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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.

These fees can become extremely expensive, cost-prohibitive, and drag a student into a considerable amount of debt. In many cases, you can negotiate to have at least some of these fees reduced or waived completely. It sounds like you shouldn’t be able to, but you can. You’d be surprised how few people actually try.

That’s the key, though. You need to put yourself out there and explain your case. Most people don’t want to bring attention to themselves when they need assistance. 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 can use this to your advantage.

You can find ways around the system when you approach problems this way. 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. Just be honest. Approach a representative of the academic institution and explain your story.


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 for pursuing school fee waivers is 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.

The importance of being honest can’t be overstated. You’re in this institution to learn, to prepare yourself for the future. You’re someone who wants to acquire knowledge and skill. You’re someone who has a passion for a given subject. You’re not a grifter, you’re someone who is a genuine prospective student, act as such. 

The educational system in America has many flaws. It’s not set up to actually help people learn, it’s set up to make money. Plain and simple. That’s the truth of the matter. The college system especially is specifically set up to take people’s hopes and dreams and hold them for ransom against the realities of their current situation.

If you’re someone with a lower income background, it’s absolutely understandable why you would fight for your future. The system isn’t set up to help you, it’s set up to hinder you. So, be aware of that when you’re making your academic decisions.

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