Important Information: The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment has transitioned to a fully remote model of engagement. Assistance will continue uninterrupted via email, phone, and our secure document uploads. For more information see our message about continuing operations remotely

We encourage you to review our Fall 2020 Semester FAQ for the most up to date information about financial aid. For more information specific to the impact of coronavirus across the University, please view Cornell's Coronavirus FAQ

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Financial Aid Appeals FAQ

The following questions and answers are provided as a resource for students and families regarding financial aid appeals. Click any of the questions below to expand the answer. If you have additional questions, please contact our office and we will be happy to discuss them with you.

COVID-19 Related Questions:

  • My parent just lost his/her job due to COVID-19 related layoffs; can I appeal my financial aid offer?

We understand that your family may have new and immediate financial concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our office will continue to work with you to help answer your questions and provide you with as much information as possible. 

If families are able to document their estimated 2020 income and benefits, the Financial Aid office will review the information provided to determine whether an adjustment can be made at this time.  We know that you might not have all of this information available yet, so we ask that you collect and submit it with your appeal application.  

Please understand that recent changes in family income or employment status may not result in an immediate change to your financial aid decision. 

In order for our office to review an appeal based on 2020 unemployment or loss of income, please be prepared to submit the following documentation:

  • Written explanation of the change in circumstances
  • 2019 Federal Tax Return (schedules, W2s)
  • Termination letter (if received)
    • Documentation of severance
  • Final paystub(s)
  • Recent paystub if a parent is still employed
  • Notification of any pension, annuity, IRA withdrawals you intend to take to supplement lost income
  • Explanation of Unemployment benefits
  • My parent might lose his/her job due to COVID-19 related layoffs/business closure; can I appeal my financial aid offer?

We understand that your family may have concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and all of the uncertainty around it.  Our office is committed to working with families and students who experience a change in circumstances.  Students can submit additional information and request a reconsideration of their parental contribution at any time.  

If your circumstances do change, please be prepared to submit the following documentation:

  • Written explanation of the change in circumstances
  • 2019 Federal Tax Return (schedules, W2s)
  • Termination letter (if received)
    • Documentation of severance
  • Final paystub(s)
  • Recent paystub if a parent is still employed
  • Notification of any pension, annuity, IRA withdrawals you intend to take to supplement lost income
  • Explanation of Unemployment benefits
  • The IRS extended the tax filing deadline to July 15.  What if I don’t have my 2019 taxes completed yet? 

Please provide all documentation that you have available – w2s, documentation of any interest income, 1099s.  We will review these to see if there is enough information to move forward without a copy of your 2019 federal tax return.   

Income Related Questions:

  • My parent lost their job in 2019 and their 2019 income is lower than 2018; can I appeal my financial aid offer? 

We will be happy to review an appeal for loss of income in 2019. Please complete and submit the appeal application with a full copy of your 2019 Federal Tax Return, Schedules, and employer-issued W2(s).  If you are a business owner, please be sure to provide a copy of your 2019 completed business tax return (including K1 and balance sheet), also filed with the IRS. (Business Tax Forms may include: 1065, 1120, 1120S)

  • My parent lost his/her job in early 2020 and is still unemployed; can I appeal my financial aid offer? 

We can take another look at your parental contribution and financial aid offer when there has been a change in circumstances. If families are able to document their estimated 2020 income and benefits, the Financial Aid office will review the information provided to determine whether an adjustment can be made at this time.

Please understand that recent changes in family income or employment status may not result in an immediate change to your financial aid decision. 

In order for our office to review an appeal based on 2020 unemployment or loss of income, please be prepared to submit the following documentation:

  • Written explanation of the change in circumstances
  • 2019 Federal Tax Return (schedules, W2s)
  • Termination letter (if received)
    • Documentation of severance
  • Final paystub(s)
  • Recent paystub if a parent is still employed
  • Notification of any pension, annuity, IRA withdrawals you intend to take to supplement lost income
  • Explanation of Unemployment benefits

Asset Related Question: 

  • My parents have had a recent reduction to their assets from when we initially filed my financial aid application – can I appeal? 

We recognize that the changing state of the economy may have an impact on families’ assets. However, given the still evolving situation, we are not considering appeals for fluctuation in assets at this time.  Assets are also captured at a point in time so it’s expected that they may fluctuate.  Students do need to apply for financial aid each year.  

One important factor to note is that we do not include retirement assets in determining the parental contribution.  Additionally, while cash, savings and investments are factored into the parental contribution, assets are generally not what drives the parental contribution.  

General Appeal Questions: 

  • My family has high debt (consumer) and living expenses, therefore, we do not have enough disposable income to meet our required parent contribution; can I appeal? 

Your parental contribution and financial aid is based on a careful review of the CSS PROFILE and FAFSA applications, along with all the tax return documentation provided through IDOC.

In determining a family’s contribution, we recognize that there are a number of expenses associated with maintaining a household and supporting a family but we are unable to make a dollar for dollar allowance for these. We are already taking the following items into consideration (note that not all may be applicable):

  • Higher cost of living areas
  • Medical expenses
  • Younger siblings in private school
  • Younger siblings that will be headed off to college

If there has been a substantial change in your income or family situation since you initially applied for financial aid, you can review, complete and submit the Appeal Application with the required documentation. 

  • I can’t afford the parent contribution in my financial aid offer; can I appeal this decision? 

The Financial Aid Office uses a holistic approach to accurately determine a student’s financial need and provides a financial aid offer that best reflects the information submitted in the financial aid application. Your parental contribution and financial aid is based on a careful review of the CSS PROFILE and FAFSA applications, along with all the tax return documentation provided through IDOC.  If there has been no change in your circumstances since you filed your initial application, unfortunately, we are unable to accept an appeal.

While we are unable to accept an appeal, there may be additional financing options available to your son/daughter:

  • Additional Student loan eligibility?
  • Parent Plus Loan / Alternative Loans?
  • Cornell Installment Plan

If there has been a change, please review, complete and submit the Appeal Application with the required documentation that is listed for your reason of appeal.

  • I made an error or mistake on my financial aid application; can I appeal? 

If information you provided in your financial aid application was submitted incorrectly, you may submit an appeal with an explanation and documentation that clearly illustrates the error. 

  • I have high medical, educational, or family expenses; can I appeal? 

Medical: Cornell is willing to consider requests due to unreimbursed medical expenses incurred by the family for the 2018 tax year.  However, if medical expenses were reported on the CSS PROFILE, this was likely already taken into consideration.  Generally speaking, these expenses must be in excess of 10% of your Adjusted Gross Income in order to have any impact on the parental contribution.

  •  Itemized bills must be tallied for total expenses paid so we would like you to speak with a counselor before you pull together all of that information.

Educational: Cornell is willing to consider requests due to high educational expenses in relation to:

  • Changes in the number of Undergraduate students enrolled full-time in college for 2020-21: provide documentation (if available) showing enrollment status and expected graduation date.  We will be following up in the fall with our sibling verification process to document enrollment and ask families to notify us if there is a change in plans.  
  • Educational Support to siblings enrolled in Graduate/Medical/Law School for 2020-21: provide a copy of the student’s financial aid offer indicating a required parent contribution.  We will accept 2019-20 award letters if 2020-21 award letters are not available.

Financial Support to Family:  provide documentation of 2018 support to relatives outside of the immediate family (such as: cancelled checks, wire transfer statements, statement from recipient indicating amount received annually).

  • Any allowance made for financial support to family members is not a dollar for dollar adjustment to the expected parental contribution.
  • I received a better financial aid offer from another institution; will Cornell provide the same eligibility? 

If you received a need-based financial aid offer from another Ivy League institution, Stanford, Duke or MIT we will strive to calculate the same eligibility based on the information provided.  The components that we will evaluate are the parent contribution, student contribution, and initial offers of loan and work.

Please submit a copy of the official aid offer from the other institution directly to the Financial Aid Office. 

Cornell is unable to consider evaluating scholarship offers that are not from another Ivy League institution, Stanford, Duke or MIT or offers based on athletics and/or merit.

  • My noncustodial parent isn’t willing to pay.  Can I appeal? 

Cornell’s financial aid policy is based on the belief that it is the responsibility of both parents to pay a student’s educational expenses based on their ability to pay and not their willingness to do so.  The divorce decree stating how much your mother/father is obligated to contribute is not what we use to determine her/his share of the parent contribution and, unfortunately, we cannot lower a parent contribution based on this.