suppose it worked out well for the school, because I attended even without the additional scholarship.


I still love my alma mater and am very proud to be a graduate.  I wish they hadn’t (IMO) overcharged my parents, but all the debt is paid now so I guess it’s water under the bridge.


Have you ever experienced a major financial wrong/slight?  Do you still feel like a victim or have you moved past it?  Were you satisfied with the financial aid packages you were offered?


photo from Free Digital Photos


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19 Responses to "Financial Wrongs from the Past"

  1. A financial wrong from an institution like your college sucks, but I think that’s much easier to get over than when it comes from a friend or family member. I’ve experienced that type of wrong, and even though the dollar amount is smaller than what your parents lost out on, it’s been a symptom of bigger issues and has really caused a rift in the relationship. It feels too personal to let go of easily.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..A Love Hate Relationship With An Older Home

    1. Emily says:

      I agree. When you get screwed by an institution it’s not personal, but when it happens by someone you know the hurt is mostly personal. I’ve seen this happen in my family as well, though thankfully not to me personally yet.

  2. Emily too says:

    Wow – did your parents get in touch and bug them about it? They could’ve said something like “it’s not per district, it’s per school, and we need documentation,” but would’ve been worth a try. Still, 25% off isn’t bad!

    My parents were very open with me about college costs, their savings for it, and financial aid at the time, which made a difference to me in deciding which school to go to. When I did decide, my parents got in touch with the college to explain to them some family circumstances that might affect the need-based aid calculation (e.g. one of them had just lost a job, so our expected income for the next year was a lot less than the previous, and some of their savings was not actually accessible for college because it was a trust for a disabled family member). The college revised the amount they asked for downward, which my parents felt was fair and helpful, so when it got revised up again after circumstances changed for the better, they had no problem with that.

    The takeaway here is that even colleges without merit scholarships can give great financial aid, but also that it’s ok to argue with their breakdowns if you have good reasoning and documentation. I have a lot of friends whose parents restricted their choices to places with low sticker prices because they didn’t know how financial aid worked.

    1. Emily says:

      Oh yeah, my parents definitely made their case to the financial aid office. They told me at the time about going back to try to negotiate more out of the financial aid package, I just didn’t realize at the time that this scholarship was part of what they talked about. I don’t think any of their requests/explanations were successful. They really kept me in the dark, though, and I only found out what they actually paid after I graduated. I think we’ll behave more like your parents did, being open with our children about the cost of college and our ability to provide. I think my parents just didn’t want me to concern myself with it.

  3. Unfortunately all I got from my school was loans. I had to fight them tooth and nail to offer me some of those too. We had a blended family and that caused all sorts of issues in the FA departments minds. I understand they have to do their due diligence, but it just seemed a bit over the top. Thankfully they’re all paid off now.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Taking The Plunge is Not Just For Polar Bears – Part 1

    1. Emily says:

      I think it can get really complicated with blended families in terms of calculating expected financial contribution, but even with intact families, high-earning parents can simply choose not to help at all, which really screws over their children from an aid perspective. It’s probably rare that anyone is ecstatic about what they are offered! Even though I got the one scholarship and some loans, the cash price to my parents and their parent loans were still enormous.

  4. That sucks but I guess it all worked out in the end.

    1. Emily says:

      Well… it passed, at any rate.

  5. eemusings says:

    I think it was nice of your parents to shield you a bit from that, whatever their reasons.

    I’m still a bit bitter over the $1k my old flatmate owes me (he’s a lifelong friend of my BF’s and they’ve recently started hanging out again) but I’ve more or less let it go. I certainly don’t expect to see money for those bills ever.

    Injustice rankles, but at some point in most cases it’s healthier to let go if possible.
    eemusings recently posted..Bullshit-free bride: Boiling it down to the essentials

    1. Emily says:

      So many relationships are spoiled by money issues! Have you considered telling your friend that you’ve forgiven the debt so it’s not on his mind anymore?

  6. I actually wrote about mine yesterday. My wife’s bankruptcy is the direct result of a lying used car salesman and a bank that refused to compromise.

    I had a similar (albeit much lower sum) experience. In NJ, there is a special scholarship for top high school students who go to college in state. It’s not much, just $1000. Then the school I went to also offered a merit scholarship. Based on my SAT scores and GPA, it was $3500. But apparently if you get the $1000 scholarship, it is included in the merit scholarship, even though if you didn’t get the award, your merit scholarship is the same amount!

    Your tuition and board was $40,000/year? Mine was was less than a quarter of that!
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..When there isn’t enough money at the end of the month

    1. Emily says:

      Ugh, dishonesty. That whole story is awful. I’m glad you guys have come out the other side of it.

      I think it’s pretty common for financial aid directly from universities – including scholarships – to be reduced by the amount giving by outside institutions. You just can’t win!

      Haha, yeah like 9 years ago it was $40k/yr – the school charges way more now! It’s consistently on the “most expensive colleges” lists, as well as the “best values” list because of the high starting/median salary of the graduates. My parents had always told me I could go whereever I wanted for college but didn’t realize what that promise entailed until they looked at the sticker price for the college I chose vs. at my in-state public school choice.

  7. My school’s financial aid office was hella generous (and my high school also didn’t do rankings… though I think in their official stuff they told schools we were all in the top 10%). But it’s the shining star instead of the tech school. 😉
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Thoughts on in-laws and Christmas presents for the kids

    1. Emily says:

      I’m sure my HS sent out some kind of explanation as to why they don’t rank, but I guess it wasn’t enough to convince my college to award the scholarship! Actually my college sends out a letter of explanation with all of our transcripts to explain why everyone’s GPAs are so low – but that’s a bit of a separate issue as they do calculate class ranks. I am grateful for the scholarship I did receive, although Kyle and I think that one is given just to female applicants!

  8. Wow, that’s crazy! I once had an overage on my semester’s tuition bill (got charged for an extra grad school class I wasn’t even enrolled in), but I was quick to have it remedied by the school. Sorry your parents got taken to the cleaners a bit from a glitch in the system!
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..$1400+ of Travel for $520

    1. Emily says:

      That’s good that your school was able to rectify their mistake quickly. I guess my college had an arguable case, even though I disagree with it.

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