Student Financial Aid Fact Sheet

Financial aid is designed to help students, including the disabled, with educational expenses (tuition, books, campus fees, transportation, etc.). Finding and applying for financial aid can be a complicated process.

Three Types of Student Aid

There are three basic types of aid available:

Grants, Loans and Work Study

Grants are gifts or scholarships that do not have to be repaid. Loans have to be repaid (usually with interest) and payments are usually postponed until you finish school. Work-study-Employment enables a student to earn money toward the cost of education during enrollment but if you collect disability income make sure you understand how earned income can affect your benefits.

Federal Financial Aid

Federal aid offers all three types of assistance. Information on Federal Financial Aid can be found in a booklet called Funding Your Education from the U. S. Dept. of Education. For a free copy, write to Federal Student Aid Programs, Box 84, Washington DC 20044 or call 800.433.3243 or 800.730.8913. Click here to download the booklet.

Federal Student Aid Eligibility

To receive federal student aid you need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Have a high school diploma, GED or passed an "ability to benefit" exam
  2. Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen (non-citizen questions call 800.4FEDAID)
  3. Be enrolled or accepted in a degree program at a college or university
  4. Make satisfactory academic progress
  5. Posses a valid Social Security number
  6. Comply with U.S. Selective Service registration requirements
  7. Not be in default on a federal student loan

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All students applying for federal assistance must fill out a Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). You can pick up a copy at any financial aid office or call 800.4FEDAID or click here to download it from the U.S. Department of Education's Web site.

Financial Need and Cost of Attendance

All federal aid except unsubsidized loans are based on financial need. Financial need is the difference between a student's cost of attendance and the amount of money a student is expected to contribute.

Financial Need

Educational Expenses

Tuition, books, supplies, fees, personal expenses, transportation, expenses related to a disability and day care for dependents
Your $$$ Contribution

Amount you are expected to pay toward education expenses from your income, SS Benefits, assets, welfare or GR
Financial Need

The difference between the cost of school and your contribution may be met by scholarships, grants, loans and work study

The amount of financial aid available to you is based on your financial need.

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Disability Related Expenses

Students with disabilities sometimes face additional disability-related expenses when going to school (medical expenses not covered by insurance, assistive devices, readers, note takers or personal care attendants). Colleges may also allow a person with a disability extra time to finish a program and may provide financial aid to cover the extra period of enrollment. Be sure to provide financial aid officers with documentation of such expenses or anticipated expenses.

Financial Aid Package and Your Student Aid Report (SAR)

The results of your financial aid application will be sent to you and the colleges listed on your application within three weeks after the processor receives the completed application. Your SAR will tell you how much student aid you are eligible for. Your college financial aid administrator will put together a "package" of grants, loans and work study to meet your financial need based on your SAR. Financial aid offices may put together different packages for each year of study. Make sure you check to see what their policy is on financial aid packages beyond the first year.

Federal Pell Grants

The federal Pell Grant program is the largest source of student aid and serves as a foundation for all other aid programs. Pell Grants do not have to be repaid. FAFSA includes an automatic Pell Grant application. You can receive only one Pell Grant per year. Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduates in a degree program at an eligible school or college. For the 1999-2000 award year Pell Grants for full-time students ranged from $400 to $3,000. Pell Grants are also available if you are enrolled less than half-time.

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Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants

If you qualify for a Pell Grant, you may also receive a Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant ranging from $100 to $4,000 per year. These grants are awarded by colleges to students with exceptional financial need. Priority is given to students who receive a Pell Grant.

Federal Work Study

If you are offered Work-Study as part of your Financial Aid Package, your college will assist you in locating a part-time job on or off campus. If possible you will be placed in work related to your field of study. Students collecting disability benefits should see a benefits counselor prior to entering a work-study program. Earnings from work-study could affect their benefits and public health insurance.

Federal Stafford Loans

Stafford loans are the most common source of student loan funds. Undergraduate, graduate, vocational and professional students may apply. There are two types of Stafford Loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. FAFSA establishes your eligibility for both and you must have been determined eligible for a Pell Grant.

Subsidized Stafford loans are need-based. The federal government pays the interest while you are in college and during a grace period after schooling. Monthly payments begin six months after you graduate, or if you drop below half-time status or drop out of college.

Unsubsidized Stafford loans are available to qualified students regardless of income. There are no financial need guidelines to meet. Interest accrues after the loan is made although it can be deferred until payments begin. The interest rate is variable with a cap of eight and a half per cent and must be repaid within ten years.

Total borrowing for Stafford loans may not exceed $23,000 for dependent students and $46,000 for independent students. For graduate students the limit is $138,500 including Stafford loans received for undergraduate study.

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Federal Consolidated Loans and Federal Perkins Loans

Consolidated Loans allow you to combine different types of federal student loans to make repayment more manageable. Lenders pay off your existing loans and make a new loan with single monthly payments that can be extended over 30 years. Monthly payments are less but you pay more over the life of the loan. Get all the facts before consolidating your loans. You may lose your deferment as well as your repayment options.

Perkins Loans are very low interest loans at five per cent made through participating colleges for students with financial need. The annual loan limit is $3,000 for undergraduate students and $5,000 for graduate students. You pay no interest while you are enrolled in school at least half time. Repayment begins nine months after you graduate, leave school or drop below half time. Depending on the size of the loan, you will have up to ten years to repay.

What Financial Aid programs does California offer?

