The U.S. Department of Education has the following major Student Financial Assistance (SFA) Programs:
- Federal Pell Grants
- Stafford Loans
- PLUS Loans
- Consolidation Loans
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs)
- Federal Work-Study
- Federal Perkins Loans
Grants are financial aid you don’t have to pay back.
Work-Study lets you work and earn money to help pay for school.
Loans are borrowed money that you must repay with interest.
Undergraduates may receive grants, loans, and Federal Work-Study.
Not all schools participate in the SFA Programs. Also, not all schools take part in all the programs. To find out which programs (if any) are available at a particular school, contact the financial aid office at that school.
To receive aid from the student aid programs discussed in this publication, you must meet all the following criteria:
- have financial need, except for some loan programs.
- have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) Certificate, pass a test approved by the U.S. Department of Education, meet other standards your state establishes that are approved by the U.S. Department of Education, or complete a high school education in a home school setting that is treated as a home school or private school under state law. See your financial aid administrator for more information.
- be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program.(You may not receive aid for correspondence or telecommunications courses unless they are part of an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree program.)
- be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
- have a valid Social Security Number. If you don’t have a Social Security Number, you can find out more about applying for one at www.ssa.gov
- make satisfactory academic progress.
- sign a statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) certifying that you will use federal student aid only for educational purposes.
- sign a statement on the FAFSA certifying that you are not in default on a federal student loan and that you do not owe money back on a federal student grant.
- register with the Selective Service, if required.
If you are a male 18 through 25 years of age and you have not yet registered with Selective Service, you can give the Selective Service permission to register you by checking a box on the FAFSA. You can also register through the Internet at www.sss.gov
A recent law suspends aid eligibility for students convicted under federal or state law of sale or possession of drugs. If you have a conviction or convictions for these offenses, call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to find out how, or if, this law applies to you. You can regain eligibility early by successfully completing an approved drug rehabilitation program.
Even if you are ineligible for federal aid, you should complete the FAFSA because schools use this information in awarding non-federal aid.
When you apply for aid from the SFA Programs, the U. S. Department of Education verifies some of your information with the following federal agencies: Social Security Administration (for verification of Social Security Numbers and U.S. citizenship status), Selective Service System (for verification of Selective Service registration status, if applicable), Immigration and Naturalization Service (for verification of eligible non-citizenship status, if applicable), Department of Justice (for verification that an applicant has not been denied Federal student aid by the courts as the result of a drug-related conviction), Department of Veterans Affairs (for verification of veterans status, if applicable, for dependency status purposes. See “Dependency Status”).
Aid from most of the programs discussed in this publication is awarded on the basis of financial need (except for unsubsidized Stafford, and all PLUS and Consolidation loans).
When you apply for federal student aid, the information you report is used in a formula established by the U.S. Congress. The formula determines your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), an amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward your education (although this amount may not exactly match the amount you and your family end up contributing). If your EFC is below a certain amount, you’ll be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, assuming you meet all other eligibility requirements.
There isn’t a maximum EFC that defines eligibility for the other financial aid programs. Instead, your EFC is used in the following equation to determine your financial need:
Cost of attendance MINUS Expected Family Contribution = Financial need
Your financial aid administrator calculates your cost of attendance and subtracts the amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward that cost. If there’s anything left over, you’re considered to have financial need. In determining your need for aid from the SFA Programs, your financial aid administrator must first consider other aid you’re expected to receive.
NOTE: The financial aid administrator puts together a financial aid package that comes as close as possible to meeting your need. However, because funds are limited, the amount awarded to you may fall short of the amount for which you are eligible.
