For the thousands of Michigan college students whose financial situations have soured like the economy since they applied for aid last spring, the financial aid appeals process could be their ticket back to college, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Although applications for federal financial aid typically are due in the spring, experts say it's not too late for families to seek more robust financial aid packages. Financial aid appeals have jumped about 60 percent at Western Michigan University and Northern Michigan University. Wayne State University saw a fivefold increase in appeals this summer, while Michigan State University's financial aid office saw appeals more than double.

I've never seen anything like this before, Val Meyers, associate director of financial aid at MSU, told the Free Press. It's so dramatic that we are all concerned about how we are going to help these people so they don't have to make a choice between living and sending their kids to college.

Meyers added that even if families don't hear back on their appeal before students return to classes in the coming weeks, any money awarded in an appeals decision can be applied later as a credit or refund.

Jim Ganzak, a Michigan resident who has not been able to find work since selling his small business, worried that he would not be able to send his daughter back to Albion College this fall. Luckily, Ganzak's appeal helped him qualify for nearly $10,000 in additional aid. It was a blessing, he said. I don't know what I would have done.

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