Financial Aid Information

Financial Aid Guide:  Key Terms Defined

General Aid Terms:


Free Application for Federal Student Aid:  The form used to determine the amount of federal and state aid for which you are eligible
Student Aid Report (SAR) The official notification sent to students after the FAFSA is received.  This document will state your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Award Letter List of types and amounts of aid that your prospective school is offering. You are not required to accept all aid.
Financial Aid Package The difference between your educational cost and the EFC
Cost of Attenadance (COA) This figure includes the total price of tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, transportation and personal expenses for one academic year of education.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) A measure of your family's financial strength based on income, assets, family size, etc., based on FAFSA.  The EFC represents the amount of money the federal government believes your family is able to contribute toward college.  *The amount you end up actually paying could differ from the EFC, depending on what resources are available at your college.

General Aid Types:

Federal Aid Aid that comes from the U.S. government.  Usually disbursed through your college
Gift Aid Financial Aid that does not need to be paid back:
- Grants:  Typically based on financial need
- Scholarships:  Typically based on achievement or talent
Loans Funds that must be paid back later, with interest.  Federally guaranteed loans can be from a private lender (e.g. a bank) or from the federal government (administered by your college).  Private loans are offered by private lenders with terms set by the lender, not the government
Private Aid Financial aid from non-government sources


Federal Aid Programs

Pell Grant

Gift aid that is given based on financial need.  How much aid you will be eligible to receive is based on your EFC.  Current maximum per year is $4,050.

Federal Work Study

Provides part-time employment for students who have financial need. Jobs are usually available both on and off campus

Perkins Loan

Fixed low interest (5%) loan through your college.  You must demonstrate financial need.  Current max per year for undergrads is $4,000.

Stafford Loan

Currently a variable rate loan (pending legislation could change this loan to a fixed rate loan).  You can receive this loan from a private lender or your college.  They can be subsidized (no interest accrues while in school) or unsubsidized (interest accrues while in school)

Comparing Financial Aid Award Letters


You may receive award letters from different colleges.  Keep the following in mind when making your final decision.

  1. Look carefully at your award letters:  Letters from different schools will probably have their figures and costs in different formats.  Compare award letters to see how their offers measure up.  Ask if outside scholarships will affect your aid.

  2. Compare loan offers:  Interest rates, how interest compounds, repayment terms and cancellation provisions can vary widely from loan to loan.

  3. Compare affordability to aid offers over time:  Ask how your financial aid package will change over time.  The aid package made available to you in your senior year may look very different from the one you were offered freshman year.

  4. Look beyond the "sticker price":  The school with the lowest cost of attendance may not be the most affordable.  The amount and type of aid offered will influence affordability.

  5. Don't accept an offer just because is has the lowest "unmet need":  You may save more time by accepting an offer with a higher unmet need, if the aid package offers scholarships, grants and work-study instead of loans.

  6. Compare like terms:  How do the schools determine cost of attendance?  Do they all include direct costs as well as indirect costs?  How do they handle outside scholarships? What work-study options are available?  What are wages like?  Can you substitute work for a loan?

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