Your financial aid administrator can adjust data used to calculate your EFC or adjust your cost of attendance if he or she believes your family’s financial circumstances warrant it based on the documentation you provide. However, the financial aid administrator does not have to make such an adjustment. For more information on special circumstances, click here. You can get worksheets that show how a student’s EFC is calculated by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center at the address or phone number given. The EFC worksheets are also available from the Department of Education’s Web site at http://www.ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/0102revEFCwksht.html
When you apply for federal student aid, your answers to certain questions will determine whether you’re considered dependent on your parents or independent. If you are considered dependent on your parents, you must report their income and assets as well as your own. If you are independent, you must report only your own income and assets (and those of your spouse, if you’re married).
Students are classified as dependent or independent because federal student aid programs are based on the idea that students (and their parents or spouse, if applicable) have the primary responsibility for paying for their post-secondary education.
For the 2007-08 academic year, you’re an independent student if at least one of the following applies to you:
- you were born before January 1, 1982
- you’re married
- you’re enrolled in a graduate or professional educational program (beyond a bachelor’s degree)
- you have legal dependents other than a spouse
- you’re an orphan or ward of the court (or were a ward of the court until age 18)
- you’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces (“veteran” includes students who attended a U.S. federal military academy and who were released under a condition other than dishonorable).
If you claim to be an independent student, your school may ask you to submit proof before you can receive any federal student aid. If you think you have unusual circumstances that would make you independent even though none of the above criteria apply to you, talk to your aid administrator. He or she can change your status if he or she thinks your circumstances warrant it based on the documentation you provide. But remember, the aid administrator won’t automatically do this. That decision is based on his or her judgment, and it’s final-you can’t appeal it to the U.S. Department of Education.
What form do I use?
If you applied for federal student aid for the 2006-2007 school year, you probably will be able to file a 2007-2008 Renewal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (Renewal FAFSA). Renewal FAFSAs are discussed below.
If you did not apply for federal student aid for the 2006-2007 school year, you can apply for federal aid for the 2007-2008 school year by completing and submitting the 2007-2008 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
You may submit a FAFSA through the Internet by using FAFSA on the Web or by mailing a paper FAFSA.
FAFSA on the Web
FAFSA on the Web is a free U.S. Department of Education Web site where you can complete a FAFSA online and submit it via the Internet. You can use FAFSA on the Web on a personal computer (PC) or a Macintosh that is equipped with a supported browser. The Internet address is: www.fafsa.ed.gov
If you have access to the Internet, you should use FAFSA on the Web. FAFSA on the Web submits your data directly to the U.S. Department of Education’s Central Processing System (CPS). The CPS will process your application within 72 hours.
Applying by mail
If you would like to apply by mailing a paper FAFSA, you can get one from your high school, local library or postsecondary school, or from the Federal Student Aid Information Center at P.O. BOX 84 WASH . D.C. 20044 (1-800-433-3243) http://www.ed.gov/prog_info/SFA/FAFSA/
Help in completing the FAFSA is available from the Department of Education’s Web site at www.ed.gov/prog_info/SFA/FAFSA/
If you apply using FAFSA on the Web, help in completing the application is built into the program. Help is also available at www.ed.gov/prog_info/SFA/FAFSA/. You can also contact the toll-free number of Federal Student Aid Information Center with your FAFSA questions.
Read the instructions carefully when you complete the FAFSA or the Renewal FAFSA. Most mistakes are made because students don’t follow instructions. Pay special attention to any questions on income, because most errors occur in this area.
You should save all records and all other materials used in completing the application because you may need them later to prove that the information you reported is correct. This process of proving that your information is correct is called verification. If verification is required, and you don’t provide it, you won’t receive aid from the SFA Programs, and you might not receive aid from other sources.
You should make a photocopy of your application (or print out a copy of your FAFSA Express or FAFSA on the Web application) before you submit it. This way, you have a copy of the data you submitted for your own records.
What is the Renewal FAFSA?
If you applied for federal student aid last year, you may qualify to use a Renewal FAFSA. Renewal FAFSAs for the 2008-09 academic year are mailed out in November and December 2008. The Renewal FAFSA, gives you fewer questions to answer. Most of the information on the form will be filled in already and will be the same as the information you gave in 2007-2008. You’ll only have to add some new information and update information that has changed since 2007-2008. Check with your financial aid administrator if you have questions about the Renewal FAFSA, or contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at the address or toll-free number.
