Archive for the ‘Financial Aid Terms’ Category

“What information do I need to complete the FAFSA?” “Am I a dependent or independent student?” “Who do I list as my parent?”

These are all valid questions that may come up as you work through the financial aid process. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid has several resources available to help answer these questions and many more. Here are a few resources that may help ease the process for you:

FAFSA on the Web Worksheet
Completing the FAFSA
What Information Do I Need When I Fill Out the FAFSA?
Am I Dependent or Independent?
Who is My “Parent” When I Fill Out the FAFSA?
What to Expect After You Fill Out and Submit the FAFSA.

For more resources and informational videos, visit the Office of Federal Student Aid’s Resources page and their Youtube channel.

Don’t miss your college’s priority filing deadline! The federal deadline is June 30, 2016, but your financial aid office will need the results much sooner. Missing your college’s deadline could mean the loss of thousands of dollars of financial aid. For a list of FAFSA priority deadlines for Virginia colleges, click here.
Complete your FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov.


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Interested in finding out more about the financial aid opportunities available to Virginians? Check out ECMC’s 2013-14 guide (http://www.ecmc.org/details/opportunities.html), which highlights federal financial aid programs and provides guidance about the financial aid process.

Known as the Opportunities Preparing for College Guide and Workbook, this booklet explains the types of financial aid available and eligibility requirements for federal programs. It also includes information about applying for financial aid and estimating college costs as well as a timeline for what students and parents/families should be doing to successfully navigate through the financial aid process.

Both English and Spanish versions are available.


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You’ve filled out the FAFSA, you were awarded financial aid, and now you’re set for the rest of the academic year, right? Not so fast. In order to continue receiving federal student aid, you need to make sure you maintain satisfactory academic progress (also known as SAP). Each institution has its own SAP policy for financial aid purposes that should tell you:

  • What grade-point average you need to maintain;
  • How many credits you should have successfully completed by the end of each year;
  • How an incomplete class, withdrawal, or transfer of credits from another school affects your satisfactory academic progress; and
  • What happens if you fail to make satisfactory academic progress.

Your college or university’s policy should also include details about how you might be able to appeal your school’s decision if you haven’t made satisfactory academic progress.

If you aren’t sure if your end-of-term grades are good enough for you to maintain you eligibility for federal financial aid, check with your institution’s financial aid office before you leave campus so you’ll know what you are facing when you return in the fall.

If the news isn’t good, don’t despair. In some cases, students can regain eligibility for federal student aid. Check out the StudentAid.Ed.Gov website ( http://studentaid.ed.gov/eligibility/regain) for more information on how you can maintain or regain your eligibility for financial aid.

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Today is the first day of spring! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and financial aid award letters are showing up in the mailboxes (and email inboxes) of college-going seniors. When you get that award letter, it’s easy to jump right to the line that tells you exactly how much aid you are receiving. But don’t be fooled. All financial aid is not equal.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the bottom line: The amount you owe will depend on the cost of attendance (COA) minus the aid you are offered. If College A offers you $2,500 in aid, while University B provides $4,000, College A is still the better deal if its total COA is $1,501 less than University B.

Also be sure you know exactly what types of aid are being offered. Is it a grant (which doesn’t have to be repaid), a work-study offer (which requires time spent at a job), or a loan (which will have to be repaid), or a combination? You should also be on the lookout for aid requirements, such as maintaining a certain GPA or studying a particular subject.

Still confused? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Ask your school counselor for help or call the college for clarification. You can also find online articles about how to compare financial aid offers, such as this one from US News & World Report.

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The Richmond Times-Dispatch published a great article today warning that college financial aid offers aren’t always as generous as they might seem at first glance.

“To accurately compare the cost of attending various schools,” the article states, “students and parents will need to take a closer look at exactly what type of aid is being offered — and on what terms.”

We couldn’t agree more. Visit the RTD website to read the full article.

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After you submit your application for financial aid, you should receive a financial aid award notification from the college, which spells out the details of your financial aid package. Some schools will notify you by mail, while others send an email. Either way, once you receive notifications from all the colleges to which you applied, it is now your job to compare these financial aid packages and figure out which offer works best for you. Remember, just because a school offers you more financial aid doesn’t mean it’s the better deal, especially if the tuition was higher to begin with or if much of the package is in the form of loans that must be repaid.

Reading financial aid award notifications can be confusing if you’re not sure what to look for. What makes it so difficult is that there is no standard format for award letters. Virtually every college writes its own award letters, so each letter has a different format and use of language, making it difficult to compare and contrast offers from various schools.

We suggest reading each notification carefully to figure out the following:

  • The total amount of financial aid you’ve received
  • The amount of aid that is scholarship or grant money (which doesn’t have to be paid back) versus the amount of aid that is loan money (which must be repaid, sometimes with interest)
  • Whether there’s still unmet need that you must cover out of pocket or with alternative sources of funding

You should also take into account whether there will be differences in transportation costs, room & board, or other fees.

If you are still having difficulty decoding your award letters, talk to a financial aid officer at the college or check out the Simple Award Letter Comparison Tool at www.finaid.org. It compares the financial aid packages from up to three colleges, calculates the net cost and out-of-pocket cost, and estimates the lifetime cost of any education loans.

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Have you been dreaming of attending a private college or university but think you will not be able to afford tuition? Good news! Virginia residents wishing to attend a private institution within the Commonwealth may be eligible to receive a Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG).

In 1972, the Commonwealth of Virginia created VTAG as a way to assist residents who attend accredited private, nonprofit colleges and universities in Virginia. VTAG is a non-need based grant and is available to undergraduate students as well as graduate students enrolled in health-related professional programs.

For a full list of participating institutions and program requirements, download the VTAG brochure from the SCHEV website.

The annual deadline to apply is July 31st.

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