Applying for Financial Aid
Frequently Asked Questions
Don't be overwhelmed by the intricacies of financial aid! Explore our Financial Aid Video FAQ below and get the guidance you need to make this school year stress-free.
Didn't find the question you need answered? Visit our Financial Aid TV website.
How do I apply for financial aid?
The first thing you must do is fill out Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. This will determine what you might be eligible to receive.
When should I apply for financial aid?
You can submit your FAFSA form as early as January 1. You should do this soon as possible even if you do not plan on attending college until summer or fall. Keep in mind that you must have a valid Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) received by the college or university before the last day of enrollment at that campus in order to be considered for payment. This will be sent to any school you list on the FAFSA at the time you apply.
Do I have to reapply for financial aid each year?
Yes, you have to apply for FAFSA each year. To do so, visit www.fafsa.gov. If you filled out the form the previous year, some of your information will auto-populate. Be sure to verify that this information is still accurate. If you return to the site and discover that you’ve forgotten your FSA ID number, just go to www.pin.ed.gov to receive a new one.
What is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Student Aid. You need to fill it out to be eligible for grants, work study jobs, and student loans. The website will walk your through all the questions you need to answer and, as the title states, it is free to apply. If you do not have internet access at home, you can apply at your local library.
What is the difference between a Dependent and an Independent student?
You are an independent student if you answer yes to any of these questions:
- Where you born before January 2, 1991?
- When the school year begins, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program?
- Are you married or separated?
- Do you have children that receive more than half their support from you?
- Do you have any dependents or spouse who live with you and receive more than half their support from you?
- Are both your parents deceased, or were you a ward or dependent of the court until age 18?
- Are you a veteran of the Armed Forces?
- Are you currently serving on active duty in the Armed Forces other than training?
- Are you an emancipated minor?
- Are you in a legal guardianship?
- Have you been formally designated as homeless by the government or a qualified organization?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you will not be required to fill out the parent information on the FAFSA.
What is a Pell Grant?
It is a federally-funded, need-based grant that is given to college students to help pay for tuition and expenses. Awards can be as large as $5,730. If eligible, you can receive a maximum of the equivalent of 12 full-time semesters or 18 full-time quarters. This is money that does not have to be paid back. Any Pell Grant-eligible applicant whose parent or guardian dies in military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 automatically receives the maximum amount. They must be under 24 years old or enrolled in school at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.
What is the Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) for Pell Grants?
The LEU is the percentage of the Pell Grant you have used against the lifetime maximum allowable amount. The Department of Education keeps track of this number. To see how much of you have used, visit the National Student Loan Data System at www.nslds.ed.gov. You will need the FSA ID you used when you applied for FAFSA in order to gain access.
Are there financial aid programs for Veterans of the US Armed Forces?
If you are a veteran, or a dependent of a veteran, benefits may be available. For more information, visit www.gibill.va.gov or call 1-888-442-4551.
Education Tax Benefits & Credits
Can I deduct my tuition from my federal taxes?
The Federal Government offers tax benefits and deductions as well as savings incentives to help make college more affordable. According to the IRS:
- A tax credit reduces the amount of tax you may have to pay.
- A deduction reduces the amount of your income that is subject to taxation.
- Certain savings plans allow accumulated interest to grow tax free until it is distributed.
For more information, visit the IRS website at irs.gov.
What is the American Opportunity Credit?
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and American Taxpayer Relief Act, students and parents may qualify for the American Opportunity Credit to pay for college. It modifies the existing Hope Credit for tax years 2009 through 2017, making it available to a wider range of people, including those with higher incomes.
This credit allows for four years of qualified college expenses and includes course materials as a qualified expense. The maximum total credit is $2,500 per student. For more information, visit www.irs.gov.
What is the Lifetime Learning Credit?
A credit of up to $2,000 per year can be taken for qualified education expenses at all eligible institutions. There are three qualifications:
- You pay qualified expenses for higher education.
- You pay the education expenses for an eligible student.
- The eligible student is yourself, your spouse or a dependent that you claim on your tax return.
For more information, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov.
What is the Student Loan Interest Deduction?
You could qualify for a tax deduction of up to $2,500 just for paying your student loans each year. Interest paid for loans that you received for your child or spouse’s education may also be deducted. According to the IRS, you must meet the following criteria to qualify:
- You must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree granting program during the time of the loan.
- Your modified gross income is less than $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 if filing jointly.
- You are not being claimed as a dependent on your parent’s tax return.
For more information, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov.