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Frequently Asked Questions - About Financial Aid

What is student financial aid?

Student financial aid is money to help students pay for their college expenses. College can be expensive and many families and students are not able to afford to pay for tuition and fees, books and supplies, and the living expenses associated with attending college. Federal and state governments, colleges and universities, and organizations attempt to make sure that college is affordable for all students by providing student financial aid to help meet college costs for students who do not have sufficient resources.

What is financial need?

Financial need is determined according to formulas established by the federal government. Using those formulas, the information supplied on the FAFSA or CA Dream application is used to calculate an expected family contribution. This is the amount that the student and family are expected to pay for college costs. This amount is subtracted from the total cost of attending college, and the difference is financial need.

Who should apply for financial aid?

If a student and his/her family (parents, spouse) need help to pay college expenses, he/she should apply for financial aid. There is no charge for filing an application. . During 2013-2014, approximately 336,000 students at CSU campuses received some form of financial aid — this represents over half of all students attending the CSU.

All of the information submitted on the application form is confidential and released only to the financial aid office at the campuses the student lists on the form.

Who is eligible for financial aid?

While eligibility for financial aid varies somewhat between programs, the basic requirements for major student aid programs are as follows:

  • have financial need, except for some scholarship and loan programs
  • have a high school diploma or the recognized equivalent (typically a General Education Development or GED certificate), pass an independently administered ability-to-benefit test approved by the U.S. Department of Education, or meet other standards approved by the U.S. Department of Education
  • be enrolled as a matriculated student working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program at an eligible institution
  • be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • have a valid Social Security number
  • make satisfactory academic progress
  • sign a statement of educational purpose/certification statement on refunds and default (found on the SAR)
  • register with the Selective Service System if the applicant is a male between 18 and 25 years of age

Are grades or GPA considered in determining eligibility for financial aid?

While your grades do not play a major role in determining eligibility for financial aid, academic criteria do come into play. Students must meet the institution's admission criteria that typically include some consideration of grades or other measures of academic achievement or potential. Financial aid recipients are required to make satisfactory academic progress toward their degree or credential objective. Institutions establish standards of satisfactory academic progress and monitor the progress of aid recipients. Institutional standards include consideration of the number of units in which students enroll and satisfactorily complete each year, as well as the total number of units a student completes over the entire academic program. According to federal regulations, aid recipients must have a C average or a 2.00 GPA at the end of their second year. For institutional and other scholarships based on academic merit, grades are typically a factor in selection of recipients.

How can I get the most financial aid available?

File the FAFSA as early as possible after October 1 and before the March 2 priority filing date, apply for a Cal Grant and submit a verified GPA prior to March 2, and respond promptly to all instructions or requests for additional information from the financial aid office.

How do I apply for financial aid?

Students should file either the FAFSA or CA Dream Application, NOT both forms.

You can access the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov beginning October 1, 2016 to apply for the 2017-18 school year. It is recommended that students file online because there are built-in edits; it is faster and more efficient. You can also use the CSUMentors FAFSA transfer module to help complete the FAFSA. You can get a paper copy of FAFSA from your high school or college counselor. FAFSA forms are also available from the financial aid office at any college or university, trade and technical schools, and at many public libraries.

CA Dream students should visit www.caldreamact.org for more information on eligibility and to submit a CA Dream Application. The CA Dream Application is designated for California AB540 eligible students without lawful immigration status or who are DACA or who are U-Visa holders.

The CA Dream Application is also available beginning on October 1, 2016 for the 2017-18 school year. It is recommended that students file online because there are built-in edits; it is faster and more efficient. You can get a paper copy of the CA Dream Application from your high school or college counselor. CA Dream Applications are also available from the financial aid office at any college or university, trade and technical schools, and at many public libraries.

When should I apply for financial aid?

The FAFSA and Dream form for the 2017-2018 school year will be available in October 1, 2016. The form cannot be filed until October 1, 2016. In California, your financial aid application should be filed by March 2 in order to be considered for a Cal Grant from the California Student Aid Commission.

CSU campuses have a March 2 priority filing date, which means that if you file the FAFSA by that date you have a better chance of receiving limited grant funds.

You should check with the college you are interested in attending to get information about possible earlier deadlines and other procedures.

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