Financial Aid Information

Financial Aid for CollegeTo read in-depth information on scholarships, federal financial aid, repayment options and loans, download the Additional Financial Aid Resources document.

Financial aid is the monetary assistance available to help students pay for the costs of attending an educational institution. Such aid is provided by federal, state, institutional or private sources and may consist of grants, loans, work or scholarships. Qualified students may be offered combinations of the various types of aid or aid from a single source. Each year, billions of dollars are given or lent to students, and about half of all students receive some sort of financial aid.

Most financial aid is awarded based on an individual's financial need, education costs and the availability of funds. This aid is provided to students because neither they nor their families have all of the resources needed to pay for an education. This kind of aid is referred to as need-based aid.

Merit-based aid is awarded to students who may or may not have financial need. Students are given assistance because they have a special skill or ability, display a particular talent, have a certain grade point average, or are enrolled in a specific program.

Applying for Financial Aid

To apply for financial aid, it is essential that you properly complete the necessary forms so that your individual financial need can be evaluated. It is important to read all application materials and instructions very carefully. The application process can be a bit confusing, so remember to take it one step at a time. If you run into any problems or have specific questions, contact the financial aid office at the college you will be attending. The financial aid administrator will be happy to provide you with guidance and assistance.

Many career colleges use just one financial aid application – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This free form, published by the federal government, is available at your college's financial aid office, local high school guidance office and state education department offices. Students can apply for federal student aid via the Internet by using FAFSA on the Web (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov). The process is self-paced and interactive with step-by-step guidance. Depending on the availability of information about your income and financial situation, the process can take as little as 20 minutes to complete. The FAFSA that students use to apply for aid for each school year becomes available in the December prior to the year in which aid is awarded. However, do not fill the form out until after January 1 (Note: You should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1. Although you may apply for aid at any time during the year, many state agencies have early cut-off dates for state aid funding.)

To complete this application you will need to gather specific family information and financial records, such as tax forms, if they are available. If they are not, you can use estimates and make corrections later. Be sure to answer all questions. Omitted information may delay processing of your application. Be sure that you and your parents (if applicable) have signed the form and that you keep a copy of the form for your records. If applying online, you and one parent (if you are dependent) will need to get a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to sign the application. You can get the PIN at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Most students now use the Web-based application to apply for financial aid.

The FAFSA processing center will calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and will send the information to the colleges you request. About two to four weeks after you submit your completed FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that shows the information you reported on the FAFSA and your calculated EFC. The colleges you listed on the FAFSA will receive the same information. If you need to make any corrections, you may do so at this time. If you applied online or supplied an e-mail address, you will be notified electronically. It is very important to ensure the e-mail address you supply is accurate and that you notify the FAFSA processor if it changes.

Types and Sources of Financial Aid

There are several types of financial aid offered to help pay for educational expenses: grants, loans, student employment (work-study) and scholarships. Grants and scholarships are "gifts" and do not have to be repaid. Loans are borrowed money that the borrower must pay back over a period of time, usually after the student the loan is funding leaves school. Student employment is normally part-time work arranged for a student during the school year. Wages received by the student are used for specific college expenses.

One main source of aid for students attending a career college is the federal government, which offers both grant and loan financial aid programs. Another source of aid is state assistance. Many states across the country provide some aid for students attending colleges in their home states. Most state aid programs are grants, although there are a few states that offer special loan and work-study programs. Other sources of aid that award money to students are private foundations, such as corporations, civic associations, unions, fraternal organizations and religious groups. Most of these awards are not based solely on need, although the amount of the award may vary depending on financial need.

In addition, many companies offer tuition reimbursement to their employees and/or their employees' dependents. The Human Resources department at either your or your parent's place of employment can tell you whether or not the company offers this benefit and who may be eligible. Lastly, there are some colleges that offer awards from their own funds or from money received from various organizations. This type of aid is often referred to as institutional aid.