Federal Student Financial Aid – What Is It and Who Gets It?

The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, application will determine if you are eligible for federal student financial aid and what types of aid you are eligible for. Not all students are eligible for all aid programs. In short, the federal college aid programs you are applying for via the FAFSA are grants, work-study, and student loans. Below is a partial list of the federal financial aid programs:

Federal Pell Grant – For students with demonstrated need

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant – For students with demonstrated need

Academic Competitiveness Grant – For students who are Pell grant eligible, U.S. citizens and pursue a rigorous high school curriculum

National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant – For Pell Grant eligible Juniors and Seniors in college in eligible majors who achieve and maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average

Federal work study – a subsidized campus based student employment program

Federal Perkins Loan – Low interest student loan for students with demonstrated need

Subsidized Student Loan, Direct or Stafford – The U.S. government pays the interest on these loans while the student is in school and for 6 months after the student leaves school or graduates

Unsubsidized Student Loan, Direct or Stafford – Interest accrues on these loans while the student is in school. No demonstrated need necessary

Direct or Stafford PLUS Loan – Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students. Loan issued in a parents’ name for the students’ education related expenses. PLUS loans are now eligible for Graduate students

Keep in mind that the above list represents the federal aid programs only. Your state may have its own grant and or loan programs you should become aware of. Contact your school’s financial aid office or your high school counseling office to determine the requirements for state aid.

Although there are numerous aid programs out there, not all students are eligible to receive them. All federal aid programs have eligibility requirements. The basic eligibility requirements are:

Having demonstrated financial need based on your FAFSA data
Having U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizen status with a valid social security number
Being a degree or certificate seeking student in an eligible program
Have a high school diploma or the equivalent
Be registered with the Selective Service if you are required to be registered
Maintain satisfactory academic progress once in school (your institution sets its own satisfactory academic progress standards. Please become aware of these expectations)
Now that you’re aware of what is expected of you, did you know that the federal government has some high expectations of institutions of higher learning? To be title IV eligible (the federal code that regulates federal aid and aid eligible institutions) an institution must be accredited, calculate and make public its school loan default rate, its employment rate, and its graduation statistics. The school’s financial aid office must make public the location and hours of the counseling staff, types of aid available, post procedures and deadlines for each aid program and the procedure for selecting financial aid recipients.

Also the FAO (financial aid office) must make clear it’s procedure for determining financial need, its packaging process, its method of financial aid payments, its satisfactory academic progress standards and the details of your work study job if you are awarded one.

You should be aware now that the financial aid process is a commitment by the federal government, the institution of higher learning that you attend, and yourself. Each has its job to do, its processes to follow and its standards to maintain. Your part in the process as both student and consumer cannot be overstated.

Christina Tangalakis is an accomplished college financial aid cou

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10 Tips for Getting Financial Aid

College is expensive. There is no question about it and most people can’t just cough up the dough for tuition. More and more students are relying on financial aid to pay for tuition, especially in this economy. If you are a student that needs financial aid, this article is for you. Pay attention to these ten tips to get the aid that you need.

1. Do Your Research

Financial aid is confusing. There are so many types of aid out there. My first word of advice is to devote a few hours to financial aid research. Read up about the different types of aid available and search for some scholarships that you may be applicable for. Familiarize yourself with the financial aid world so that you’ll better understand how to get that aid. I once read that you can make a full time job out of searching and applying for scholarships because of all the information that is out there. All I’m asking is a few hours just to get educated about the types of aid that are out there.

2. EFC. What is it and what does it do for you?

EFC stands for Expected Family Contribution. Your EFC score determines your level of need. You will be awarded need based aid such as grants, subsidized student loans, and work study if your EFC is lower than the estimated cost of attendance. If you fill out a free financial aid application at the FAFSA website, they will tell you whether or not you are eligible for need based aid. Knowing your EFC will help you determine what aid you can expect and apply for.

3. How do I find my EFC?

There are many EFC calculators out there online just do a search. Finding your EFC is very important and will help you in determining what aid you are eligible for.

4. You can’t win them all

Money is awarded on a need basis. You should have a plan B in place in case you aren’t awarded any aid. Don’t let this discourage you however; money is out there for undergraduate students. Just don’t expect full financial aid, keep your options open. Most of the time students will receive aid for most of the price of tuition not all. So you may want to have several methods of aid in place or some money saved. Bottom line: Do not expect to get your tuition paid in full, and keep your options open.

5. Make friends with your college financial aid advisor

While your EFC is a good way to judge what type of aid you will get it is not necessarily set in stone. Your financial aid advisor can change your EFC to your favor based on your needs. It is in your best interest to sit down with your advisor and have a meeting. Your advisor can give you tips to getting more aid and help you along the way. They can explain the best way to apply for aid and scholarships while helping you with aid that the school has available as well.

6. Try! Try! And Then Try Again!

Don’t count yourself out. It is a common misconception that there is an income cutoff for financial aid. Sometimes people think they will not qualify for aid because they make too much or their parents make too much but this is not the case. Your EFC is determined by several different factors. The best thing to do is try to apply for aid and see if you qualify, don’t just assume that you won’t qualify.

7. Just expect it to be complicated

There’s just no getting around it you will have to fill out at least one complicated financial aid application. The FAFSA application takes a while and can be a little complicated but it’s worth it. FAFSA will provide you with useful information to help you along your financial aid path. They will also show you what aid you qualify for and how much. It’s worth it!

8. Don’t get paranoid

People get nervous about sending important information over the internet for their aid application. The aid sites are absolutely safe and secure and your information will be safe. Don’t let this fear keep you from getting the aid that you deserve. Send your application in!

9. If you do get aid, don’t expect to get all that you need

If you do receive aid from your college most financial of it comes in packages of grants and unsubsidized loans. Very rarely does the amount of aid you receive meet your EFC. Often times the aid you receive will cover most of the expenses but some of it you will have to come up with yourself. Be prepared to have to pay for some of your tuition even if you get aid.

10. Follow the deadlines!

When it comes to aid colleges operate on a type of first come first serve b

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