Your Most Pressing Financial Aid Questions Answered

    

Your Most Pressing Financial Aid Questions Answered

Sixty percent of American adults have contemplated a return to school, but cite affordability as a key barrier. More than 80 percent of SNU undergraduates receive some form of assistance. This figure includes many students who initially believed they were ineligible. Don’t let money woes keep you from pursuing the career and the life you deserve. You may have many more options for funding your education than you think, including loans, grants, and scholarships. The SNU Office of Financial Aid can answer all of your pressing financial aid questions. Here are the answers to the most common queries we hear. 

Will I qualify? 

Many students worry that they are ineligible for financial aid because they have outstanding student loans, make a good living, or did not excel academically. The truth is that most students can qualify for some form of financial aid. Even if you have previous student loans, you may be eligible for more if you have not hit the loan limit. Likewise, students who have unpaid loan debt can cure the default and become eligible for federal loans and other assistance. 

Legal non-citizens, including permanent residents, can get many forms of student aid. Although undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal student aid, they can apply for other programs, including scholarships and non-federal grants such as the Oklahoma Tuition Assistance Grant (OTAG)

Applying for student aid is free and does not obligate you to accept a loan. Even if you think you won’t get much, you have nothing to lose. 

What are my financial aid options? 

Students may be eligible for a wide variety of aid packages. They include: 

  • Federal loans. Federal loans must be repaid after you graduate. They come in two forms. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest as long as you are in school at least half-time. Your eligibility for subsidized loans is based on financial need. Unsubsidized loans do accrue interest while you are in school, so you may end up with more debt and larger monthly payments. 
  • Grants. Federal grants, including the Pell Grant, are need-based awards that you do not have to repay. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2019-2020 school year is $6,195. Oklahoma Students are also eligible for the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant, which offers SNU students an annual award of $1,300. Some students may be eligible for additional grants through employers, private businesses, and various organizations, but the application process and award eligibility for these grants varies. 
  • Employer assistance. Some employers offer tuition matching or reimbursement, particularly if your degree is relevant to your job. 
  • Scholarships. A wide range of scholarships can cover a portion of your expenses. These awards are usually merit-based. Some organizations look solely at grades or test scores, while others require essays or interviews as part of their application process. 
  • Private loans. If you do not get enough aid to cover your tuition and other expenses, you can apply for a private loan. Like federal loans, these must be repaid, but the specific terms of each loan are based on your credit, income, and the lender’s borrowing policies. 

How do I apply?

Your financial aid application begins with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.gov. You can apply for most forms of aid—including federal aid, such as loans, and state aid, such as the Oklahoma Tuition Assistance Grant (OTAG)—via this form. 

All students completing a FAFSA must register for an account on the U.S. Department of Education website. You must know your income as listed on your prior year’s tax return; you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to access this information if you do not have it. You will also need your driver’s license number, Social Security number, or Alien Registration Number, and any financial records documenting income, such as investments or untaxed earnings. 

(Hint: If you’re applying for financial aid at SNU, use School Code 003149.)

Students interested in scholarships or non-federal grants may need to complete additional applications. For instance, your employer might offer tuition assistance, or an organization in which you participate may fund scholarships. Ask about the specific application process and deadlines for each program you apply for. 

How long will it take? 

Once you’ve gathered all of your documents, it usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete the FAFSA. Students who need to locate financial documents should plan ahead because the process of getting these documents may require additional paperwork and can take days or weeks. For example, if you need copies of documents for a trust, contact the administrator well ahead of the deadline. 

The Department of Education processes online FAFSAs within three to five days, while paper FAFSAs take seven to ten days to process. This means that you should know your financial aid eligibility within a few weeks, and often as little as a few days. 

Sometimes students must supply additional documentation as part of their application. If you are required to do this, the Financial Aid Office will notify you. Submitting supplemental documents as quickly as possible can expedite your financial aid award. 

The timeline for other forms of financial aid varies a lot. It may take weeks or even months to get a response when you apply for a popular scholarship. If you apply for a private loan at your bank or credit union, you can expect a response within a few days, though some banks take longer. 

What is the application deadline? 

Different scholarships and grants each have their own deadlines, so check with the organization offering the aid package. 

For federal student aid, deadlines are based on the academic year in which you plan to enroll, and each state sets its own priority deadline. SNU’s rolling start dates mean that you can complete a FAFSA at any time. We recommend finishing the paperwork as early as possible so you know how much money you’ll get well before you need the funds to cover books, tuition, housing, and other expenses. 

Do I have to reapply every year? 

You will need to complete a new FAFSA each year. This is because award limits change over time, and aid eligibility is partially based on need. If your financial situation changes, so too might your aid package. The Financial Aid Office will send you a renewal application each year. 

What if I don’t get enough financial aid to pay my costs? 

Many students fund their college expenses by combining several forms of financial aid, including loans, grants, and scholarships. If your total FAFSA package is not enough to cover your expenses, talk to the Financial Aid Office about additional scholarships and assistance. You may also choose to apply for a private loan, which some students find more flexible than traditional aid. 

Can financial aid cover secondary expenses, like transportation and childcare? 

Financial aid can be used to cover all costs of attendance, including things like transportation, housing, and school supplies. Most forms of financial aid must first go toward tuition and fees. You can then use the remainder to fund additional school expenses, and you do not have to maintain documentation of these expenses or show anyone how you spent the money. 

What if I can’t afford to repay my loans? 

Although most students are able to find a great job after graduation, it can take a while to get fully on your feet. You may have other expenses to worry about, or you may devote a few extra months to searching for the perfect job. 

Many students worry that they won’t be able to repay their loans, but the Department of Education offers many options to help you avoid defaulting. If you simply need to delay repayment, you may be eligible for a forbearance, which temporarily eliminates monthly student loan bills based on financial need. Graduates can also apply for income-based plans that are scaled to their monthly earnings. In some cases, consolidation can help reduce total costs and roll all of your loans into a single monthly payment. 

Students who accept private loans typically have fewer repayment options, so max out your other loan options before going to your bank. If you struggle with making monthly payments after graduation, contact your bank as soon as possible to work out an alternative plan. 

The Financial Aid Office can help you decide what you can afford and estimate your monthly payments after graduation. 

Can I get help applying for financial aid? 

The process of applying for student aid can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’ve never before taken a deep dive into your own finances. The Office of Student Aid offers friendly support to students who want to talk about their options or get assistance with an application. We can help you over the phone or in person, while answering all your questions about paying for college. 

At SNU, we believe all students deserve access to a quality education that prepares them for better lives and greater service to their communities. We can help you explore your options even if you feel frustrated and demoralized or worry that you're not eligible for any help. Contact us today!

Download SNU's Financial Aid Guide

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