To receive student financial aid, various eligibility requirements must be met. They are as follows:*
- Have a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) certificate
- Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in a degree or certificate program
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Register with the Selective Service, if required
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress
- Certify that you will use student financial aid funds only for educational purposes
- Certify that you are not in default on a federal student loan or owe on a federal grant
- Demonstrate financial need (except for some loan programs)
Most student financial aid funds are awarded based on financial need. Federal methodology assumes that it is the responsibility of the student and/or the student's family to pay for post-secondary education costs as they are able.
The ability to pay is determined by examining the family's current financial condition and considering such factors as parental income and assets, student income and assets, taxes paid, family size, unexpected medical expenses, nontaxable income and benefits, etc.
By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) amount is calculated. The EFC is used by an institution to determine eligibility for various financial aid funds.
Financial need is determined in the following way:
Cost of Attendance minus Expected Family Contribution equals Financial Need
Students are classified as dependent or independent because federal student aid programs are based on the idea that students, and their families, if applicable, have the primary responsibility for paying for post-secondary education.
For the 2014-15 academic year, a student is considered an independent student if at least one of the following applies:
- Was born before Jan. 1, 1991
- Is married as of the date completing the FAFSA
- Is enrolled in a master's or doctoral degree program (beyond a bachelor's degree)
- Is currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
- Is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces ("veteran" includes students who attended a U.S. federal military academy and who were released under a condition other than dishonorable)
- Has children who receive more than half of their financial support from the student
- Has legal dependents, other than a spouse, who receive more than half of their financial support from the student
- Was an orphan, foster child, or ward/dependent of the court at any time since the age of 13
- Is an emancipated minor
- Is in legal guardianship
- Was determined at any time on or after July 1, 2013 to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or was self-supporting and at risk of being homeless
If none of these criteria apply, then the student is considered a dependent student.
*Additional information on these requirements and federal student financial aid can be obtained from the Student Guide, a comprehensive resource on student financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education.