There is a renewal version of FAFSA on the Web. There is also a paper version of the Renewal FAFSA, or your school may be able to file a Renewal FAFSA for you electronically.
Will I need to fill out forms in addition to the FAFSA to receive aid?
For most of the federal student aid programs, the FAFSA (or Renewal FAFSA) is the only form you need to file. To receive a Direct PLUS or FFEL PLUS Loan, your parents will have to complete additional forms
Remember, applying for federal student aid is FREE.
However, to be considered for nonfederal aid such as institutional aid (aid from the school), you may have to fill out additional, non-federal, forms and pay a processing fee. Check with your school to see which nonfederal application to fill out, if any, and be sure to ask about any deadline dates.
When do I apply?
Apply as soon AFTER January 1, 2008 as possible. (You can’t apply before this date.) If you want to apply through FAFSA on the Web, you can apply beginning January 2, 2005. It’s easier to complete the application when you already have your 2003 tax return, so you may want to complete your tax return as early as possible. Do not sign, date, or send your application before January 1, 2005. You need to apply only once each school year. If you apply by mail, send your completed application in the envelope that came with it. It is already addressed, and using it will ensure that your application reaches the correct address.
NOTE: You must reapply for federal aid every year. Also, if you change schools, your aid doesn’t automatically go with you. Check with your new school to find out what steps you must take to continue receiving aid.
What happens after I apply?
After your completed application is received by the processing system, the processor will produce a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR will report the information from your application and, if there are no questions or problems with your application, your SAR will report your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the number used in determining your eligibility for federal student aid.Your EFC will appear in the upper right-hand portion of your SAR. The results will be sent to you and to the schools that you listed on your application.
If you apply using FAFSA on the Web, in some cases, you’ll have to mail in a signature page before your application can be processed. You’ll receive a SAR in the mail up to 14 days after you submit your completed application, including a signature (if required).
Whether you apply electronically or with a paper form, the Department will send you data electronically to the schools you list on the FAFSA. If you apply by mail, it will take about four weeks for your application to be processed and for you to receive a SAR in the mail. If it’s been more than four weeks since you submitted your application and you haven’t heard anything, you can check on your application through the FAFSA on the Web site, even if you didn’t apply using FAFSA on the Web. You can also check on your application by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center at the address or toll-free number.
If you submit a paper version of the FAFSA or the Renewal FAFSA, you can use the postcard found in the application to track the processing of your application. You must fill in the postcard with the required information, attach a stamp to the postcard, and mail it with your application. When the Department of Education’s processor receives your application, the postcard will be stamped with the date that it is received. You will receive the date-stamped portion of the postcard for your files. If you do not receive your SAR within four weeks of the date stamped on the postcard, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at the address or phone number (LISTED ABOVE) and refer to the date stamped on the postcard.
The Department mailed a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to most students who applied for aid as of the 2006-2007 award year. If you did not receive a PIN from the Department, you can get one from the Department of Education’s Web site at www.pin.ed.gov
You can use your PIN to access your SFA Program assistance records online. For example, you can check your student loan information through the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), make corrections to your application information through the Internet, access your Renewal FAFSA in subsequent years, or “sign” (electronically) your FAFSA on the Web in subsequent years, if you choose to use this method.
What happens after I receive my SAR?
When you receive your SAR, you must review it carefully to make sure it’s correct and complete. If any changes to your SAR are necessary, you can make corrections in a number of ways.
You can make corrections online through the Department of Education’s FAFSA on the Web site, even if you didn’t apply using FAFSA on the Web.
If you applied by mail, by using FAFSA on the Web, you can make corrections on Part 2 of the SAR and return it to the address given at the end of Part 2. If you don’t have a copy of your SAR, you can request a duplicate from the Federal Student Aid Information Center at the address or toll-free number LISTED ABOVE. (If you write, make sure you include in your letter your full name, permanent address, Social Security Number, date of birth, and signature. Your duplicate SAR will be sent to the address you reported on your application.)
