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Overview of School Fee Waivers

When thinking about financial aid for colleges or career training schools, most people think of grants, scholarships or student loans. One form of financial aid that is often overlooked is fee waivers. Most programs have added fees in addition to tuition, which might include application fees, lab fees or book fees; in many cases, you can negotiate to have at least some of these fees reduced or waived completely.  Here is a brief overview of school fee waivers, how they work, and how to negotiate for them.


The first thing to recognize about most schools is that they want to try to enroll you as a student, because that’s how they stay in business.  If you qualify as a student on all other counts, the school does not necessarily want to lose you as a student over a few extra fees. You shouldn’t be arrogant about it, but if the fees could make the difference as to whether you attend, it’s fair to try and negotiate.  That said, here are some of the ways you can go about obtaining fee waivers:



Many schools are already prepared to waive fees for people in hardship or as an incentive to enroll, particularly when it comes to application fees.  Sometimes the application itself has provisions for fee waivers, and sometimes the school waives the fee when you apply online. Some schools also waive fees for children of alumni.  Find out if the school has a set policy for asking for a fee waiver, and follow the procedure.



The National Association for College Admission Counseling has a standard application fee waiver form available for qualifying students in hardship.  You can download and print it from their website, nacacnet.org. If you meet the qualifications to fill out the form, many schools recognize and honor this request.



Some states have special provisions about obtaining school fee waivers, ranging from hardship to disability to military service. Check with the department of education in your state of residence and/or the state where your school is located, and find out if there are any provisions you should know about.



Even if the school doesn’t have set policies for fee waivers, most schools still have some wiggle room on this issue, and will consider students on a case-by-case basis. It never hurts to ask (respectfully), so talk about your situation with the admissions representative and see if you can negotiate for a fee waiver.


One important tip with pursuing school fee waivers: don’t cross the school’s stated policy, and don’t request a fee waiver on a hardship basis if you honestly don’t qualify. Some schools will penalize your application if you present yourself as a hardship case when you really aren’t. Be forthright in your negotiations, and you’ll do better in the long run.

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