Financial Aid 101
A postsecondary education is an investment in your future, and various forms of financial aid are available to help you pay for it.
Basis for Awards
- Financial need
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- FREE standard federal form.
- Determines eligibility for most sources of need-based financial aid, including Missouri state aid programs such as Access Missouri.
- Is based on your federal tax records and offers an IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
- May be completed online (www.fafsa.gov) or via paper or telephone. (Note: Be wary of websites such as fafsa.com. These sites are NOT the official FAFSA site and typically charge a usage fee. Remember, the FAFSA is FREE!)
- To maximize your chances of receiving some type of financial aid, submit your FAFSA each year as early as possible after January 1 and no later than April 1, the deadline for Access Missouri, oryour institution's preferred aid deadline, whichever is earlier.
- A Federal Student Aid PIN is a four-digit electronic identifier that allows students (and parents for dependent students) the ability to access personal and financial aid information online. A Federal Student Aid PIN is not required to complete a FAFSA but can be used to access and electronically sign federal student aid documents. If you choose not to use a PIN, you will need to print and mail the signature page before your FAFSA will be processed.
- Direct questions to 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). Hearing impaired TTY users may call 1-800-730-8913.
- Receive free professional assistance completing the 2015-16 FAFSA by attending one of Missouri's FAFSA Frenzy events during the months of January, February, and March. The 2015 FAFSA Frenzy locations will be available in September of 2014.
What is included in the cost of attending a postsecondary school?
Your school will calculate your Cost of Attendance (COA) annually. The COA includes more than just tuition and fees that may be owed to your school. COA components include:
- Tuition and fees, such as lab or technology fees
- Books and supplies
- Room and board - may include residence hall costs or the costs associated with living off campus
- Transportation expenses - generally a reasonable amount for bus fare or fuel as determined by your school
- Miscellaneous personal expenses such as
- Dependent care expenses while in class, if you are a parent with small children
- Expenses associated with a disability that are reasonably incurred and not provided by another agency
- Expenses for cooperative education program
- Study abroad costs
Federal Financial Aid Programs
State Programs Administered by the Missouri Department of Higher Education
The MDHE administers many student grant and scholarship programs, including the scholarship component of the A+ Program. There are several additional student aid programs sponsored by the state of Missouri or other local organizations.
There are several different types of student loans, providing financing options for students and/or theirparents. Some loans are based on financial need and some are not. Additionally, some student loans may require a credit check while others do not. If you decide to borrow a student loan, it is important to borrow as small amount as possible to keep your repayment after school manageable.
Before you sign, remember:
ALL STUDENT LOANS MUST BE REPAID!
- Remember: It is better to live like a student when you are a student than to live like a student after you graduate. Although student loans offer many repayment options and low interest rates, the more you borrow, the higher your payments will be when you leave school. You should borrow the smallest amount possible each year to keep your monthly payments and interest paid as low as possible. Here are some important debt minimization strategies.
- Most students graduate with some type of debt, and the total outstanding amount of student loans borrowed in this country recently surpassed total credit card debt. If you are borrowing student loans, it is wise toavoid credit card use while in school and to be as educated as possible about the costs and responsibilities of incurring debt. Check out these financial literacy tips.
- You must stay in contact with your student loan servicer! It is your responsibility to notify your servicer if you withdraw from school or move. If you run into difficulties repaying your loan, contact your servicer about a deferment, forbearance, or other options.
- The CFPB offers helpful advice about student loan repayment, borrowing terms, risks, and more. The CFPB is also working on an initiative to standardize financial aid and cost disclosure information that postsecondary schools provide to students. Visit Know Before You Owe for more information about this initiative and to provide feedback.
- Complete the FAFSA and all other applications that are required as early as possible (financial aid is often first come, first served).
- Adhere to deadlines.
- Communicate with your high school guidance counselor, admission offices, and financial aid offices.
- To find scholarships, "like" the MDHE's Journey to College Facebook page or follow Journey to College via Twitter. Journey to College shares scholarship opportunities from reputable sources, information about Missouri state aid programs and reminders about deadlines, student loan information, tips for establishing wise financial habits while you are a student, and all the latest news related to preparing for and paying for your postsecondary education.
Mapping Your Future
- Nationally awarded website sponsored by the MDHE.
- Mission: To enable individuals to achieve life-long success by empowering schools, students, and families with free, Web-based college, financial aid, career, and financial literacy information and services.
- Information about planning a career, selecting a school, and paying for school.
- Guided tours for students and parents.
- Information for high school counselors.
- Money management tools.
The MDHE offers free publications designed specifically for students and their families to help you plan and prepare for as well as pay for your postsecondary education. You may order any of the following publications online:
- College Portfolio - An expandable, tabbed portfolio allowing you to store and organize your college admissions, enrollment, financial aid, and other important documents
- Never Too Early - A guide to planning for college from kindergarten to senior year
- Planning and paying for college informational package - Contains a variety of important Missouri and federal publications, such as The Source, a comprehensive guide to all things financial aid and Planning for Financial Success providing financial literacy and money management tips specifically for students
You may also contact the Missouri Department of Higher Education for more information:
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday