Higher Education News
One of the questions we receive most often is: “Why didn’t I get more money for school?” It’s especially frustrating when you have no idea how a school decided on your aid offer. Hopefully, this information will shed some light on how schools calculate your financial aid.
It all starts when you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. Once we (Federal Student Aid) process your application (it takes about three days if you submitted it online), we make your information available to all of the schools you listed on it. Each school then uses your FAFSA information to determine how much aid you are eligible to receive at that school. Each school has its own schedule for awarding financial aid. You must check with each school to find out when you can expect to receive an aid offer.
Schools determine financial aid offers based on three factors:1. Enrollment Status (full-time, half-time, less than half-time, etc.)
Your enrollment status will impact the amount and types of aid you qualify for. For example, Direct Loans are available only to students enrolled at least half-time, and Federal Pell Grant amounts are partially determined by your enrollment status.2. Cost of Attendance (COA)
Think of this as your school’s sticker price. Your COA is the estimated amount of money it will cost to go to a particular school. This figure is determined by your school and should be available on the school’s website. If your enrollment status is at least half-time, your COA estimate includes
- tuition and fees,
- room and board,
- books, supplies, living expenses, transportation, loan fees, and more.
Keep in mind that your COA will likely be different at each school, since some schools are more expensive than others.3. Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
The information you provide on the FAFSA is used to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible for at that school.
The EFC is calculated using a formula established by law. The formula can be difficult to understand; just know that many factors are taken into account—not just income. If you have questions about your EFC, contact the financial aid office at your school.
Schools then use this formula to determine your financial need:
Cost of Attendance (COA)
– Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
= Financial Need
Once each school has determined your financial need, you will receive aid offers from the schools you’ve been accepted to. Remember that all of your aid offers will be different. Each school has a different ability to meet your financial need—it all depends on the funds available at each school.The offers will include the types and amounts of financial aid you’re eligible to receive from federal, state, private, and school sources. If you need help comparing the offers you received from different schools, use the CFPB’s financial aid offer comparison tool.
Be sure you understand what each type of aid is and whether or not it needs to be paid back. If you have any questions about an offer, you should talk to a financial aid advisor at the school. No matter how much aid you’re offered, it is always up to you to decide how much of a student loan you want to accept. The rule of thumb is that you should only borrow as much money as you absolutely need to pay for the school year. You can always tell your school that you want to borrow less than what is offered.
You may also be interested in these 7 options to consider if you didn’t receive enough financial aid.
Nora Onley is a Management and Program Analyst for Federal Student Aid.
On July 18, the Department hosted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to celebrate the opening of “The World Through My Eyes,” a collection of student achievement in the visual arts. Ninety FCPS students grades one through 12 at 28 schools contributed to the exhibit; the diversity of their chosen mediums—from photography to painting, illustration, printmaking, mixed media, and film—exemplifies the myriad perspectives and concerns of today’s youths.
Among the exhibit’s many outstanding pieces is “Sisters,” a reimagining of Roselle Hellenberg Osk’s famous 20th-century etching of the same name. Jamie Lambkin and Tiana Espinoza recreated the etching’s mien through photography; flanking their photos are two short, inner-monologue prose pieces by Shiva Zarean and Maxmine Ayompe-Mody, both Oakton High School theater students. Espinoza said her aim was to bring Osk’s themes of racial and cultural diversity into the 21st century along with the notion of religious diversity into the work. “Sisters” stands as a testament to the kind of creativity and artistic capacity that Fairfax County seeks to cultivate in its students.
The opening was not content to honor merely the visual arts, however—it showcased the county’s talented and multifarious performing artists as well. Young musicians shared the stage with vocalists, dancers, and even aspiring directors; interspersed between their outstanding performances were cogent and inspiring remarks by students, county officials, and Department staff. In a particularly powerful moment, FCPS School Board member Karen Corbett Sanders highlighted the fundamental importance of arts education by invoking the father of our country:“George Washington believed that the arts should be in the foundation of an enlightened nation. In 1781, he wrote to a friend: ‘The arts and sciences are essential to the prosperity of the state, and to the ornament and happiness of human life.’”
Epitomizing this sense of joie de vivre was the Lake Braddock Orchestra, led by Troops to Teachers educator Clayton Allen. The concert program juxtaposed Scandinavian romanticism with the English musical avant-garde of the early 20th century—the sonorous, arcing melodies of Sibelius took on a new, profound beauty in the context of Holst and Warlock’s robust harmonies. Many in attendance seemed especially impressed by the students’ rendition of Grieg’s seminal Holberg Suite, which delineates (and perhaps rejuvenates) the principal stylistic and compositional forms of the 18th century. The maturity and composure of these young performers were impressive indeed.
Ally Johnson, student president of the Lake Braddock Orchestra, noted that her time in Fairfax programs illustrates “the extreme importance of arts education . . . [in that it] engenders an otherwise unattainable sense of community between musicians, as well as between musicians and the school community at large.” What explains Lake Braddock’s success? “We owe a lot to our awesome directors,” noted Joshua Cheng. Many musicians also cited their experience in Fourth-Grade Strings as an essential, even transcendental aspect of their education.
A similar example of artistic excellence featured at the opening was “Buzzcut Season,” a short film by four female students from Rachel Carson Middle School; the film illustrates the cathartic power of friendship and relays a significant message concerning the negative impact of bullying in schools.
Other highlights included Sophia Welch’s rendition of “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked; a performance of Arcangelo Corelli’s Suite for Strings by the Spring Hill Elementary School Chamber Orchestra; “Art Makes a Difference,” an ardent, heartfelt speech by Deer Park Elementary sixth-grader Purnima Vasistha; and “I am a Photographer,” a presentation depicting recent graduate Matthew Cohen’s maturation as both artiste and entrepreneur. The program concluded with a climactic song-and-dance performance of “Holding Out For a Hero” by a consortium of theater and drama students from six Fairfax high schools. The dramatic acrobatic maneuvers of this riveting number left many in the audience especially awestruck.
By the event’s conclusion, the astounding capabilities of today’s young artists were manifest; also evident were the critical role of schools in their successes, as well as the vital importance of artistic expression at all levels of the educational experience.
Watch the opening in full here on the Department’s Facebook page. The exhibit will remain at ED through Aug. 24.
Andrew Smith is an intern from Middlebury College in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
Photo at the top: Everyone’s all smiles at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that culminated the opening of the Fairfax County Public Schools art exhibit.
All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Paul Wood.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit
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