Financial Aid

Eligibility Requirements


To qualify for federal student aid, you have to meet certain requirements.

Basic Eligibility Criteria

General eligibility requirements are that you must

  • Demonstrate financial need (for most programs);
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen;
  • Have a valid Social Security number (with the exception of students from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau);
  • Be registered with Selective Service, if you’re a male (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25);
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program;
  • Be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Direct Loan Program funds;
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school;
  • Sign statements on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM) stating that
  • You are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money on a federal student grant and
  • You will use federal student aid only for educational purposes; and
  • Show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career school education by
  • Having a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate or
  • Completing a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law.

If you were enrolled in college or career school prior to July 1, 2012, you may show you’re qualified to obtain a higher education by

  • Passing an approved ability-to-benefit test (if you don’t have a diploma or GED, a college can administer a test to determine whether you can benefit from the education offered at that school);
  • Completing six credit hours or equivalent course work toward a degree or certificate (you may not receive aid while earning the six credit hours); or
  • Meeting other federally approved standards your state establishes.

For information about these criteria, talk to the financial aid office at your school.

Most male students must be registered with Selective Service to receive federal student aid. You also must register if you are a male and are not currently on active duty in the U.S. armed forces. If you are a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands or the Republic of Palau, you are exempt from registering.

You can call Selective Service toll-free at 1-888-655-1825 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-655-1825 FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting for general information about registering, or register online at or via the FAFSA.

Your dependency status determines whose information you must report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM).

  • If you’re a dependent student, you will report your and your parents’ information.
  •  If you’re an independent student, you will report your own information (and, if you’re married, your spouse’s).

The federal student aid programs are based on the concept that it is primarily your and your family’s responsibility to pay for your education. And because a dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, the parents’ information has to be assessed along with the student’s, in order to get a full picture of the family’s financial strength. If you’re a dependent student, it doesn’t mean your parents are required to pay anything toward your education; this is just a way of looking at everyone in a consistent manner.

Am I dependent or independent?

Your answers to questions on the FAFSA determine whether you are considered a dependent or independent student. The questions change a little from one year’s FAFSA to the next year’s; for instance, the 2014–15 FAFSA asks whether you were born before Jan. 1, 1991, while the 2013–14 FAFSA asks whether you were born before Jan. 1, 1990. Here are the 2014–15 questions that determine your dependency status, first in a graphic format and then in a table:

Dependency Status Questions on the 2014–15 FAFSA

Were you born before Jan. 1, 1991?



As of today, are you married? (Also answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.)



At the beginning of the 2014–15 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an M.A., M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., graduate certificate, etc.)?



Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces for purposes other than training? (If you are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee, are you on active duty for other than state or training purposes?)



Are you a veteran of the U.S. armed forces?*



Do you now have—or will you have—children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015?



Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2015?



At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court?



Has it been determined by a court in your state of legal residence that you are an emancipated minor or that you are in a legal guardianship?



At any time on or after July 1, 2013, were you determined to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, as determined by (a) your high school or district homeless liaison, (b) the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or (c) the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program?**



* Answer No (you are not a veteran) if you (1) have never engaged in active duty (including basic training) in the U.S. armed forces, (2) are currently a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) student or a cadet or midshipman at a service academy, (3) are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee activated only for state or training purposes, or (4) were engaged in active duty in the U.S. armed forces but released under dishonorable conditions. Also answer No if you are currently serving in the U.S. armed forces and will continue to serve through June 30, 2015.

Answer Yes (you are a veteran) if you (1) have engaged in active duty (including basic training) in the U.S. armed forces or are a National Guard or Reserves enlistee who was called to active duty for other than state or training purposes, or were a cadet or midshipman at one of the service academies and (2) were released under a condition other than dishonorable. Also answer Yes if you are not a veteran now but will be one by June 30, 2015.

**If you do not have a determination that you are homeless, but you believe you are an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, answer “No” to the FAFSA questions concerning being homeless. Then contact your financial aid office to explain your situation.

What if I answered Yes to one or more of the questions above?

If so, then for federal student aid purposes, you’re considered to be an independent student and will not provide information about your parents on the FAFSA.

What if I answered No to every question?

If so, then for federal student aid purposes, you’re considered to be a dependent student, and you must provide information about your parents on the FAFSA.

Not living with parents or not being claimed by them on tax forms does not make you an independent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid.

Note: Health profession students may be required to provide parent information regardless of their dependency status. The parent information is used in determining eligibility for Health Professions Student Loans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Which parent’s information should I report on the FAFSASM?

If your legal (biological and/or adoptive) parents are married to each other, or are not married to each other and live together, you should report information about both of them on your FAFSA. However, we recognize that many situations are a little more complicated, so we’ve provided information on how to figure out which parent(s) should provide information on the FAFSA.

What if I don’t live with my parents?

You still must answer the questions about your parents if you’re considered a dependent student.

