The financial aid process can be tough to navigate, and like many students out there, you may not know all of the ins-and-outs. To help you make the most of your financial aid, we compiled a list of some noteworthy facts.
1. You must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)
To stay eligible for financial aid, there are certain criteria you have to maintain. Many students know about the qualitative measures such as minimum GPA, but there are also quantitative criteria students must meet. For example, a student must not exceed 150% of the credits required for their program of study, and this includes attempted credits. This means that too many withdrawals, failed, or incomplete courses can impede your eligibility for financial aid. Make sure you know your school’s SAP policy to keep your financial aid on track or check out this example from the University of Minnesota.
2. Males must register with the Selective Service
Some students don’t realize this until it’s too late, but in order to receive financial aid, male students 18 and older must register for selective service. If you don’t register by the time you’re 26, you will be unable to receive federal financial aid funds. After that, it’s incredibly difficult to regain eligibility, if at all.
3. Financial aid processes differ by school
The financial aid process at one school, might not be the same as another. While schools must follow certain guidelines from the Department of Education, they also have a lot of room for school-specific policies. For example, if your parents want to request a PLUS loan, some schools use the Department of Education website, others have their own application procedures. For this reason, financial aid questions are best sent directly to your school.
4. You can appeal
If you have extenuating circumstances that limit your financial aid eligibility or options, there’s probably an appeal process for that. Students can appeal their financial aid offer if they can clearly document why they need extra funds (such as a parent recently getting laid off). There are other appeal processes for various other issues, such as not meeting SAP standards. Check with your financial aid office for more information on appealing a financial aid issue.
5. Dependency on taxes and FAFSA is not the same
Did you know that you can still be dependent on the FAFSA if you’re parents don’t claim you on taxes? Just because you file one as independent, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how you should file the other. Make sure you read the dependency criteria closely for both taxes and the FAFSA before you file.
6. Assets in the student’s name “cost” more
When calculating the Expected Family Contribution on the FAFSA, parent and student assets are assessed differently. Any assets in the students name are assessed at 20% while parent assets are assessed at 5.64%. The less assets in the student’s name, the better! That way, you can make the most of your financial aid options.
7. You can get more Stafford loans with a PLUS denial
Parent PLUS loans have a pretty minimal credit check requirement, but in the case where a parent does get denied for credit reasons, the student becomes eligible for more Stafford loans. Specifically, a student’s Stafford loan limits can be raised to that of an independent student.
8. Divorced parents can both take out PLUS loans
We get a lot of questions about this. When parents are divorced, only one needs to submit their information on the FAFSA. However, both parents may request PLUS loans, regardless of who files the FAFSA. Just keep in mind that the combined amount can’t exceed the student’s Cost of Attendance as determined by the financial aid office.
9. You have repayment options!
Many student loan borrowers might be surprised to find out that there may be other repayment options they are not taking advantage of. If the standard 10-year repayment plan isn’t ideal, look into other options like Income-Based Repayment or graduated repayment. Contact your loan servicer to find your options or find your loan servicer’s information at NSLDS.ed.gov
10. You can get out of default by consolidating
If you are in default on a federal student loan, there are a couple of things you can do to get back on track. You can:
Both of these options can help your credit and put your loans back in good standing. Whatever you do, don’t ignore your loans!
Do you have other financial aid tips or have do you have first-hand experience with any items on our list? Leave a comment to let us know!
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