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Emily Eastlake never expected she would be forced to leave Brown.

When Eastlake, a former member of the class of 2014, reapplied for financial aid after her first year, she "completely expected (her scholarship amount) to stay the same or get better," she said.

But when she received her aid offer from the Office of Financial Aid in July, Eastlake said she was surprised to discover her family would be required to contribute twice as much as they had the year before. Though her family's financial situation had not changed, she said her father filled out the application differently than in the previous year. Her father listed his military housing income because of slightly different wording on the application.

Eastlake filed an appeal to the financial aid office but was unsuccessful, and she was consequently unable to return to Brown. Eastlake is now enrolled in George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., near her home. Though she is not as "enamored" of George Mason as she was of Brown, she said "there was such a loss of trust" that she would not return.

Roughly 12 percent of students appealed their aid offerings last year. This figure has been roughly constant over the last four years, according to Director of Financial Aid James Tilton. The financial aid office does not keep a record of the number of successful appeals, Tilton said.

According to the financial aid website, each student appeal is processed by a financial counselor who will consider the "individual circumstances" of each appeal. On the appeals form, a student can document new information regarding a family's financial status or include information he or she feels should have been considered in the original award amount, according to the website.

But filing an appeal does not necessarily result in increased aid, Tilton said. If students are not successful through the appeals process, Tilton said the financial aid office tries to assist the student by laying out other possible options available to the family, such as taking out a small loan.

Other students may take a semester off in order to afford to attend Brown later.

After health problems quickly changed his family's financial situation last spring, one sophomore — who asked to remain anonymous due to his ongoing discussions with the financial aid office — was forced by his situation to take a leave.

While he tried appealing to the financial aid office to take his family's new financial situation into account, his scholarship could not be increased due to federal guidelines, he said. The financial aid office has no choice in the matter because it uses federal grants in its scholarship offerings and must follow federal guidelines, the sophomore said.

He added that the financial aid office was "incredibly supportive in the process and really helped me think about other things I could do."

The student enrolled in a local state college for a semester. When not in class, he did everything he could to return to Brown this semester.

"I jokingly called it my full-time job last semester," he said. "Every minute that I wasn't in class I would spend it writing emails, on conference calls, really trying to do everything that was possible."

After identifying many local and national scholarships, along with working three jobs, the student was able to come back to Brown this semester.

"It's an ongoing process. I'm basically living semester by semester," he said. "I still consider it a miracle that I'm here."


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