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Financial Aid FAQs

 

The Most Frequently Asked Financial Aid Questions

Should I pay for help to fill out my FAFSA?

No, you don't need to. If you apply using FAFSA on the Web at www.FAFSA.ed.gov, you get online instructions for each question, and you can chat live online with a customer service representative. Another source of free help is our online guide, Completing the FAFSA.

Whether you apply online or use the paper FAFSA, you can get free help by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at the telephone number(s) listed below or by contacting the financial aid administrator at your college.

Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC):
1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
(TTY 1-800-730-8913)

Various Web sites do offer help filing the FAFSA for a fee. These sites are not affiliated with, or endorsed by, the U.S. Department of Education. We urge you not to pay these sites for assistance that we provide for free.

What is the PIN?

The Personal Identification Number (PIN) serves as your identifier to let you access your personal information in various U.S. Department of Education systems. It's like the PIN you get from your bank that permits you to access your account. The PIN also allows you to sign your federal student aid application online and allows you to correct your application data online.

In the interest of keeping your personal information secure, do not share your PIN! You should never give your PIN to anyone. Be sure to keep your PIN in a safe place.

You can apply for a PIN by clicking here.

Why should I get a PIN?

You can use your PIN to access your financial aid data at these U.S. Department of Education Web sites:

  • FAFSA on the Web site at www.fafsa.ed.gov: Access and complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can also:
    • submit corrections to your processed FAFSA,
    • use your PIN to electronically sign your submitted FAFSA,
    • obtain a copy of your processed FAFSA information, or
    • add a school code to your FAFSA application.
    • The National Student Loan Data System Web site at www.nslds.ed.gov: View a history of the federal student financial aid you have received.
    • The Direct Loan Servicing Center Web site at http://www.direct.ed.gov/ : Use your PIN to access your Direct Loan account, if you have this type of loan. Use your PIN to get up-to-date account information, loan balances, and payoff information. Use our online repayment calculator to help you forecast repayment of your loan and contact our customer service staff by e-mail.
    • The Direct Loan Consolidation Web site at www.loanconsolidation.ed.gov: Your PIN will enable you to track the processing status of your online Consolidation Loan application throughout the entire consolidation process from application receipt to booking with Direct Loan Servicing.
    • Direct Loan Master Promissory Note Web site at StudentLoans.gov : You can electronically sign a master promissory note (MPN) for your Direct Loans.

    How will my PIN be sent to me?

    It depends. You will select your own delivery method when you submit your request on the PIN site, or while completing a FAFSA on the Web application. Your options include:

    • Select your own PIN (this option only appears when you apply for a new PIN or request to change your PIN).
    • Instantly view your PIN online.
    • Receive an e-mail with the PIN immediately. This e-mail will contain a link to our secure PIN delivery Web site where you will be able to input your personal data and retrieve your PIN online. For security purposes, this link will be available for only 14 calendar days. If you do not retrieve your PIN within 14 days, it will be mailed to you at the address you provided.
    • Have your PIN sent by postal mail within 7-10 days.

    Note: If you don't use the PIN site to apply for your PIN [for example, you apply for a PIN by submitting a FAFSA4caster or a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)] you will automatically receive your PIN electronically if you provide a valid e-mail address. If you do not provide a valid e-mail address, we will send you a PIN through regular postal mail.

    I lost my PIN. What should I do?

    If you have lost or forgotten your PIN, you will need to request that it be sent to you again. If you think that someone else may know your PIN, or you believe your PIN may have been compromised when it was lost, we can generate a new PIN for you.

    For instructions for replacing a lost PIN or to request a duplicate of your PIN, visit the FAFSA web site.

    What is the Data Release Number (DRN)?

    The Data Release Number (DRN) is required to make certain changes associated with the FAFSA you filed. You can make corrections to your mailing address and/or to the schools you listed to receive your FAFSA data. Just call the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Information Center (1-800-4-FED-AID [1-800-433-3243]). The DRN also allows you to release your FAFSA data to schools you did not list on your original FAFSA. The DRN is printed in the lower left-hand corner of your Student Aid Report (SAR)

    Can I add a school code to my form?

    You may either make the correction online with your PIN number, over the phone (1.800.4-FED-AID) if you have your DRN number (see above), or you can fax the request (1.877.264.9664).

    What is the deadline for the FAFSA application?

    For the 2008-2009 school years, submit your application as early as possible, but no earlier than January 1, 2008. We must have your application no later June 30, 2009. Your college must have your correct, complete information by your last day of enrollment in the 2008-2009 school year.

    For the 2009-2010 school year, submit your application as early as possible, but no earlier than January 1, 2009. We must have your application no later June 30, 2010. Your college must have your correct, complete information by your last day of enrollment in the 2009-2010 school year.

    I haven't finished my taxes yet. What should I do?

    If you are facing a deadline and want to get the application in as soon as possible, you may estimate your tax amounts for now. Once you have completed your tax forms, make the corrections to your file either on the Web or by mailing in your paper SAR.