If you want to have your application information sent to a school that is not listed on your SAR, you may contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center to have your information sent to the school, give the school permission to request your information, or correct your SAR to add the school. If you ask the Federal Student Aid Information Center to send your information or give permission to the school to request the information, you’ll need to provide your Data Release Number (DRN), which you can find in the upper right portion of your SAR. If your address changes after you receive your SAR, you should correct your address as soon as possible. You can do this online at the FAFSA on the Web site, or by contacting the Federal Student Aid Information Center at the address or toll-free number given (you’ll need to provide your DRN), or by correcting the SAR and mailing it to the address listed on the SAR.
WHAT IS THE PROFILE FORM?
The Profile Financial Aid Form is used by some colleges to determine Financial eligibilty, in addition to the FAFSA Form. You will be charged a fee if a college you are applying to requires the Profile Form. You will need to consult with the Financial Aid Office at the schools you are applying to determine if they will require the Profile Form. You can generally obtain this information on the college Web Site or in the College Catalog. You can begin to process this form early in your senior year. For more information click on www.collegeboard.org/finaid/fastud/html/proform001.html.
Although the process of determining a student’s eligibility for federal student aid is basically the same for all applicants, there is some flexibility. In some cases, your financial aid administrator may adjust your cost of attendance or the information used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to take into account circumstances that might affect the amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward your education. These circumstances could include a family’s unusual medical expenses or tuition expenses. Also, an adjustment may be made if you, your spouse, or either of your parents (if applicable) have been recently unemployed. If conditions such as these apply to you or your family, contact your financial aid administrator.
Check with your financial aid administrator if you feel you have any other special circumstances that might affect your dependency status or the amount you and your family are expected to contribute. But remember, there have to be very good reasons for the financial aid administrator to make any adjustments, and you’ll have to provide adequate proof to support those adjustments. Also, remember that the financial aid administrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Department of Education.
The application processor must receive your application by July 1, 2006 for the 2005-2006 school year.
THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS DEADLINE.
Apply as soon AFTER January 1, 2005 as you can. (Do not sign, date, or send your application before this date.) If you want to apply through FAFSA on the Web, you can apply beginning January 2, 2005. Schools set deadlines by which students must apply for aid from the programs that the school administers. These school deadlines, and deadlines for state aid, are often early in the calendar year. Students must meet these deadlines to receive certain types of funds, including Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work-Study, and Federal Perkins Loan program funds. Check with your school’s financial aid administrator to find out what the deadlines are.
Your correct, complete application information must be at your school by your last day of enrollment in 2005-2006 or by September 3, 2006 whichever is earlier (see your financial aid administrator). If your school has not received your application information electronically, you must submit your SAR to the school by the appropriate deadline. Be sure you know your last day of enrollment in 2005-2006-it may be earlier than September 3.
NOTE: If you’re selected for verification, additional deadlines apply to you. Your financial aid administrator can tell you what they are.
Federal Student Aid Center
The Center can answer your questions between 8 a.m. and midnight (EST), seven days a week. 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) Counselors at this number can assist you in completing the FAFSA. assist you in making corrections to your SAR. tell you whether a school participates in the federal student aid programs, and tell you that school’s student loan default rate. explain federal student aid eligibility requirements. explain the process of determining financial need and awarding aid. have your application information sent to a specific school. send federal student aid publications to you. You may use an automated response system at this number to find out if your federal student financial aid application has been processed. request a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR). TTY users may call 1-800-730-8913 with any federal student aid questions. Callers from locations that do not have access to 800 numbers may call 1-319-337-5665. This is not a toll-free number.
You can also write to the Federal Student Aid Information Center at the following address:
Federal Student Aid Information Center
P.O. Box 84
Washington, DC 20044