What if my parents aren’t going to help me pay for college and refuse to provide information for my FAFSASM?

You can’t be considered independent of your parents just because they refuse to help you with this process. If you do not provide their information on the FAFSA, the application will be considered “rejected,” and you might not be able to receive any federal student aid. The most you would be able to get (depending on what the financial aid office at your college decides) would be a loan called an unsubsidized loan. The FAFSA will tell you what to do if you are in this situation. Learn more about how to fill out the FAFSA when your parents aren’t supporting you and won’t provide their information.

What if I have no contact with my parents?

If you have no contact with your parents and don’t know where they live, or you’ve left home due to an abusive situation, fill out the FAFSA and then immediately get in touch with the financial aid office at the college or career school you plan to attend. The financial aid staff will tell you what to do next. Learn more about how to fill out the FAFSA if you have special circumstances that prevent you from providing parent information.

What types of federal student loans are available?

The U.S. Department of Education has two federal student loan programs:

  • The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program is the largest federal student loan program. Under this program, the U.S. Department of Education is your lender. There are four types of Direct Loans available:
  • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but in this case, the student does not have to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for the loan.
  • Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine all of your eligible federal student loans into a single loan with a single loan servicer.
  • The Federal Perkins Loan Program is a school-based loan program for undergraduates and graduate students with exceptional financial need. Under this program, the school is lender.

Compare all of the federal student loan programs.

How much money can I borrow in federal student loans?

  • If you are an undergraduate student:
  • $5,500 to $12,500 per year in Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans depending on certain factors, including your year in college.
  • If you are a graduate student:
  • Up to $20,500 each year in Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
  • The remainder of your college costs not covered by other financial aid in Direct PLUS Loans. Note: A credit check is required for a PLUS loan.
  • If you are a parent of a dependent undergraduate student:
  • The remainder of your child’s college costs that are not covered by other financial aid. Note: A credit check is required for a parent loan (called a PLUS loan).

Remember, you can borrow less than your school offers you. You should only borrow what you need.

Why should I take out federal student loans?

Federal student loans are an investment in your future. You should not be afraid to take out federal student loans, but you should be smart about it.

Federal student loans offer many benefits compared to other options you may consider when paying for college:

  • The interest rate on federal student loans is almost always lower than that on private loans—and much lower than that on a credit card!
  • You don’t need a credit check or a cosigner to get most federal student loans.
  • You don’t have to begin repaying your federal student loans until after you leave college or drop below half-time.
  • If you demonstrate financial need, you can qualify to have the government pay your interest while you are in school.
  • Federal student loans offer flexible repayment plans and options to postpone your loan payments if you’re having trouble making payments.
  • If you work in certain jobs, you may be eligible to have a portion of your federal student loans forgiven if you meet certain conditions.

What should I consider when taking out federal student loans?

Before you take out a loan, it’s important to understand that a loan is a legal obligation that you will be responsible for repaying with interest. You may not have to begin repaying your federal student loans right away, but you don’t have to wait to understand your responsibilities as a borrower.

Be a responsible borrower.

  • Keep track of how much you’re borrowing. Think about how the amount of your loans will affect your future finances, and how much you can afford to repay. Your student loan payments should be only a small percentage of your salary after you graduate, so it’s important not to borrow more than you need for your school-related expenses.
  • Research starting salaries in your field. Ask your school for starting salaries of recent graduates in your field of study to get an idea of how much you are likely to earn after you graduate. You can use the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook to estimate salaries for different careers or research employment opportunities advertised in the area where you plan to live to get an idea of a local starting salary. You also can use the Department of Labor's career search tool to research careers and view the average annual salary for each career.
  • Understand the terms of your loan and keep copies of your loan documents. When you sign your promissory note, you are agreeing to repay the loan according to the terms of the note even if you don’t complete your education, can’t get a job after you complete the program, or you didn’t like the education you received.
  • Make payments on time. You are required to make payments on time even if you don’t receive a bill, repayment notice, or a reminder. You must pay the full amount required by your repayment plan, as partial payments do not fulfill your obligation to repay your student loan on time.
  • Keep in touch with your loan servicer. Notify your loan servicer when you graduate; withdraw from school; drop below half-time status; transfer to another school; or change your name, address, or Social Security number. You also should contact your servicer if you’re having trouble making your scheduled loan payments. Your servicer has several options available to help you keep your loan in good standing.

How do I get a federal student loan?

To apply for a federal student loan, you must complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM). Based on the results of your FAFSA, your college or career school will send you a financial aid offer, which may include federal student loans. Your school will tell you how to accept all or a part of the loan.

Before you receive your loan funds, you will be required to

Contact the financial aid office at the school you are planning to attend for details regarding the process at your school.

Study abroad

Student's enrollment in a program of study abroad approved for credit by the home institution may be considered enrollment at the home institution for the purpose of applying for assistance under the title IV, HEA programs;

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