Tips for Financial Aid in a Down Economy

Steps to Take to Keep Your Student in Class

Release Date: Friday, February 25, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Many trickle-down effects of the poor economy over the past few years are hitting the most innocent of bystanders- students enrolled in colleges and universities across the country. According to a 2009 mtvU and Associated Press Poll, one in five college students had a parent who had lost a job within the year, and 17 percent of students have considered dropping out of school in the past three months, with financial pressures cited as the primary cause. In too many cases, students who had parents lose jobs were forced to leave school, but Kristina Wilhelm-Nelson, M.S., associate director of financial aid at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, advises students and parents to explore other options before making the decision to pull a student from continuing their education.

“In this situation, many parents do not contact the financial aid office at their college because they are either too embarrassed to discuss their changed financial situation or do not realize the office can update their FASFA to reflect their projected current year earnings, influencing the amount of aid they can receive, says Wilhelm-Nelson. “It is important that parents know they have options and that schools are here to help.”

Here are some steps Wilhelm- Nelson suggests to take if one or both parents should become unemployed, lose their existing unemployment benefits or take a mandatory decrease in salary:


  • Contact your student’s financial aid Office so they can update the income information on the FASFA to reflect current academic year’s earnings. Only the educational institution can update this information.
  • Check with the financial aid office to make sure that all the necessary paperwork has been completed before they submit any hardship documentation. This includes the FASFA and any additional forms their office uses to process a student’s aid.
  • Be prepared to submit documentation verifying the economic hardship. For example, if a parent of the student becomes unemployed, the office might ask for documentation verifying weekly earnings and a copy of the unemployment statement. This statement should include the weekly amount of benefits and the date the unemployment benefits started. The parent will also need to submit a signed letter verifying the information submitted.
  • Once the financial aid office has received the requested paperwork, they will update the student’s FASFA to reflect earnings for the current year.
    Once the office processes the parent’s reduction in salary, the student may then be eligible for additional funding.

Kristina Wilhelm-Nelson is available to speak on a variety of topics regarding financial aid. Please contact Lisa Mixon, Media Relations Manager at to schedule an interview.