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Financial Aid

General Financial Aid Information

Costs for a college education have increased dramatically. Understandably, many students and families are concerned about meeting these costs. Financial aid is available to help meet college expenses including tuition, fees, books, food, housing, and transportation. It is important for all students who plan on post-secondary education (community college, four-year college, or vocational school) to explore financial aid options. Financial aid is the combination of resources which supplement what parents and students are able to contribute to meet the costs of a college education. The assumption of the financial aid system is that the cost of higher education is the responsibility of the family. This federally funded system is designed to provide access and choice for students and families who would otherwise be limited in their educational opportunities.


Financial need is determined by calculating all the various costs of the education and subtracting an estimated family contribution. You must apply for financial aid by filing a FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA is used by post-secondary institutions to determine your eligibility for financial aid and by the state and federal government for grants. Financial aid is available in several different forms. Gift aid includes grants and scholarships that do not have to be repaid. Self-help aid includes Federal Work-Study programs as well as loans that must be repaid. Students interested in financial aid and scholarships should check in the Guidance Office and the College/Career Center as well as write directly to the colleges of their choice for information on all forms of financial aid - scholarships, grants, loans and work/study assistance.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required by both public and private universities and colleges before scholarships or financial aid is awarded. For more information about the FAFSA and instructions, the website is The filing priority date for most colleges is March 2. Within four weeks of filing by mail and a few days after filing online, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from the federal processor. It will list the student’s expected family contribution, or EFC. A standard formula is used to calculate the EFC, based on the information the student provides on the FAFSA. The SAR will also be sent to the colleges you indicated on the FAFSA. The colleges will use the EFC to determine if you will be offered grants, loans, and/or work-study program. The earlier you file a FAFSA, the more likely you are to hear from the Commission early. Since most colleges have a May 1 deadline for intention to register, it is to your advantage to know as soon as possible about financial aid so that you can make an informed decision regarding which college you will attend.  You will fill the FAFSA out you senior year in high school.


Ultimately, all financial aid decisions are made by the individual college; therefore, it is necessary for you to work with the financial aid officer at each school to which you are applying. Also, be sure to apply on time.

Important Information on Financial Aid

1. Students applying for financial aid must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for federal, state and some campus-based financial aid. All schools and colleges (two- and four-year institutions) use the FAFSA. To qualify for financial aid, equity in a primary residence is not included among family assets when a student’s need for aid is calculated on the FAFSA. Only orphans, wards of a court, veterans, graduate students, married students, students with other dependents, and/or students age twenty-four and older can be considered independent. For all others, parental income will be included in determining need.

2. Many colleges, universities and private scholarship programs collect additional information to assist in the awarding of aid through non-federal financial aid programs. In particular, many private colleges require the CSS/PROFILE in addition to the FAFSA and some require that their own financial aid forms are submitted as well. If you are applying to one or more colleges on the CSS Code List (included in PROFILE registration material), you should complete both the FAFSA and PROFILE.

3. The FAFSA, available in December, is due after January 1 and before March 2. The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE registration is available in September.

4. Students interested in financial aid for a California college should also complete a GPA Verification Form for a Cal Grant in addition to filing a FAFSA form. This form is usually available by January. They must be submitted before March 2.

5. The best single source of financial aid is through the college where you have applied. Each college has an Office of Financial Aid from which you may request a separate financial aid application. Keep in mind that most schools have a deadline of January or February for these applications if you plan to attend in the fall.

6. You should also check into the many scholarships that are available from outside sources including your parents' place of employment or private clubs/lodges as well as any outside groups or organizations of which you are a member.

7. Your High School’s Guidance Office maintains a file of scholarship applications as well.

Types of Financial Aid

Financial aid comes in four basic forms. Most financial aid packages usually offer a combination of these four:

Grants (need-based monies) and Gifts (merit-based monies).

Grant and gift monies do not have to be repaid. Some schools term these “scholarships.” In other cases, “scholarships” are gifts offered in the name of the person endowing the fund to students who fit the particular stipulation of the fund.


College Work Study allows the student to work on campus in a job arranged by the   Financial Aid Office.


Loans, which usually have low interest rates, must be repaid.


Federal and/or State Loans must be repaid as stipulated.


