Frequently Asked Questions about Financial Aid

Am I eligible for financial aid?

All students are eligible to apply for student financial assistance. Each year, colleges, universities and technical centers assist all students (including full-time, part-time, and day and evening students) in finding available funds from federal, state and campus sources to make educational programs affordable.

Many students don't apply for financial aid because they don't think they're eligible or because they don't understand student financial assistance regulations and procedures. The best way to find out if you are eligible is to apply using the FAFSA. It is impossible to determine your true eligibility without this document. At the very least you will qualify for a low-interest loan, but you could also be eligible for grants, scholarships and the Work-Study Program.

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What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it is the form required of any student seeking federal financial aid, including federal student grants, Work-Study funds and loans. The application may also be used to apply for most state and some private financial aid. You can learn more about the FAFSA at

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Is the FAFSA available in other languages?

Yes, it is available in Spanish.

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What is a FAFSA PIN and how do I get one?

You need a FAFSA Personal Identification Number (PIN) to submit the FAFSA information online. To obtain one, log on to You will use your PIN to re-apply for financial aid each year, so don't lose it!

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Do I have to complete my taxes before I submit my FAFSA?

If you or your parents are filing an income tax return, we recommend filing it before completing the FAFSA. However, the income tax return does not need to be sent to the IRS before filling out your FAFSA. Also, you can estimate your taxes if you plan to complete them later in the year. If you estimate, you should estimate as close to your actual anticipated income as possible; you will be required to provide your actual tax information once it is available.

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My parents are separated or divorced. Which parent fills out the FAFSA?

Your FAFSA information should be completed based on the information of the parent you lived with most during the last 12 months. If you didn't live with either parent, or if you lived with each parent an equal number of days, use the information of the parent who provided the most financial support to you in the most recent calendar year.

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What if I don't have a Social Security number or don't want to report it on the form?

You must enter your Social Security number on the FAFSA form. If you don't submit your Social Security number, the form will be returned unprocessed and you will not be considered for federal and state aid.

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When is a student considered independent?

Please refer to the Federal Student Aid website for the most up-to-date information regarding dependency status for the current FAFSA application.

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How do I read my financial aid award letter?

Your financial aid award letters vary by school and list your maximum eligibility for grants, scholarships, possible work-study and loans. Read the letter and supplemental documents carefully.

Cost of Attendance (COA): The award letter is based on the school's COA. COA includes both direct and indirect costs. Direct Costs are costs for which you are billed, such as tuition, fees, books, and on-campus room and board. Indirect Costs are costs you incur as a student but for which you are not billed, such as transportation, personal expenses, and off-campus housing.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The EFC is calculated by the federal government based on your FAFSA and is automatically forwarded to the schools you identify on your FAFSA. Financial need is the amount of assistance that the federal government calculates your family will need in order to meet your costs for the year. The lower your EFC, the higher your financial need, and the more the federal and state government will cover your cost of attendance. Once the university or college has processed your FAFSA, they will begin to pull together federal, state and institutional resources for you to consider. If your EFC is higher than the university or college COA, you will still be considered for federal loans through the FAFSA. Contact the university or college you plan to attend for more information on how EFCs are calculated.

Grants and Scholarships: You do not have to repay grants or scholarships listed on your award letter. Usually, there is no further action needed to accept this type of aid. Contact the school you are attending to determine if grants or scholarships are available for more than one year. If so, ask if any conditions apply. If not, ask if there are any options listed for the following years.

Work-Study: Work-study allows you, the student, to have an on-campus job and earn an hourly wage to be paid directly to you as a paycheck to use for educational expenses. Next year, report earned income from need-based employment programs, such as work-study, on your FAFSA in the "Student's Additional Financial Information" section. Reporting this income will decrease your EFC and increase your grant eligibility. Contact the school you wish to attend to determine the process for applying for a work-study position.

Loans - Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized: You must repay the loans you accept from your award letter. There are two Federal Student Loan programs for students pursuing an undergraduate degree. The programs are the Subsidized Federal Loan and Unsubsidized Federal Loan. The Subsidized Federal Loan does not accrue interest while you are in school. The Unsubsidized Federal Loan begins to accrue interest as soon as it is disbursed. Both loan programs are guaranteed loans and do not require a credit check or a cosigner. There are maximum annual limits that a student is able to borrow.

Loans - Federal Parent PLUS: The Federal Parent PLUS loan is a loan that a parent borrows for their dependent student and is repaid by the parent. This loan requires a credit check. The amount available to borrow can go up to the Cost of Attendance.

Loans - Private/Alternative: Private/Alternative loans are loans that a student borrows for education expenses through private lenders. Terms and conditions vary by lender. These loans are credit-based so a cosigner may be required.

Read your award letter carefully to be sure you understand all terms and conditions so you can decide if you want to accept any, or all, of the aid offered. Look for instructions for your next steps. You may need to complete additional paperwork such as loan applications.

Remember, unless otherwise stated, this letter applies only to the upcoming school year.

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