Financial AidFinancial aid is intended to make up the difference between what your family can afford to pay and what college costs. The majority of full-time students currently enrolled in college receive some type of financial aid to help pay college costs.
Overview of Financial Aid
The financial aid system is based on the idea that all students should have equal access — that everyone should be able to attend college, regardless of financial circumstances. Here's an overview on how the system works:
- Parents are expected to contribute to the student's college costs to the extent that they are able.
- If your family is unable to afford the entire cost (and most families are not), financial aid is available to help you pay for college.
Who Decides How Much My Family Is Able to Contribute?
The amount your family is able to contribute is often referred to as the expected family contribution (EFC). This figure is determined by the organization that is awarding the aid — usually the federal government.
This formula analyzes your family's financial circumstances and compares it with other families' financial circumstances. The formulas use your income, assets and family size to calculate your family’s EFC, and expect that your family can meet the EFC through a combination of savings, current income and borrowing.
Three Forms of Financial Aid (to students who qualify)
Grants and scholarships, which are also called "gift aid," don't have to be repaid. Grant aid comes from federal and state governments.
-Pell Grants are available for up to $5,550 per academic year and a maximum of $11,100 for the entire program. The amount is based on the student (and parents, if the student is dependent) demonstrating financial need.
You can also locate and apply for scholarships which are usually awarded based on merit.
Some financial aid comes in the form of loans that must be repaid. Most loans that are awarded based on financial need are low-interest loans sponsored by the federal government. The government subsidizes these loans, so no interest accrues until the student begins repayment after graduation. There are other loan options available that are not need-based.
- Stafford Loans are available and are not dependent on income or credit history to qualify.
- PLUS loans are available for parents of dependent students and parents may take out loans up to the total cost of attendance, less financial aid, which also includes housing. PLUS loans are income and credit based. If a parent is denied the PLUS loan, the the dependent student is able to borrow additional funds in their own name.
Alternative loans are credit and income based. They are available through Sallie Mae. For more information, visit their website at: http://www.salliemae.com.
If you or your child needs to borrow money to attend college, be sure all federal loan options are exhausted before considering private loans. Be sure not to borrow more than your or your child needs or can afford to pay back.
Our Student Loan Calculator tool can help you decide how much to borrow.