CAL Grants

Cal Grants are awarded to students who will be attending California community colleges, four-year colleges, or vocational schools. To qualify for a Cal Grant, a student must be a citizen of the United States, a permanent resident or an eligible non-citizen. Students selected for Cal Grants must meet the scholastic criterion (GPA earned in 10th and 11th grades) and meet the demonstrated family financial need criterion.


Federal Pell Grant

Pell Grants are awards to help undergraduates who demonstrate financial need pay for their education after high school. For many students, these grants provide a foundation of financial aid, to which aid from other federal and non-Federal sources may be added.  To apply for a Pell Grant, you simply check "yes" to the appropriate question on your FAFSA. Your financial information is then automatically forwarded to the Pell Grant Program and the institutions that you list in the spaces provided on the form. The college financial aid office determines the size of the award.


Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG)

SEOG are awarded to undergraduate students having the greatest financial need. Priority is given to Pell Grant recipients. As with other grants, it does not have to be paid back.


Federal Work-Study Program

The Federal Work-Study Program provides jobs for undergraduate students who need financial aid.  FWS gives you a chance to earn money to help pay your educational expenses. Your pay will be at least the current Federal minimum wage, but it may also be related to the type of work you do and its difficulty. Your total Federal Word-Study award depends on your financial need, the amount of money your school has for this program, and the amount of aid you get from other programs. The financial aid office at the college is responsible for determining your eligibility and may arrange a job.


Vocational Rehabilitation Grants

Grants are awarded to physically or emotionally handicapped individuals through the State

Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services to attend any qualified college, trade or technical school.


Federal Perkins Loan Program

The Perkins Loan is a fixed low-interest loan to help you pay for your education after high school. These loans are made through a school's financial aid office. Preference is given to students with exceptional need. Repayment begins after graduation (or ending college) and continues for 10 years.


Federal Stafford Loan

A Stafford Loan is a variable-interest loan, capped at 8.25%, made to you by a lender such as bank, credit union, or savings and loan association to help you pay for your education after high school. Loans are available in both subsidized and unsubsidized arrangements.

The college will determine whether you are eligible for a Pell Grant before you can receive a Stafford loan. You can get a Stafford loan application from any college. After you fill out your part of the application, you must attend an entrance interview and the college you plan to attend must complete its certification section. If the bank agrees to make the loan, the lender will send the loan proceeds to the college in two or more payments. Colleges will assist you in selecting a lending institution. After the bank receives your application and the bank can "guarantee" the loan, it can take 4 to 8 weeks to receive the loan proceeds; so give yourself as much time as possible to complete the loan application process.


Federal Parent Loan For Undergraduate Students (PLUS Loans)

PLUS loans are for parent borrowers and are not need based. PLUS loans provide additional funds for educational purposes. They are variable interest rates, capped at 9%. PLUS loans are made by a bank, credit union, or savings and loan association through a process similar to Stafford loans. Parents may borrow up to the cost of attendance. Repayment begins 60 days after final disbursement.

Other Places to Look for Financial Aid Opportunities

• Religious Organizations

• Club Memberships

• Civic Organizations

• College-Sponsored Aid Programs

• New Trier Scholarships Fund

• National Merit Scholarship Programs

• Parent/Student Employers

• Veteran Organizations

• Insurance Companies

Questions to Ask About Financial Aid


The following are questions you might want to ask when talking to a college representative at a college fair or when they visit your campus.


  • What kind of financial assistance does the college offer: need-based, merit-based, or both?
  • What forms are needed in order to apply? FAFSA? Institutional Application?
  • When is the application deadline date?
  • What institutional costs are taken into account by the financial aid offer? Tuition, room, board? Does the assistance take into account additional costs? Books and fees, transportation, personal expenses, etc.?
  • When will the family be notified about the amount of assistance they could expect?
  • Does the institution have an appeal process to review special circumstances?
  • Is there a commitment for assistance beyond the first year?
  • How and when do you apply for financial aid after the freshman year?
  • What if the family doesn’t qualify for need-based aid? Are there alternative financing options available?
  • What is the average loan indebtedness of students at the time of graduation?
  • How long does it take a student to graduate? Four years? Longer?