Student financial aid is money to help students pay for their college expenses. College can be expensive and many families and students cannot afford to pay for tuition and fees, books and supplies, and the living expenses associated with attending college. Federal and state governments, colleges and universities, and organizations attempt to make sure that college is affordable for all students by providing student financial aid to help meet the college costs for students who do not have sufficient resources. The federal government provides 75 percent of all financial aid awarded to students across the country. Nationally, states provide 6 percent of all aid and institutions provide 19 percent. Of all federal financial aid, three quarters is in the form of student loans.
If a student and his/her family (parents, spouse) need help to pay college expenses, he/she should apply for financial aid. There is no charge for filing an application.
All of the information submitted on the application form is confidential and released only to the financial aid offices at the campuses the student lists on the form.
While eligibility for financial aid varies somewhat between programs, the basic requirements for major student financial aid programs are as follows:
- Have financial need, except for some scholarship and loan programs
- Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, pass an independently administered test approved by the U.S. Department of Education, or meet other standards the student's state establishes that are approved by the U.S. Department of Education
- Be enrolled as a regular student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program at an eligible institution
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Make satisfactory academic progress
- Sign a statement of educational purpose/certification statement on refunds and default (found on the Student Aid Report)
- Register with the Selective Service System if the student is a male between 18 and 25 years of age
While grades do not play a major role in determining eligibility for financial aid, academic criteria do come into play. First of all, students must meet the institution's admission criteria that typically include some consideration of grades or other measures of academic achievement or potential. Financial aid recipients are required to make satisfactory academic progress toward their degree or credential objective. Institutions establish standards of satisfactory academic progress and monitor the progress of aid recipients. Institutional standards include consideration of the number of units for which students enroll and satisfactorily complete each year, as well as the total number of units a student completes over the entire academic program. According to federal regulations, aid recipients must have a C average or a 2.0 GPA at the end of their second year. For institutional and other scholarships based on academic merit, grades are typically a factor in selection of recipients.
The U.S. Department of Education makes the FAFSA available in several formats on the Internet. A PDF version of the FAFSA can be downloaded, FAFSA Express software can be downloaded to your computer for completion, and FAFSA on the Web provides for online completion of the student aid application.
You should check with the college you are interested in attending to get information about possible earlier deadlines and other procedures.
Yes. It is a good idea to start a file folder or binder of all important papers related to your college admission and financial aid applications. Keep copies of your completed applications and FAFSA, your Student Aid Report, a copy of any additional documents that you might have supplied to the college financial aid office, and any correspondence with the federal processor, the campus financial aid office, or other financial aid or scholarship agencies.
Important things to remember:
- Get a FAFSA form from your high school counselor, local college, or online at www.fafsa.ed.gov and review it over your December school break.
- Apply for a PIN number at pin.ed.gov if you plan to file the FAFSA electronically.
- File your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1.
- Respond promptly to all requests for additional information about your FAFSA, SAR, state grants and scholarships, and applications.
- Keep a copy of all applications and documents you file.