Federal Financial Aid FAQs
1. GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT FINANCIAL AID
What is financial aid?Financial aid is any financial assistance a student receives to help pay for their educational expenses. There are different categories of financial aid including:
1. Institutional Financial Aid – Aid funded by the institution. It can include institutional scholarships, tuition discounts, tuition waivers, etc.
2. Federal Financial Aid - Federal student aid comes from the U.S. Department of Education, which helps eligible students pay for higher education expenses. It covers tuition, fees, room and board, books, school supplies, and transportation. It can include the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work Study Program, and Federal Direct Loans. Please visit www.studentaid.gov for more information.
3. Outside Financial Aid – All non-federal aid outside the institution. It can include veteran benefits, 529 college savings plan, agency funding, social services funding, employer / corporate tuition assistance.
What types of federal financial aid (Title IV program) are available at VIU?The types of federal financial aid available at VIU are:
- Federal Grants: Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG, Available in 2017-2018), and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
- Federal Direct Loans: Subsidized Direct Loan, Unsubsidized Direct Loan, Direct PLUS Loan, and Direct Parent PLUS Loan
- Federal Work Study: Available in 2017-2018
What does Cost of Attendance mean?Your Cost of Attendance (COA) is the amount it will cost you to go to college. Most undergraduate and graduate colleges will calculate your COA to show your total cost for the school year (for instance, for the fall semester plus the spring semester). If you are attending at least half-time, your COA is the estimate of that following:
- 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, transportation, loan fees, and miscellaneous expenses (including a reasonable amount for the documented cost of a personal computer);
- An allowance for child care or other dependent care;
- Costs related to a disability; and/or reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs
What is an EFC?Your EFC is your expected family contribution; this is a number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you can receive if you were to attend school. The information you report on your FAFSA is used to calculate your EFC by the Federal Government. For more information and further explanation of the federal financial process as defined by federal law, please visit studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.
I have a question regarding the Pell Grant and/or Direct Loans and what they are?Please visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types for the different types of federal financial aid. This website should answer all your questions as it is a helpful resource with all basic federal financial aid information and tools.
Can I receive federal financial aid at more than one college?If you attend more than one college at the same time, you may receive federal financial aid at one college only. There are annual loan limits a student must not exceed. If you transfer from one college to another, it is important to be aware of any loan period overlap which may prevent you from taking out further loans until the end of your current loan period. If you transfer from one college to another during the year, you may be eligible for federal financial aid at both colleges. You have to apply for federal financial aid at each college separately.
Can I get help paying back my federal student loans?VIU does not contribute in the repayment of student loans. The financial aid office works diligently to counsel students regarding repaying federal student loans. If you have a specific question regarding your student loan please contact the financial aid office.
2. FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID ELIGIBILITY
How do I know if I qualify for federal financial aid?Please visit the VIU website for all eligibility and requirements to apply for federal financial aid. If you meet the basic eligibility criteria, you may fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out what types of aid and how much they qualify for. You may complete the FAFSA even if you think you may not qualify for federal student aid. The FAFSA can be found online at fafsa.ed.gov
Who are eligible to receive federal financial aid?You must have the following citizenship status:
- U.S. Citizen or U.S. National
- U.S. Permanent Resident
You must also meet the following requirements:
- Registered with the Selective Service if required by law (male, 18-25 years of age).
- Admitted and enrolled in a qualifying program
- Maintain satisfactory academic process
- Not be in default on a federal educational loan and not owe a refund on a federal grant
- Demonstrate financial need
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate or a state-recognized equivalent; or complete a high school education in a homeschool setting approved under state law; or enroll in an eligible career pathways program.
Learn more about eligibility requirements at StudentAid.gov/eligibility
How is federal financial aid eligibility determined?Eligibility for most federal financial aid is based upon demonstrated need of the students and their family. Need is determined using the information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA).
Is my family’s income too high to qualify for federal financial aid?Federal financial aid is intended to make college available to students from many different financial situations. College financial aid officers consider family income, the number of family members in college, medical expenses and many other factors when reviewing federal financial aid applications. So, even if you think your family income is too high for you to qualify for federal aid, you should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. This form determines eligibility for federal and state student grants, work-study, and federal loans.
Do I have to be enrolled full-time to receive federal financial aid?A: No. You do not have to be enrolled full-time to receive many forms for federal financial aid. However, the amount of aid you are eligible to receive will be determined by the Financial Aid Office based on the Cost of Attendance, Expected Family Contribution, year in school, and enrollment status.
Below are enrollment definitions:
Fall & Spring
Fall, Spring, & Summer
Less Than Half Time
Can I get the grant for summer semester?Yes. However, the Pell Grant may only be used up to the full-time entitlement in one award year. No one semester can exceed ½ of the full-time entitlement. All three terms combined cannot exceed the full-time entitlement (annual scheduled Pell award). Any Pell funds used in the summer semester will reduce the amount of Pell funding available for the spring and fall semesters.
Do I need to have a certain GPA or meet certain academic criteria to be eligible for federal financial aid?Yes. In order for you receive the federal financial aid, you must meet the school’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy, which can be found in the academic catalog or on the VIU website at http://www.viu.edu/academics/registrars-office/sap-policy.html
Do I qualify for federal financial aid even if I don’t get straight A’s?It is true that many scholarships reward student performance in high school, but most government aid is based on financial need. Remember, if you do receive need-based aid, you must remain in good academic standing to renew your aid annually. Please refer to the SAP section of the academic catalog or click Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy
3. CITIZENSHIP STATUS / INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Are international students eligible to receive federal or state financial aid?No. International students (F-1 visa) are not eligible for federal and state financial aid programs. In order to apply for federal student aid, you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen that usually holds a social security number. However, there are a number of privately funded scholarship programs for International students.
I am an international student at VIU and I do not qualify for federal financial aid, is there any other non-federal financial aid I could apply for?VIU offers a wide range of scholarships to students that can be found on the VIU website. VIU also offers in-state tuition for resident students. Currently, resident students are defined as residents of Maryland, Virginia, and/or Washington D.C.
Are non-US citizens eligible for federal financial aid?You are considered an “eligible noncitizen” if you fall into certain categories, such as the ones listed below:
1. You are a
- U.S. national (includes natives of American Samoa or Swains Island) or
- U.S. permanent resident with a Form I-551, I-151, or I-551C (Permanent Resident Card, Resident Alien Card, or Alien Registration Receipt Card), also known as a "green card."
2. You have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) showing*
- “Asylum Granted,”
- “Cuban-Haitian Entrant,”
- “Conditional Entrant” (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980), or
- “Parolee” (you must be paroled for at least one year, and you must be able to provide evidence from the USCIS that you are in the United States for other than a temporary purpose with the intention of becoming a U.S. citizen or permanent resident).
3. You hold a T nonimmigrant status ("T-visa") (for victims of human trafficking) or your parent holds a T-1 nonimmigrant status. Your college or career school’s financial aid office will ask to see your visa and/or certification letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.*
4. You are a “battered immigrant-qualified alien” who is a victim of abuse by your citizen or permanent resident spouse, or you are the child of a person designated as such under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).*
5. You are a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau. If this is the case, you may be eligible for only certain types of federal student aid:
- Citizens of the Republic of Palau are eligible for Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work-Study.
- Citizens of the Federal States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are eligible for Federal Pell Grants only.
*To qualify for federal student aid, certain eligible noncitizens must be able to provide evidence from the USCIS that they are in the United States for other than a temporary purpose with the intention of becoming a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
You are NOT an eligible noncitizen and cannot receive federal financial aid if:you have only a “Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence” (I-171 or I-464);
- you are in the U.S. on an F-1 or F-2 nonimmigrant student visa, or on a J-1 or J-2 immigrant Exchange Visitor Visa; or
- you hold a G series visa (pertaining to international organizations)
If I have been approved for Deferred Action, am I able to complete the FAFSA?As a noncitizen you are unable to complete the FAFSA unless you have a Social Security Number (SSN). Deferred Action allows students to remain in the country; however, it does not make such students eligible for federal financial aid even if student have a SSN.
As an undocumented student, I know I am not eligible for financial aid from the federal government. Where can I look to find private scholarships?Here are some websites you can use to research scholarships:
- Fast Web: www.fastweb.com
- Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund: www.maldef.org
- Get Ready for College: www.getreadyforcollege.org/gPg.cfm?pageID=1586
- Latino College Dollars: www.latinocollegedollars.org
- Scholarships for Hispanics: www.scholarshipsforhispanics.org
- Genesco Migrant Center: www.migrant.net
- Mexican Scholarship Fund: http://mexicanscholarshipfund.org/
- La Plaza Scholarship and Financial Aid Guide: (English PDF) (Spanish PDF)
- SADCO Scholarship Program: http://sadco.org/sadco-scholarship-program
I just finished high school and want to go to college. Will the fact that I am an undocumented student prevent me from continuing my education?Usually, status will not prevent students from being admitted to college or a vocational program, or from enrolling in classes. Undocumented student status limits the type of federal financial aid granted and could impact tuition charges.
I am an undocumented student, but I have lived in the U.S. since I was three years old. Am I eligible for federal financial aid to help me pay for college?As an undocumented student, you are not eligible for federal financial aid such as Federal Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study, and Federal Direct Loans. However, you may be eligible for financial aid from other sources, including your college and private organizations.
4. VIU FINANCIAL AID PROCESS
Where do I start?To apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found at fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA should be completed as early as possible prior to enrollment at Virginia International University each year. The school code for Virginia International University is 041440. The FAFSA for the upcoming financial aid award year will be available annually each October.
We also recommend searching and applying for scholarships. VIU has several institutional scholarships we recommend researching.
What are the federal student aid application process at VIU?
- Complete the FAFSA and include VIU’s school code.
- Create a VIU application account and submit an online application (either for an on-campus or online program). Make sure to answer “Yes” to the question “Are you interested in Federal Financial Aid?”
- Pay the application fee ($50 for residential (VA, MD, DC) and online program).
- Once the fee has been received and processed by the Accounting Department, submit the required admission documents online through the Application Portal.
- When the Federal Financial Aid Application is approved by the Financial Aid Office (FAO), the FAO will send an Award Letter Notification to notify the students. At that time the student can accept or deny the award.
When should I complete my FAFSA? Should I wait until I apply through admissions?You can complete you FAFSA at any time regardless of whether you have applied through VIU admissions. The earlier you complete the FAFSA, the better. If you complete your FAFSA early, this will give the Financial Aid Office more time to review your FAFSA and prepare your packaging.
I submitted my FAFSA to your school, but I have not received an award letter. What should I do?Thank you for submitting your FAFSA! Once you have completed the admissions process and are accepted to VIU, please complete the VIU Financial Aid Application and submit to the Financial Aid Office through the Application Portal. This will notify the Financial Aid Office that if eligible, you plan on using federal financial aid to cover your college cost. The Financial Aid Office will contact you regarding your financial aid eligibility once your application has been processed.
Can I try to get my aid award revised?VIU may be willing to review your federal financial aid package if your financial situation changes. Consider discussing these changes with the Financial Aid Office if your family has experienced an unexpected decrease in income or increase in expenses since you applied for federal student aid.
What is the verification process?Verification is a process where the university must confirm that information reported on the FAFSA is accurate. The Financial Aid Office will notify students via the application portal if they are selected for verification and are required to submit any additional verification documentation. In this process, the Financial Aid Office is required by federal law (Higher Education Act as amended and Subpart E or 34 CFR, Part 668) to compare the information from the FAFSA application with the information provided via the Verification Worksheet, federal IRS tax transcripts, and other required documentation. If there are differences between the FAFSA application data and the documents the student/parent submit, the Financial Aid office will make corrections/updates.
The verification policy of VIU is to verify all applications selected by the federal processors. VIU has verification worksheets in which students must complete if federal processors have chosen the student for verification. At any time, VIU holds the right to select any student for verification regardless if not chosen by a federal processor if the Financial Aid Office determines that more information is needed to confirm and/or verify application data to prevent fraud and data conflicts. When a FAFSA application is selected for verification, VIU is required by federal law (34 CFR, Part 668) to compare the information from the FAFSA application with the information provided on the Verification Form, other forms, and with copies of the current year federal tax transcript for student/spouse/parent (as applicable).
How do I know how much federal student aid I have been awarded?The Financial Aid Office will determine how much federal student aid you are eligible to receive. Once we determine your eligibility and the amount of aid you can receive, we will send an Award Letter Notification to you, and you may either accept or deny it.
5. COMPLETING THE FAFSA
I’m having trouble logging in and completing my FAFSA. What should I do?Please contact FAFSA Help FAQ https://fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm. FAFSA Help also offers a great chat service for your convenience at that will help with any questions regarding logging in or completing your FAFSA https://studentaidhelp.ed.gov/app/home/site/fafsa.
Do I have to submit a FAFSA every year?Yes. You must submit a new FAFSA every year if you want to stay eligible for financial aid. The next FAFSA will be the 2017-2018 which will be available in October 2016 at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Complete it early to receive priority on federal grants if you qualify.
I receive no help from my parents and live on my own. Does this qualify me as an independent student?Not necessarily. While completing the FAFSA application, you will be asked a series of questions that will determine your Dependency Status. If you are determined to be a Dependent Student, you will need to provide your parents information in order for your application to be considered complete. (Please note: Being determined a Dependent Student does not mean that you are necessarily financially dependent upon your parents. Dependency status is merely a classification for FAFSA purposes.)
If you have a special circumstance that prevents you from providing parental information, you may be able to submit your FAFSA. However, your FAFSA will be considered incomplete. You must contact the Financial Aid Office for guidance.
I was recently married. Do I have to include my spouse’s income on the FAFSA?Yes. A student must include his/her spouse’s income information on the FAFSA form if he/she is married at the time the application is completed, even if they were not married during the applicable tax year. If separate federal income tax returns were filed, combine the adjusted gross incomes from the tax returns and include this on the appropriate lines of the FAFSA form. Do the same for the taxes paid and other requested amounts.
I am divorced/separated due to estrangement. What should I include on the FAFSA?Divorced or students living separately from their spouse (due to estrangement) should not include his or her income on the FAFSA form. (Those who have remarried since divorce must include spousal information if remarried at time of application.)
6. DISBURSEMENT AND REFUNDS
What will happen if I withdraw before the end of the term while receiving financial aid? If you withdraw before the end of the term while receiving federal financial aid, the Financial Aid Office will perform a refund calculation per federal regulations to calculate how much of your federal financial aid must be returned back to the federal government. This may result in an institutional balance on your student account, please consider the financial consequences before withdrawing.
Will federal financial aid pay for all of my expenses? A: Federal financial aid is available to those who qualify to assist with educational expenses which include direct or indirect expenses. The amount of federal aid you are eligible to receive is determined by your financial aid eligibility; therefore, it may or may not pay for all of your expenses and come in the form of grants, loans, and work-study job. For more information, please visit www.studentaid.ed.gov
When do you disburse federal financial aid to my student account?
The Financial Aid Office prepares a list of students eligible for disbursements nine (9) days after the start of a semester and/or session and the Accounting Department disburses the funds to your student account on the 10th day after the start of a semester and/or session. Eligibility for disbursement depends on many factors such as completion of financial aid documents, enrollment status, etc. For more information, please contact the financial aid office.