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Financial Aid: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How will the Economic Stimulus Package Help Adults Return to School?
According to The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into effect in 2009, the stimulus provides an additional $17 billion in funds for the Federal Pell Grant Program, increasing the maximum award from $4,731 to $5,350 in 2009 and to $5,550 in 2010. (A $200 million increase in the Federal Work Study Program is included.) The maximum Pell grant for 2011-12 and 2012-13 award year was $5,550. (Maximum Pell Grant amounts can change each academic year and are dependent upon federal funding. For the 2013-14 year the Pell Grant maximum award is $5,645. For 2014–15 (July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015) it will be $5,730. )

Amount awarded is determined by individual financial need, cost of education (COA), whether enrollment is full or part-time, and with sessions spanning the full academic year or less.

Further help is made available through the new American Opportunity Tax Credit (which replaces and expands the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit for two years). This new tax credit will cover up to $2,500 of college tuition and other related expenses (including books and supplies) each year for the first four years of college. The credit also makes forty percent of costs refundable to lower-income individuals who do not owe taxes. It is now available to taxpayers with a higher level of income, beginning to phase-out at $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly). For information on current tax benefits and deductions, see the IRS publication, Tax Benefits for Education.

To be eligible for Pell Grant and other federal funding, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA) application each year.

I Doubt I Qualify for Aid. Should I Still Apply?
Yes, you should! Never assume you don't qualify for financial aid. Many adult students believe they don't qualify and miss out on many sources of aid, including grants and low interest loans that are offered regardless of grade point average, financial need, or credit history. Most federal and state aid programs don't have age limits, although some scholarship programs might. The largest portion of financial aid comes from the federal and state governments, then colleges and universities, and private sources of aid such as community and professional organizations.

Most financial aid comes in the form of scholarships or grants, student loans, federal work study, or tax credits. Many large companies have tuition assistance programs. A complete overview on financial aid is located in the Financial Aid section.

In general, to be eligible for federal financial aid, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen
  • Have a valid Social Security number
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED (or recognized equivalent)
  • Demonstrate financial need (except for the unsubsized Stafford Loan program)
  • Be accepted or enrolled as a student in an eligible degree or certificate program
  • Register for at least half-time study (6 credit hours)
  • Maintain good academic standing or satisfactory academic progress
  • Not be in default on a federal student loan,  or owe for an overpayment on a federal grant
  • If a male between the ages of 18 to 25, be registered with the Selective Service
  • Not be convicted for possession or sale of illegal drugs while receiving federal aid
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

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