The financial aid office is an ally to students who have questions about affording college. It’s good to engage with your college’s financial aid officers early on, so they can advise and assist you the best way possible. Not sure where to start? Here are some helpful questions to ask.
Are there other scholarships available?
If you’ve already received your financial aid offer letter, you can ask them to talk you through the awards listed. During this time, you can ask if the campus offers additional scholarships that you might qualify for. They may also know of other resources for receiving additional aid.
How will outside scholarships affect my financial aid?
If you receive an outside scholarship (for example, from a private program), they may adjust the amounts on your financial aid offer letter. It varies by school. While some colleges will reduce your unmet need and student loans first, others may reduce the grants first. It’s important to ask your financial aid office so you know what to expect.
Do you offer a tuition payment plan?
This is a question that the financial aid office can answer, however, they may direct you to the Bursar’s office to set it up. The Bursar handles all student charges and payments. The financial aid office will be able to explain to you the exact cost of attendance and what you will be expected to pay, when. From there, you can ask the Bursar if you have to pay your balance in one payment or if you can pay in installments. Many schools offer payment plans, so be sure to ask what options are available to you.
What is the appeal process if I don’t receive enough financial aid?
While an appeal isn’t always guaranteed to work, some campuses offer a process to allow you to demonstrate why the current financial aid offer doesn’t meet your needs. Any increase in financial aid helps, so it never hurts to ask.
Will my financial aid offer be similar all four years?
Some scholarships can be renewed every year, so it’s important to find out what you need to do to maintain those awards. Ask your financial aid office what’s expected of you. Sometimes awards can be lost based on GPA or enrollment status. Also, ask if there are any awards that will not renew after your freshman year. If your financial aid is going to change, it’s good to plan ahead by finding additional resources to bridge any gaps.
When gathering the money you need to pay for college, it’s important to know the amount of federal financial aid that may be available to you. Each year, grant amounts and student loan interest rates are subject to change. Here’s what you can expect for Academic Year 2020-2021.
The Federal Pell Grant: Available to students who qualify based on the level of their financial need as determined by Federal Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Beginning July 1, 2020, the maximum allowable Pell amount you may be able to receive for one year of college is $6,345, which is an increase over the maximum of $6,195 for Academic Year 2019-2020.
The Federal Work-Study Program: If your campus administers work-study funds, you may be able to sign up for a part-time job, either on-campus or an approved site off-campus, enabling you to earn money to pay for some of your college expenses. The maximum amount you can earn in the work-study program will be determined by your level of financial need.
Federal Student Loans: To provide relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency, interest is being temporarily set at 0% on federal student loans borrowed before July 1, 2020. In addition, federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly loan payments. This 0% interest and suspension of payments will last from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2020, but you can still make payments if you choose.
The following table outlines the projected federal student loan interest rates for Academic Year 2020-2021, which show a decrease from last year’s rates:
Fixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans
Undergraduate students (up to Bachelor’s degree)
Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan
Graduate or professional students
Direct PLUS Loan
Parents of undergraduate students OR graduate/professional students
Be sure to visit StudentAid.gov for up-to-date information regarding interest rates and special allowances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As you celebrate America’s independence, refer to our Dependency Questionnaire to determine if you’re considered a dependent or independent student for the FAFSA. Knowing where you stand can help with submitting your application.
What you need to know about submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid