Financial Aid FAQs
Why should I apply for financial aid?
Financial aid is made available to assist students and families in meeting the costs of a post secondary education. If you believe you will need assistance in meeting those costs, you should apply for financial aid. You can apply online at www.fafsa.ed.gov or dream.csac.ca.gov (For California AB540 students)
If I am not a U.S. Citizen, am I still eligible to apply for Financial Aid?
To be eligible for both federal and state aid, a student must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non citizen. For financial aid purpose, an eligible non citizen is one of the following:
- a U.S. permanent resident who has an Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
- a conditional permanent resident (I-551C); or
- a non citizen with an Arrival-Departure record (I-94) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with one of the following designations—“Refugee,” “Asylum Granted,” “Parole,” or “Cuban-Haitian Entrant.”
Students who are residing in the United States with an F-1 or F-2 student visa or a G series visa are not eligible for federal or state financial aid.
How do I get financial aid?
To receive financial aid you must apply for it. The biggest mistake students make is not to apply because they don’t think they’ll qualify. To apply for federal, state and college financial aid programs, you need to complete the FAFSA and for the Cal Grant program you must submit a GPA verification form by September 2 or March 2. You may also be requested to submit additional documents such as tax returns to complete your financial aid file. Please respond immediately to all requests made by the financial aid office.
Do I need to complete my income tax return before I complete the FAFSA?
While it is recommended that you complete your tax return prior to filling out your FAFSA, it is not essential. You can fill out the FAFSA using estimated information from your W-2. Any large discrepancies between your FAFSA and your tax return may have a large impact on any preliminary financial aid award you receive.
What happens if I have academic or other problems and have to drop classes or drop out of college entirely?
If you have to drop a class it may affect your eligibility for financial aid for the current term or future terms. Review the information on your college’s enrollment requirements and satisfactory academic progress standards and check with the financial aid office to ensure you aren’t jeopardizing your financial aid eligibility. If you have to drop out or withdraw from college, you may be expected to repay a portion of the financial aid that was disbursed for that term. If you withdraw, some of the funds paid to the college for your fees, tuition, or other charges may be refundable. If you received financial aid, refunds must first be returned to the financial aid programs according to federal regulations and other program guidelines. Check with the college about procedures for withdrawing or taking a leave of absence and be sure to consult with the financial aid office about refunds, repayments of financial aid funds, and your future eligibility to enroll and receive financial aid funds.
If I register for classes and take the financial aid but don’t attend classes, what happens?
Your eligibility for financial aid is based on your enrollment and making satisfactory academic progress towards degree or certificate. If you don’t attend classes, you probably will not receive a passing grade. Failure to complete course work or document an effort to do so (e.g., participating in classes or completing assignments and exams) can result in the determination that you were not in fact enrolled and therefore not entitled to receive financial aid. All financial aid would need to be returned and you might be subject to charges for fees, tuition, and other amounts due the college. Besides facing these financial obligations, your academic records and ability to return to the college could be adversely impacted.
I’ve thought about financial aid before, but I don’t want to have a big debt hanging over my head when I leave college. Can I get financial aid now that I don’t have to pay back later?
Most financial aid is money that doesn’t have to be repaid. Grants, part-time employment and scholarships make up a large portion of annual aid received by students at most colleges or universities. If you apply early, chances are that a significant amount of your financial need can be met with aid that doesn’t have to be repaid.
I’ve been out of school a long time. I’m not ready to be a full-time student, but I still need help with college costs. Is there any aid for me?
You don’t have to be a full-time student to receive financial aid. At California community colleges, there is no unit requirement for enrollment fee waivers through the Board of Governor Fee Waiver Program. To receive assistance from the state and federal programs, you can take as few as six units and still qualify for financial aid.
I am not a high school graduate. Can I still get financial aid?
Effective July 1, 2012, students who do not have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent (e.g., GED), or do not meet the home school requirements, will not be eligible to receive Federal student aid. Students may qualify for Federal student aid under one of the Ability-to-Benefit Test (ATB) alternatives IF the student was enrolled in a federal student aid eligible program prior to July 1, 2012. The ATB alternatives include the student passing an independently administered, approved ATB test or successfully completing at least six credit hours of postsecondary education.
I’ve heard about waivers for the enrollment fee at California community colleges, but I’m not on public assistance. Even so, I won’t be able to afford the per unit cost. What can I do?
There may be a chance you will be eligible to receive an Enrollment Fee Waiver. You need to first fill out a FAFSA or Dream Act Application in order for the financial aid department to determine whether or not you are eligible. You also need to be a California resident to be eligible.
I am not a California resident, but I am a resident of another state. Can I still receive financial aid at a California community college?
Yes. You may qualify for Federal Student Aid programs (i.e., Pell Grant, SEOG, Work Study, etc.).
Do I need to be admitted before I can apply for financial aid?
No. You can apply for financial aid any time after January 1. To actually receive funds, however, you must be admitted and enrolled first.
Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?
Yes. You need to apply for financial aid every year.
Is there a limit to how much financial aid I can receive?
Yes. Effective with the 2012-2013 award year, the duration of a student’s eligibility to receive a Federal Pell Grant is 12 full-time semesters (or its equivalent). The calculation of the duration of a student’s eligibility will include all years of the student’s receipt of Federal Pell Grant funding. Once a student has received a Federal Pell Grant for 12 full-time semesters (or its equivalent) the student will no longer be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant for future semesters.
If you are a Cal Grant recipient, the duration of a student’s eligibility to receive a Cal Grant Grant is 8 full-time semesters (or its equivalent).
Direct Loan Recipients are subject to the aggregate borrowing limit set by the US Department of Education