There are a wide variety of financial aid programs available to students. Most of the programs fall into two categories.
- Gift Aid: Grant and scholarship funding that does not need to be repaid is considered gift aid. Grants are generally funded through federal or state resources and are almost always based on a family's financial need. Scholarships are generally funded by the institution or through private sources. Students need to apply for scholarships separately from the FAFSA.
- Self-Help Aid: Work study and loans are considered self-help aid.
There are four primary components to determining a student’s financial aid eligibility.
- Cost of Attendance (COA) - Each school must determine how much it costs to attend their institution. Tuition, fees, books and supplies as well as living expenses make up the institution's Cost of Attendance.
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - The FAFSA determines, based on the information provided on the application, the expected family contribution. This will be used to determine the amount and type of financial aid you will receive. The EFC is NOT a bill.
- Financial Need - The portion of the Cost of Attendance after the Expected Family Contribution has been subtracted is considered need: COA - EFC = NEED. There are NEED and non-NEED based types of financial aid. Examples of NEED-based aid are grants, scholarships, work study and Federal Direct Subsidized Loans. Non-NEED based aid is usually other types of student loans, such as the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loan, Parent PLUS Loan, and private loans.
- Program Requirements and Limits - Each type of student financial aid has certain requirements and limits. A student may or may not receive a specific type of financial aid because their situation did or did not meet that aid type's requirements or limitations.