Around 10 percent of admitted students petition the Financial Aid Office each year in hopes of increasing the amount of aid that would be awarded to them if they came to Stanford, according to Karen Cooper, director of financial aid.
Members of the incoming fall class reported that additional funds received through the petition process made it financially possible for them to enroll at Stanford. Biola Maccaulay ’16 said that while her mother had to go in to talk to the Financial Aid Office in person, the process was relatively painless.
“They increased my aid a lot,” Maccaulay said. “It made it a lot easier to come to Stanford.”
Other students, however, questioned the fact that the award process takes place behind closed doors, which can lead to confusion and anger when awards are less than students expect. The Financial Aid Office said that the process seeks to be as equal to all families as possible — whether or not they submit a petition.
“We are always trying to be equitable to all of our families,” Cooper said. “Our goal is to treat the families who did petition and did not petition the same so that families who petition do not get special treatment.”
According to Cooper, petitions are evaluated in a manner similar to how the University initially determines aid.
For a student who does not receive any aid, the cost of attendance for the 2012-13 academic year will be $58,436. This may be partially or fully offset for students with financial need by the $125 million that will be spent on institutional scholarships next year.
Cooper reported that around $75 million of the money for financial aid comes from the Stanford endowment, while The Stanford Fund provides $15 million and unrestricted sources, such as the President’s Funds, support the rest.
While the Financial Aid Office uses a statistic called Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is supplied by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), to determine student eligibility for federal funds, the University uses its own algorithm to determine expected family contribution when awarding Stanford scholarship funds.
The Financial Aid Office tries to send all award notifications with students’ admissions offers. Cooper said that this allows time for students to petition for an increase in their award before the May 1 deadline to accept a Stanford offer of admission.
Stanford grants aid through a process similar to that of many top tier universities including Harvard and Yale, according to Cooper. She said unlike with federal funds, the University takes home equity into account, and looks more comprehensively at state taxes, which can make the EFC that Stanford calculates higher than the federal EFC.
Some students expressed satisfaction with the original amount granted for financial aid.
“I received more from Stanford than any other school,” said Jeremy Moffett ’16. “I did not petition because I was very happy with it.”
The University has a Financial Aid calculator on its website in order to give students a rough estimate of their award. Cooper said the calculator uses the same formula that the Office uses, but that actual awards are reviewed and edited by the staff.
Cooper stressed that the petition process is very similar to the original award process. Financial Aid Counselors (FACs) are not assigned a specific caseload, but instead work on petitions as they are submitted to expedite the review process and notify students as quickly as possible.
If the Financial Aid Office requires more information on individual students, they talk to territory officers from the admissions office, according to Cooper. As a final review, she said that the FACs meet as a group to discuss special circumstances that complicate certain students’ packages.
Financial aid petitions are not strictly for incoming freshmen. Students reapply for financial aid every year and always have the opportunity to petition their awards, Cooper said. She also added that the Financial Aid Office would reevaluate awards in the middle of the academic year if requested.
“We encourage families, that if something does change during the academic year, to let us know,” Cooper said. “We can work with them to see if that warrants a change to their financial aid eligibility.”