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Frequently Asked Questions - Family Income

What can I do if my family or I cannot afford to pay for college costs?

The first step is to apply for financial aid by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Dream Application on a timely basis. Undergraduates who are California residents should also apply for a Cal Grant by filing the FAFSA or Dream by March 2 and ensuring that the California Student Aid Commission receives a verified GPA by March 2 to determine Cal Grant eligibility.

If you want to attend college, meet CSU admission requirements, and demonstrate a financial need, CSU financial aid professionals will make every effort to assist in providing information about financial aid programs that help make college affordable. You may reduce your expenses by attending a local college and living at home or by attending a community college for two years prior to transferring to a four-year institution. You can also work part-time to help meet college costs.

I'm not claimed on my parents' 1040 or my parents don't provide any support for me. Do I still need to provide information on their income?

Yes. If you are under 24 years of age, unmarried, not an active duty member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, not a graduate student, not an orphan or ward of the court, in foster care, homeless, and do not have a legal dependent, you are considered a "dependent" student and must provide your parents' information. If there are exceptional circumstances that would prevent you from obtaining your parents' information, you should contact a representative at the college's financial aid office.

Can I be considered independent of my parents if they do not claim me as a tax exemption? If they are not willing to pay for college? If I am going to be on my own?

Federal regulations regarding dependency status for financial aid purposes are very strict. If you do not meet one of the following criteria, you are considered dependent and your parents' information will be required to determine eligibility for aid:

  • You are 24 or older prior to the first day of the calendar year of the award year;
  • You are an active duty member or a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces;
  • You are enrolled in a graduate degree program;
  • You are married, or have legal dependents other than a spouse;
  • You are an orphan/ward of the court, emancipated, in foster care or homeless.

If you do not satisfy one of the above criteria, additional documentation will be needed to demonstrate to the financial aid administrator that there are extenuating circumstances sufficient to warrant an exception. This exception is termed a dependency override and it is unique to each institution. Institutions and their administrators are held responsible for the administration of student aid funds and the judgment they exercise in awarding those funds.

Are my parents required to pay the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the school?

No. The Expected Family Contribution is a Federal calculation that determines the amount the family (parent(s) and/or student) is expected to contribute toward the educational costs. The calculation examines the contribution by assessing prior year earnings, savings, etc. If you or your parents cannot meet the EFC because of a change in prior year income or other expenses such as medical or elementary school tuition, you should contact a financial aid representative.

What is the standard amount of annual income or the asset level for a student and his/her family that will make them eligible (or ineligible) for financial aid?

There is no specific income or asset level that determines a student's eligibility for student financial aid programs. The need analysis methodology attempts to assess the ability to pay based on the family circumstances. Virtually every student qualifies for some type of financial assistance, even if it is in the form of a student loan.

What is "verification" and why do some aid applicants have to submit tax returns and other documents?

Financial aid applicants are selected at random or by systems edits at the US Department of Education and by the California Student Aid Commission (for CA Dream Applicants) . The documents required are those that should have been used to complete the initial application.

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