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Eligibility Criteria

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

A law suspends aid eligibility for students who have been convicted under federal or state law of the sale or possession of 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 are ineligible for federal aid, you should complete the FAFSA because you may 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 are 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 is applied to the information you provided. The formula used to calculate your EFC is established by law and is used to measure your family's financial strength on the basis of your family's income and assets. The EFC is used to determine your eligibility for federal student aid.

The formula result is called the Expected Family Contribution or EFC. It indicates how much money you and your family are expected to contribute toward your cost of attendance for the school year. 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 are eligible for, and aid you will get from other sources. The result is your remaining financial need:

Cost of Attendance

  • EFC
  • Federal Pell Grant Eligibilit
  • Aid From Other Sources
  • Financial Need

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 do not 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 the completion of a student's course of study are not included in calculating that student's cost of attendance.

Are my family's special circumstances considered in determining how much aid I can receive?

A financial aid administrator can consider special or unusual circumstances. As mentioned in the Applying for Financial Aid section, the financial aid administrator at your college or career school can change your status from dependent to independent if he or she believes there is a good reason to do so. You'll have to provide your college or career school with 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 U.S. 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.

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