Cal Grants are the largest source of state aid but the California Student Aid Commission offers a number of other financial aid programs: The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program, Law Enforcement Dependents Scholarship, Assumption of Loans for Education Program, Child Development Teacher Grant Program, State Work Study, and the new Graduate Assumption Program of Loans for Education. Check with your financial aid office for more information.

How do I Qualify for Cal Grants?

To receive Cal Grant student aid you must meet the following criteria:

  1. U.S. citizen or eligible non citizen (for non-citizen questions call 800.4FEDAID)
  2. California resident attending a college or eligible school in the state
  3. Making satisfactory progress in a program leading to a certificate or degree
  4. Not have a bachelors degree or higher and attend school at least half time
  5. Comply with the Selective Service requirements
  6. Not be in default on a student loan or owe a refund on a grant
  7. Apply by the March 2 annual deadline

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Types of Cal Grants: A, B, C, and T

Cal Grant Ahelps low and middle income students with tuition and fees. Examples of Cal Grant awards for colleges in 1999: CSU $1506, UC $3,609 and private schools from $5,250-$9,036.

Cal Grant B provides a living allowance and sometimes tuition and fees to very low income, first time students. Maximum living allowances were $1,410; tuition and fees, $9,036.

Cal Grant C assists students in occupational and training programs with tuition and training costs. You must be enrolled in a vocational training program at a community college or vocational school that lasts from four to 24 months. Cal Grant C covers tuition and fees up to $2,890, and tools, books and equipment up to $590.

Cal Grant T awards can only be use for tuition and fees in an approved teacher certification program and makes awards based on the cost of tuition and fees.

Other Disadvantaged and Disabled Student Services

Talent Search and Educational Opportunity Centers are federally-funded programs located across the country. Some are set up at colleges and others are part of private or public organizations. One responsibility of these programs is to assist disadvantaged and disabled students prepare their financial aid packages. They may provide financial assistance as well. Contact your financial aid office or write to the Division of Student Services at 1250 Maryland Avenue, SW, Portals Building, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20202-5249.

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Making Sense or Scholarships

With so many scholarships available today it is easy to get confused. A closer look at the types of scholarships and eligibility criteria can help you narrow it down. One of the best sources of information on scholarships is FastWeb is by far the largest scholarship search site with over 400,000 listed. They also list information on admissions and financial aid at over 4000 colleges.

Private Scholarships

In addition to applying for state, federal and college based financial aid, there are many sources of private financial aid through community or professional groups: business, labor union, church, or national foundations. Some scholarships are based on financial need and others are based on merit, grades, leadership ability, special talents or heritage.

Professional associations offer scholarships to encourage students in their field. Check the FastWeb listing of professional associations.

Businesses and corporations use scholarships to advertise their names and to attract future employees. Start by calling smaller local companies in your area and then try larger national companies which usually have their own web sites.

Religious communities, churches and other places of worship often offer scholarships as a community service. You may not have to be a member as some use community service and financial need as eligibility requirements.

Minority organizations encourage minority involvement to help create diversity in education and use race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation as eligibility requirements for their scholarships.

Clubs and local organizations like the Rotary Club and the Jaycees, offer lots of scholarships. Visit the Chamber of Commerce to get more information.

Affiliation scholarships are based on relationships you or a family member have with an organization. Does your father work for IBM? Was your parent a veteran or member of the AFL/CIO? Some employers and organizations offer scholarships to employees/members and their families. Be sure to check into veteran groups, professional organizations, and patriotic, civil and fraternal associations.

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College Based Scholarships

Colleges and universities attract new students by offering scholarships. Some you have to apply for and others are automatic with good grades.

Merit scholarships are given to the top students of the class, those with the highest GPA, class standing and SAT or ACT scores.

Department awards are given to students who show promise and achievement in one of their majors. Call the dean’s office of your department to find out about these opportunities.

Fellowships are awards offered to incoming graduate students. They often cover all expenses including tuition and a living stipend.

Making the Most of Scholarships

You may be eligible for more award dollars than you think. The trick is to categorize yourself, think about who you are and what you want to do, to find the most scholarship money. Start with your academic major. If you are a double major don’t limit yourself, apply for scholarships in both. Then look at organizations in the field of employment you plan to go into. Part of who you are is where you live. Many state governments offer aid to residents, and private organizations offer residency-based awards. The key is to think broadly. Figure how many categories you fit into and search for awards in all those areas.

Scholarships for People with Disabilities

There are scholarships awarded on the basis of a physical or learning disability and for people who suffer long term illnesses. The HEATH Resource Center is an educational clearing house with information on education for the disabled and can be reached at 800.544.3248 or click here to visit their Web site. Look for scholarships listed under your disability or the disabled in general.

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Keeping Your Scholarship Awards

A scholarship may actually reduce your financial aid package from your college. Federal regulations require that if all sources of financial aid exceed the school’s cost of attendance by more than $400, then the school must reduce the aid package until it does. But depending on the school’s policy, they may deduct it from loans rather than grants so the student actually benefits. Some scholarship award money is taxable. A scholarship is tax free if you are a full-time candidate for a degree program and the award covers tuition and fees or books and supplies required for classes. A scholarship is taxable if it is used as a living stipend, for research, travel, clerical help or equipment. Additionally, if you receive a living stipend and are on benefits, it can affect your benefit status. Before you accept a living stipend check it out with a benefits counselor. Find out if your scholarship is renewable. Some scholarships can be renewed annually or for your entire college career. Renewable or not your scholarship may carry some ongoing eligibility requirements, like grade point average or course load. If you fail to meet these, you may lose your funding. Plan ahead and get your scholarship providers/schools renewal and eligibility policy in advance.