Frequently Asked Questions
General Questions about Eligibility and Applying
1. Am I eligible for Financial Aid?
2. How do I apply for Aid?
3. How will I receive my financial aid?
4. What is in my financial aid package?
5. Am I eligible for other education benefits?
6. How much financial aid am I eligible to receive?
7. Where can I find more information about financial aid?
8. Who is involved in the college and financial aid process?
9. What is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?
The answers to these questions can be found at the Federal Financial Aid website
General Questions about Eligibility and Applying
In order to receive federal student aid there are requirements.
The following is a list of some of the requirements:
- You must be a United States citizen or eligible noncitizen of the United States with a valid Social Security Number (SSN).
- You must have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, complete homeschooling, or pass an approved “ability to benefit” test.
- You must enroll in an eligible program as a regular student seeking a degree or certificate.
- You must be making satisfactory academic progress.
- If you are a male between the ages of 18 and 25, you must register or already be registered with Selective Service. You must also register if you are not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. If you are a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands or the Republic of Palau you are exempt from registering (see www.sss.gov for more information).
- If you have been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, loans, or work-study), you must complete the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet to determine if you are Eligible for aid or Partially Eligible for aid.
- You must not owe a refund on a federal grant or be in default on a federal education loan.
- You must have financial need (except for unsubsidized Stafford loans).
- Other requirements may apply. Contact the financial aid office at your college for more information.
The first step in the financial aid process is to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
FAFSA filing options:
- Paper FAFSA – processes in (7-10) days
- FAFSA on the Web – processes in (3-5) days
Electronic filing eliminates delays that can occur by mailing the application. Also, FAFSA on the Web edits the application prior to submitting it to Federal Student Aid, which significantly reduces the number of errors on the application.
For help with filling out the FAFSA, you can go to
If you provide all required information and required signatures, your FAFSA will be processed in 3-5 days and a Student Aid Report (SAR) will be sent to you and the colleges you have listed. Your SAR will summarize the data reported on your FAFSA. You should check your SAR carefully for accuracy and keep a copy for your records.
The SAR also contains a Data Release Number (DRN), which appears on the first page in the upper right corner. On the electronic SAR the DRN is located in the box that contains the Application Receipt date, below the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The DRN is also located on your confirmation page. You will need the DRN when you call the Federal Student Aid Information Center to change certain information on your application, such as to add or delete a school code. If your FAFSA is complete, an EFC will be printed in the upper right hand corner of the SAR. Your EFC is based on all of the information reported on your FAFSA. Your school will use the EFC to award your financial aid.
Note: Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your college to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.
Your college will award you a financial aid package to help meet your financial need. Financial need is the difference between the college’s cost of attendance (including living expenses) and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
If you believe that you have unusual circumstances that should be taken into account, such as unusual medical or dental expenses or a significant change in income from one year to the next, contact the financial aid office at your college for assistance.
Federal student aid is paid to students through the college. You should receive an award letter from your college, which details your aid award types and amounts. Your aid awards will likely be disbursed each semester, quarter, or other payment period. Typically, the college first applies your aid towards your tuition, fees, and room and board (if you live on campus). The remainder is paid to you for other expenses.
Your financial aid package is likely to include funds from theFederal Student Aid (FSA) programs. Note that not all colleges participate in all FSA programs. These FSA programs, described below, are administered by Federal Student Aid and provide over $150 billion a year to students attending post secondary schools:
- Federal Pell Grants are available to undergraduate students. Graduate students in a teaching credential program may also qualify. Grants do not have to be repaid.
- Federal Stafford Loans are student loans that must be repaid and are available to both undergraduate and graduate students.
- Stafford loans are provided through the Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program, meaning the federal government provides the funds for the Stafford loan.
- First-year undergraduates are eligible for loans up to $5,500. Amounts increase for subsequent years of study, with higher amounts for graduate students. The interest rates may vary based on when the loan is borrowed. There are two types of Stafford loans:
Subsidized Stafford loan – A loan for which the government pays the interest while you are in school, during grace periods, and during any deferment periods.
Unsubsidized Stafford loan – A loan for which you are responsible for paying all the interest that accrues at any point in time.
- Federal PLUS Loans are unsubsidized loans made toparents of undergraduate students. If your parents cannot obtain a PLUS loan, you may be eligible to borrow additional Unsubsidized Stafford loan funds. The interest rates may vary based on when the loan is borrowed.
- Graduate and Professional Student PLUS Loan (Grad PLUS). Graduate and professional students are eligible to borrow under the PLUS Loan program, effective with loans originated on or after July 1, 2006.
- Campus-Based Programs are financial aid programs administered by participating schools. There are three Campus-Based programs.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are grants available for undergraduates only; awards range from $100-$4,000.
- Federal Work-study provides jobs to undergraduate and graduate students, allowing them to earn money to pay education expenses.
- Perkins Loans are low-interest (5 percent) loans that must be repaid; the maximum annual loan amount is $4,000 for undergraduate students.
For more information about federal student aid, you can explore the Federal Student Aid Web site at www.studentaid.ed.gov.
Three educational income tax credits can reduce your or your parents’ federal taxes. The credits are based on your college tuition and fee charges. The Hope tax credit can be claimed during the first two years of college, up to a maximum of $1,800 per year. TheLifetime Learning tax credit is available for any level of post secondary study, up to a current maximum of $2,000 per year. TheAmerican Opportunity tax credit can be claimed during the four years of college, up to a maximum of $2,500 per year. Note that only one type of credit (Hope, Lifetime Learning, or American Opportunity) may be claimed for a student in any given year. For more information about tax credits, you can visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov.
Your eligibility depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your year in school, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending.
The financial aid office at your college will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Note: Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive.
For more information, you should contact the financial aid office at your school or see Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid at http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html.
The financial aid office at the college you plan to attend is the best place to begin a search for free information. The financial aid office has information about student aid available from the state, the school itself, and other sources.
Information about other nonfederal assistance may be available from foundations, religious organizations, community organizations, and civic groups, as well as organizations related to your field of interest, such as the American Medical Association or American Bar Association. You can check with your parents’ employers or unions to see if they award scholarships or have tuition payment plans. To find more information regarding scholarships you can visit www.studentaid.ed.gov and use our free Scholarship Search.
Colleges are required to inform you of their aid procedures and deadlines and how and when you will receive your aid awards. Read and understand each college’s satisfactory academic progress policy and keep copies of the enrollment agreement, the college’s catalog, and all financial aid documents (especially loan documents) received.
During your college application process and your financial aid process you may interact with several different parties. The goal of all the parties is to provide you with assistance and the information you need to make informed choices.
You, the student: You are responsible for researching and applying to schools and scholarships.
Your college: Your college will determine whether to admit you to their school.
The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid: We are responsible for processing your FAFSA and providing you and your colleges with information about your financial aid eligibility. Additionally, through the Federal Direct Loan Program, we provide Stafford loans to undergraduate and graduate students.
Note: Not all colleges participate in the federal student aid programs. In addition, not all of the three types of federal student aid (grants, work-study and loans) may be offered at some colleges. Check with your college to find out which program(s) they participate in.
The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. Your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security) are all considered in the formula. Also considered are your family size and the number of family members who will attend college or career school during the year.
The information you report on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or your FAFSA4caster is used to calculate your EFC. Schools use the EFC to determine your federal student aid eligibility and financial aid award.
Note: Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.
For more information about the EFC, see Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid at: http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/index.html.To request a free copy of Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).