Paying for LMU: Maximizing Financial Aid and Other Sources of Support

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Photo: Loyola Marymount University official website.

Paying for LMU: Maximizing Financial Aid and Other Sources of Support 
By Raven Yamamoto

LMU isn’t cheap and it isn’t getting cheaper. After the University announced that they would not be reducing tuition, I was one of many students whose heart sank. Financial insecurity is one of the major stressors weighing heavily on many students as they gear up for another school year that will surely come with its own unique challenges.

Even before the pandemic, I have always struggled to pay for tuition— particularly in the past year. I’ve been told by the University that there’s nothing that could be done for me and told by my peers that if I’m too poor to afford tuition to drop out. It’s something I’ve come close to doing several times. I’ve compiled this guide to help those who may be able to relate.

Here are some things that I’ve learned from personal experience: things I wish someone told me before I came so close to defeat.

Accept your award offer.
This seems trivial, but it’s important to accept your award as soon as possible to secure that funding. This also allows you to make an informed decision as to what parts of your award to accept based on the resources available to you.

For example, knowing the difference between the types of federal loans (subsidized and unsubsidized) is crucial for long-term financial planning. For example, the difference between subsidized federal loans (loans that delay interest for 6 months after you graduate) and unsubsidized federal loans (loans that immediately accrue interest) is important to consider when planning how to repay them later.

Do your research so you only accept aid that you can afford beyond just grants. 

Appeal your award.
Financial Aid has a specific process that allows students to file an appeal for their initial award and request more aid.

The process typically requires you to submit the following via email:

A good letter detailing your need includes not just a brief summary of your circumstances but what steps you’re personally taking to cover your remaining balance. Be direct and concise.

File your appeal by emailing your documents and forms to as soon as possible. The earlier you send your materials in, the quicker you’ll get a decision and the quicker you’ll be able to make other adjustments to cover your remaining balance.

Appeal again.
Not many people know that once you hear back about your first appeal, you can appeal a second time. You can revise your initial letter to reiterate your need and send it back to Financial Aid with the same supporting documents as soon as you receive a decision on your first appeal. 

There is no official limit on how many times you can appeal, but in my experience, the chances of getting more funding decreases with each additional request and your energy can more effectively be spent seeking other sources of support.

Be sure to save these forms to save yourself time for future appeals.

Ask your college about department-specific scholarships. 
Your college may be able to offer scholarships that are specific to their students that aren’t often advertised. For example, Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts (BCLA) offers the Carol Sullivan scholarship of roughly $1,300 for their students who have a GPA of over 3.5.

College-specific scholarships usually aren’t in large amounts, but every bit helps. Contacting the Dean of your college is most likely the best way to inquire about these awards. 

Seek out on-campus resources geared toward your background.
Ethnic and Intercultural Services (EIS) departments are especially useful in supporting students of marginalized backgrounds and catering to their individual needs. For example, if you’re Asian/Pacific Islander, the Asian Pacific Student Services (APSS) may be worth contacting. While EIS most likely can’t give you funding themselves, they’re often able to direct you to external resources and funding opportunities specific to your background. 

The same goes for other on-campus communities and support systems such as First to Go, the first-generation student community. Even the Jesuit Community has also been known to spare funds for students in need who reach out to them.

Send some emails and offer to meet in-person to make your case. The worst they can do is say no.

Consider establishing a Community of Care case manager
The Community of Care (COC) is often perceived as a mental health resource, but it’s actually a well-rounded support system for a wide range of student needs. You also don’t need to be referred by someone else to get a case manager, you can request to meet with one yourself and discuss what support you’re looking for. COC can’t offer funding to you directly either but they are there to listen if nothing else and also direct you to external resources. 

In some cases, COC can also offer Sodexo gift cards to alleviate financial burdens on students who struggle to afford meals and other living expenses. 

Consider crowdfunding. 
Reaching out for help, especially in asking for money, is hard. It’s breeding grounds for imposter syndrome and it’s easy to internalize the shame we are taught to feel when asking for help. But you’d be surprised how much Lions want to support each other, knowing how expensive our cost of attendance is.

I started a GoFundMe campaign last year after exhausting all my options, thinking no one would care. I thought I’d be lucky to raise a couple hundred dollars at most that would help even if not to fully cover my tab. I was met with an overwhelming wave of support from students, faculty, and staff alike and raised over $5,000 that allowed me to stay at LMU.

Considering the unprecedented times we live in, many people don’t have any disposable income right now and it's possible that this method may not yield results it did for me last year. But I couldn’t leave this off the list because you are often more supported than you realize. Give the community the opportunity to help you before writing them off.

Requests for additional aid from the University often go unfilled or only partially filled. But it’s worth knowing that there are more sources of support out there beyond the Financial Aid office. While time-consuming and draining, you never know which avenue will yield results. 

I can’t promise that all of these resources will be as effective as they were before the pandemic, but I don’t want anyone else to figure these things out too late when they could have been saving money from the start. 

More importantly, I want to remind students not to be afraid of asking for support when you need it. People at this school exist to support people in your exact position— you just have to find them.

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