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Frequently Asked Questions - Types of Financial Aid

What types of financial aid are there?

Student financial aid programs are generally classified as gift/grant aid and self-help aid. Gift aid represents scholarships, fellowships, and grants that do not have to be repaid. Self-help aid is awarded in the form of work or student employment programs and loans, which must be repaid. Most, but not all, financial aid programs are awarded on the basis of financial need. Some programs, particularly scholarships, are awarded on the basis of academic achievement or merit.

If I am not eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, are there other types of financial aid I can receive?

Yes. Many undergraduates who do not qualify for a Federal Pell Grant may still qualify for some form of student financial aid. Grant funds are limited, which is why it is so important to submit your financial aid application in a timely manner. Virtually all students can qualify for some form of student loan but should consider the obligations associated with borrowing.

Are there part-time jobs for students on campus, and how can I get one?

The Federal Work-Study program provides opportunities for eligible financial aid recipients to work part-time to earn funds for college expenses. Many of these jobs also offer an opportunity to perform valuable community service at the same time. Students who are awarded work-study will get assistance from the financial aid or student employment office in attempting to locate a job that is suited to their interests and skills as well as to their available work schedule.

Why was I offered a loan when I wanted grant assistance?

Loans are a form of student financial aid. Student loans offer interest rates and terms that would not typically be available to first-time borrowers if it were not for their student status. Grant funds are severely limited and are typically awarded to students demonstrating the lowest family contributions. Even at the low cost of a public institution such as the CSU, it is virtually impossible for students with financial need to complete their college careers without obtaining a student loan for some portion of the financing.

Do I have to take out student loans?

No student is required to take out a loan. Because of the limited availability of grant funds, most students who need financial assistance will find that they must consider borrowing or working in order to have sufficient resources to meet college costs.

Approximately 50 percent of all the undergraduates who receive financial aid at CSU typically take out a student loan. The average loan for 2014-15 was $7,617.

As an alternative to student loans, you may choose to work part-time to supplement financial aid. The choice between working and possibly taking fewer classes and longer to graduate or borrowing money that will have to be repaid later is one that each student must make.

If I take a loan, when do I have to pay it back, how much will I pay, and how long will it take?

Repayment of student loans typically begin six months after a student ceases to be enrolled on at least a half-time basis. The terms and conditions of student loans do vary depending on the type of loan. Students are required to attend an entrance interview prior to receiving loan funds so that they can be advised of the terms of the loan and their obligations and afforded a chance to ask questions. Institutions make information about the conditions and repayment of loans readily available to students. The Financial Aid Page includes several calculators to assist students and families in determining how much they can afford to borrow for college expenses and what payments and total repayments will be.

Why are students offered so many loans?

Appropriations for grant funds are severely limited - at the federal, state, and institutional level. The federal government guarantees for student loans, along with repayment obligations, make lending to students a relatively attractive and limited-risk alternative for lending institutions and the federal government.

How can I find out about special scholarships?

You should check with your high school guidance counselor and the reference section of your local public library to research private scholarship opportunities. Many local community and service organizations also provide scholarships to students in their area. Scholarship application procedures vary at campuses of the CSU. If you are interested you should contact the financial aid office at the individual campus for application forms and information. Many college websites include information about scholarship opportunities. (Click here for a directory of CSU financial aid websites.)

How do I apply for scholarships?

Most colleges have their own application form for campus-specific scholarship fund(s) that they administer - be sure to obtain one and file by the specified deadline.

If you are a high school senior you should contact your advisor/counselor to make sure you are being considered for local scholarships. Check directly with clubs, fraternal organizations, unions, and other sources that might be particularly relevant to your specific interests and qualifications.

Visit your local library or check our references on the Internet and do your own search.

What is the Hope Tax Credit?

The Hope Tax Credit established by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (TRA97) is available for "qualified tuition and educational fees" paid by eligible taxpayers.

The Hope Tax Credit is refundable whereas the Lifelong Learning tax credit is not refundable, which means that a family must have a tax liability in order to claim the credit. Scholarships and grants that are not subject to taxation are deducted from the amount of "qualified" tuition and fees before establishing any tax credit.

Students and families interested in additional information on the Hope and Lifelong Learning Tax Credits should download and refer to IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Higher Education or consult with their tax advisor regarding the various tax provisions related to postsecondary educational expenses and education savings incentives.

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