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    FAQs about financial aid

    Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about financial aid.

    Taken from http://www.finaid.org/questions/faq.phtml(disclaimer below)
    General Questions about Eligibility and Applying
    I probably don’t qualify for aid. Should I apply for aid anyway?
    Yes. Many families mistakenly think they don’t qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. In addition, there are a few sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need. The FAFSA form is free. There is no good excuse for not applying.

    Do I need to be admitted before I can apply for financial aid at a particular university?

    No. You can apply for financial aid any time after October 1. To actually receive funds, however, you must be admitted and enrolled at the university.
    Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?
    Yes. Most financial aid offices require that you apply for financial aid every year. If your financial circumstances change, you may get more or less aid. After your first year you will receive a “Renewal Application” which contains preprinted information from the previous year’s FAFSA. Note that your eligibility for financial aid may change significantly, especially if you have a different number of family members in college. Renewal of your financial aid package also depends on your making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, such as earning a minimum number of credits and achieving a minimum GPA.
    How do I apply for a Pell Grant and other types of need-based aid?
    Submit a FAFSA. To indicate interest in student employment, student loans and parent loans, you should check the appropriate boxes. Checking these boxes does not commit you to accepting these types of aid. You will have the opportunity to accept or decline each part of your aid package later. Leaving these boxes unchecked will not increase the amount of grants you receive.
    Are my parents responsible for my educational loans?
    No. Parents are, however, responsible for the Federal PLUS loans. Parents will only be responsible for your educational loans if they co-sign your loan. In general you and you alone are responsible for repaying your educational loans.

    You do not need to get your parents to cosign your federal student loans, even if you are under age 18, as the ‘defense of infancy’ does not apply to federal student loans. (The defense of infancy presumes that a minor is not able to enter into contracts, and considers any such contract to be void. There is an explicit exemption to this principle in the Higher Education Act with regard to federal student loans.) However, lenders may require a cosigner on private student loans if your credit history is insufficient or if you are underage. In fact, many private student loan programs are not available to students under age 18 because of the defense of infancy.

    If your parents (or grandparents) want to help pay off your loan, you can have your billing statements sent to their address. Likewise, if your lender or loan servicer provides an electronic payment service, where the monthly payments are automatically deducted from a bank account, your parents can agree to have the payments deducted from their account. But your parents are under no obligation to repay your loans. If they forget to pay the bill on time or decide to cancel the electronic payment agreement, you will be held responsible for the payments, not them.

    I got an outside scholarship. Should I report it to the financial aid office?
    Yes. If you are receiving any kind of financial aid from university or government sources, you must report the scholarship to the financial aid office.

    Unfortunately, the university will adjust your financial aid package to compensate. Nevertheless, the outside scholarship will have some beneficial effects. At some universities outside scholarships are used to reduce the self-help level. For example, at MIT the outside scholarship is first applied to reducing the self-help level, and only when the scholarship exceeds self-help does it replace institutional grants. At other universities outside scholarships are used to replace loans instead of grants.

    Where can I get information about Federal student financial aid?
    Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or 1-800-730-8913 (if hearing impaired) and ask for a free copy of The Student Guide: Financial Aid from the US Department of Education. This toll free hotline is run by the US Department of Education and can answer questions about federal and state student aid programs and applications. You can also write to

    Federal Student Aid Information Center
    PO Box 84
    Washington, DC 20044

    Is it legal for a 17-year-old student to sign a promissory note for a student loan, even though the student has not yet reached the age of majority?
    Normally, a minor cannot be held liable for a contract that they sign. However, in 1992 the Higher Education Act was amended to permit eligible students, defined as per Title IV regulations, to sign promissory notes for their own Federal student loans. As such, student loans represent one of the few exceptions to the so-called “defense of infancy”. The specific citation is section 484A(b)(2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 USC 1091a(b)(2)), and applies to Stafford, PLUS and Consolidation Loans. It does not appear to apply to Perkins and Direct Loans, although it was clearly the intent of Congress that it should.

    Several states have also passed similar laws that consider minors to be competent to enter into a contract for an education loan. This extends similar protection to private and non-federal loans. All private education loans require a cosigner when the student is under the age of majority, just to be safe.

    FAFSA Questions
    Where can I get a copy of the FAFSA?
    The online version of the form is available at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.
    I sent in my FAFSA over four weeks ago but haven’t heard anything. What should I do?
    If you haven’t received a Student Aid Report (SAR), call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (toll free) or 1-319-337-5665. You must provide them with your Social Security number and date of birth as verification.

    You can also write to

    Federal Student Aid Programs
    PO Box 4038
    Washington, DC 52243-4038

    to find out whether your FAFSA has been processed or to request a duplicate copy of your SAR.

    What do those acronyms on the Student Aid Report (SAR) mean?
    The acronyms on the bottom of the SAR represent intermediate results in the need analysis. To fully understand their meaning, you will need to be familiar with the federal need analysis methodology, such as is used by the EFC Estimator. The meanings of the acronyms are as follows:




    Expected Family Contribution


    Total Income


    Allowances Against Total Income


    State and Other Tax Allowance


    Employment Allowance


    Income Protection Allowance


    Contribution from Available Income (Independent Student)


    Discretionary Net Worth


    Education Savings and Asset Protection Allowance


    Parents' Contribution from Assets


    Adjusted Available Income


    Total Parents' Contribution


    Total Student's Contribution


    Parents' Contribution


    Dependent Student's Income Contribution


    Dependent Student's Contribution from Assets

    If an asterisk appears next to the EFC figure, the student has been selected for verification. The asterisk is followed by a code that explains the reason why the student was selected for verification. The letter explains the reason for selection, and the number indicates the priority, with code 1 the highest priority and code 25 the lowest priority (although there are higher codes).

    For additional details about SARs and ISIRs, please see the Guide to 1997-98 SARs and ISIRs.

    Divorce and Financial Aid
    An entire section of FinAid is devoted to the topic of Divorce and Financial Aid. It discusses which parent is responsible for completing the FAFSA, the obligations of non-custodial parents to pay for college, college support agreements, the obligations of step-parents, and the ability of non-custodial parents to take advantage of the various tax benefits for education.
    Bankruptcy and Financial Aid
    An entire section of FinAid is devoted to the topic of Bankruptcy and Financial Aid. It discusses both whether student loans can be discharged by bankruptcy, as well as the impact of a bankruptcy on eligibility for student aid.

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    Permission is expressly granted for college and university financial aid offices and high school guidance counselors to print sections of FinAid and distribute them for free to their students, provided the copyright notice is retained intact and the material is clearly attributed to the source.