    Why do I have to provide my parents' information on the FAFSA?

    When you apply for federal student aid, your answers to the questions in Step 3 of the paper FAFSA or in Step 2 of the online FAFSA will determine whether you're considered dependent on your parents or independent. If you're considered dependent, your parents' income and assets as well as your own must be reported on the FAFSA. Students are classified as dependent or independent because federal student aid programs are based on the principle that students (and their parents or spouse, if applicable) are considered the primary source of support for postsecondary education.

    How can I check the status of my student loans?

    You should contact the holder of your loan. If you don't know who holds your loan, you can use our Web site (www.nslds.ed.gov) to find out about your federal student loans. The site displays information on loan and/or federal grant amounts, outstanding balances, loan statuses, and disbursements.

    To use the NSLDS Student Access Web site, you will need to provide your Social Security Number, the first two letters of your last name, your date of birth, and your PIN.

    I have questions about my financial aid award. Who should I contact?

    Contact the financial aid office at your school. The financial aid administrator at a postsecondary institution combines various forms of aid into a package to help meet a student's need. Using available resources to give each student the best possible package of aid is one of the aid administrator's major responsibilities. Because funds are often limited, a financial aid package might fall short of the amount a student is eligible for. Also, the amount of federal student aid in a financial aid package is affected by other sources of aid received (scholarships, state aid, etc).

    How can I get in touch with someone who can help me with a financial aid question?

    If you wish to speak with a person regarding a financial aid question, please call one of the telephone numbers provided below:

    Telephone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)
    TTY: 1-800-730-8913
    Spanish speakers are available (se habla espaol)

    If you are unable to dial the toll-free number from your area, an alternate number is 1-319-337-5665.

    Find out more about the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) federal student aid programs.

    Where can I find out more information about Pell Grants?

    Federal Pell Grants

    A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Pell Grants are generally awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a post- baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Pell Grant.) Learn more about Pell Grants.

    How much can I get?

    The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2008-2009 award year (July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009) is $4,731. For the 2009-10 award year (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010), the maximum award is $5,350. The amount you get, however, will depend not only on your financial need, but also on your costs to attend school, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

    If I am eligible, how will I get the Pell Grant Money?

    Your school can apply Pell Grant funds to your school costs, pay you directly (usually by check), or combine these methods. The school must tell you in writing how much your award will be and how and when you'll be paid. Schools must disburse funds at least once per term (semester, trimester, or quarter). Schools that do not use semesters, trimesters, or quarters must disburse funds at least twice per academic year.

    I am an older student. Am I eligible to receive financial assistance?


    Age is not a factor in determining eligibility for the Federal Student Aid programs. Check out the federal student aid eligibility criteria.

    What if I am unable to provide my parents information, their income information and signature, due to special circumstances?

    Under Federal law your family is primarily responsible-to the extent they are able-for paying for your college expenses. To determine how much your family can afford to pay towards your college expenses, we must collect your financial information and if you are a dependent student, we must also collect your parents' financial information.

    Under very limited circumstances, an otherwise dependent student may be able to submit the FAFSA without parental information due to special circumstances. Before you proceed to skip the parental section of your FAFSA, consider the following:

    Examples of special circumstances where you may be able to submit your FAFSA without providing parental information include:

    • Your parents are incarcerated; or
    • You have left home due to an abusive family environment; or
    • You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them (and you have not been adopted).

    Not all situations are considered a special circumstance. The following are situations that would not be considered a special circumstance:

    • Your parents do not want to provide their information on your FAFSA; or
    • Your parents refuse to contribute to your college expenses; or
    • Your parents do not claim you as a dependent on their income taxes; or
    • You do not live with your parents.

    If you believe you have a special circumstance and are unable to provide parental information, you should complete information about you and your finances and skip any questions about your parents. You should sign your FAFSA with your PIN and leave your parent's PIN blank. It is important to note:

    1. We will allow you to submit your FAFSA without parental information, however your FAFSA will not be considered complete.
    2. Because your FAFSA is not considered complete, we will not calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which is the index used by colleges to determine how much student aid you are eligible to receive.
    3. If you are approaching any deadlines for your state, college, or scholarship aid, you may want to contact your financial aid administrator (FAA) before submitting your FAFSA without parental data.
    4. Once you submit your FAFSA without parental data, you must follow up with the FAA at the college you plan to attend, in order to complete your FAFSA and receive an EFC. Also note the following:

    Under Federal law, only your FAA has the authority to decide whether or not you must provide parental information on your FAFSA.

    You will have to provide documentation to verify your situation. Gather as much written evidence of your situation as you can. Written evidence may include court or law enforcement documents, letters from a clergy member, school counselor or social worker, and/or any other relevant data that explains your special circumstance.

    After reviewing your circumstances carefully, your FAA will decide if you must provide parental information or if your circumstances allow you to proceed without providing parental data. Your FAAs decision is final and cannot be appealed to Federal Student Aid.