Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility for federal student aid is determined on the basis of financial need and several other factors. The financial aid administrator at the college or career school you plan to attend will determine your eligibility.

Basically, to receive aid from our programs, you must

  • qualify for financial aid (except for certain loans)
  • have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or pass a test approved by the U.S. Department of Education
  • be working toward a degree or certificate
  • be enrolled in an eligible program
  • be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • have a valid Social Security Number
  • register with the Selective Service if required (you can use the paper or electronic FAFSA to register)
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress once in school.

A law suspends aid eligibility for students who have been convicted under federal or state law of selling or possessing drugs. If you have a conviction or convictions for these offenses, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to find out if, or how, this law applies to you. Even if you’re ineligible for federal aid, you should complete the FAFSA because you might be eligible for nonfederal aid from states and private institutions. If you regain eligibility during the award year, notify your financial aid administrator immediately. If you’re convicted of a drug-related offense after you submit the FAFSA, you may lose eligibility for federal student aid, and you may be liable for returning any financial aid you received during a period of ineligibility. Information about this law is available by calling the Information Center at the number included in this paragraph.

If you have a question about your citizenship status, contact the financial aid office at the college or career school you plan to attend.

How will I know what I'm eligible for?

When your FAFSA is processed, a formula, established by law, is applied to the information you provided. The formula result is called the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC. The EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is based on your family’s income and assets. The EFC indicates how much money you and your family are expected to contribute toward your cost of attendance for the 2003-2004 school year. The EFC is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.

If your EFC is below a certain number, you’ll be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, assuming you meet all other eligibility requirements. The amount of your Pell Grant depends on your EFC, your cost of attendance (which the financial aid administrator at your college or career school will figure out), and your enrollment status (full time, three-quarter time, half time, or less than half time).

For our other aid programs, the financial aid administrator at your college or career school takes your cost of attendance and then subtracts your EFC, the amount of a Federal Pell Grant you’re eligible for, and aid you’ll get from other sources. The result is your remaining financial need:

  • Cost of Attendance
  • - Expected Family Contribution
  • - Aid From Other Sources
  • = Financial Need

What is cost of attendance?

Your cost of attendance is the sum of

  • your actual tuition and fees (or the school’s average tuition and fees);
  • the cost of room and board (or living expenses for students who don’t contract with the school for room and board);
  • the cost of books, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses (including a reasonable amount for a personal computer); and
  • an allowance for transportation.

Costs unrelated to completing your course of study are not included in calculating your cost of attendance.

I Think my family has special circumstances. Are those considered in determining how much I can receive?

A financial aid administrator can consider special or unusual circumstances. As mentioned on the applying for financial aid page, the financial aid administrator at your college or career school can change your status from dependent to independent if he or she believes there’s a good reason to do so. You’ll have to provide your school documentation to justify the change. However, the decision to change or not to change your dependency status is based on the aid administrator’s judgment, and it’s final. It can’t be appealed to the Department of Education.

The financial aid administrator also has the authority to adjust your cost of attendance or some of the information used to calculate your EFC. This kind of change can be made if you have unusual circumstances that affect your family’s ability to contribute money to the cost of your education. If your family has any unusual circumstances (for example, high medical expenses or reduced income due to a recent job loss), contact the financial aid administrator at the school you plan to attend. He or she will decide whether an adjustment can be made. That decision cannot be appealed to the Department of Education.