What is federal student aid?
- Who can get federal student aid?
- How do I determine if I am eligible for federal student aid?
How many credits do I need to be enrolled in to receive Direct Loans?
- How can I complete the FAFSA?
- When should I complete the FAFSA?
- Will I need to include parent information on the FAFSA?
- What information will I need to have with me to complete the FAFSA?
- How do I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing my FAFSA?
- How long will it take to find out what federal student aid I am eligible for?
- Is it possible to get an estimate of the federal student aid I may qualify for?
- What if I need more assistance than the federal student aid I am eligible for?
- What if I will be taking classes during the summer? How does financial aid work for summer classes?
What is “Verification”?
- Why do I get chosen for verification every year?
- Why do I have to get a Tax Return Transcript instead of providing a copy of my Tax Return?
- How do I make corrections to my FAFSA?
- I forgot my federal Pin#. How do I get a reminder?
- Why can’t I get the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to work?
- How do I obtain an IRS Tax Return Transcript?
- I already provided a copy of my High School transcript to Admissions. Why are you asking for another transcript?
- I have already sent the documents requested. Why are you requesting them again?
- How do I know what documents I still need to turn in?
- My actual aid was less than my estimated aid. How can this happen?
- When will my 3rd party funding be applied to my student account?
- Why does it say that my scholarship is pending?
- How can I find out the total amount of federal student loans I have accepted?
- I have accepted federal financial aid funds but they are not showing on my student account. Why is this?
What is federal student aid?
It is the financial assistance available through the U.S. Department of Education. Federal student aid includes Pell Grants, Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Work Study. Federal student aid helps cover school-related expenses such as tuition & fees, room & board, books and transportation.
Who can get federal student aid?
U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens can qualify for federal student aid if they meet the following guidelines:
- Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
- Enrolled at least ½ time with credits required for the qualifying degree or certificate program you are accepted into (to receive Direct Loans)
- Must have a valid Social Security number
- Males must be registered for Selective Service
- Continuing students must maintain satisfactory academic progress
- Must be current in payments from any previous student loans
- Must NOT have drug-related convictions while enrolled
How do I determine if I am eligible for federal student aid?
To determine eligibility for federal student aid you must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at www.fafsa.gov. A new FAFSA must be completed for each academic year. It is FREE to complete the FAFSA and filling it out does NOT lock an applicant into anything.
How many credits do I need to be enrolled in to receive Direct Loans?
You must be enrolled at least half-time (required towards your program) to receive Direct Loans.
Enrollment status: Fall ‘15 and Spring ‘16 Terms: Full-time: 12 or more credits; Three-quarter time: 9 to 11 credits Half-time: 6 to 8 credits
Enrollment status: Summer ’16 Term: Full-time: 9 credits; Three-quarter 7 to 8 credits; Half-time: 5 to 6 credits
How can I complete the FAFSA?
There are two different ways to complete the FAFSA:
- Complete the form entirely on-line at www.fafsa.gov. This is the fastest and preferred way.
- Download a paper version at www.federalstudentaid.ed.gov. The Department of Education no longer sends out paper applications. Completed paper applications are mailed to the Department of Education and typically require 4-6 weeks for processing.
Remember you will use your 2014 federal tax returns to complete the 2015-16 FAFSA.
Be sure you read the instructions, complete all questions, and provide all necessary signatures. If completing the FAFSA online, the U.S. Department of Education has created an enhancement to the FAFSA filing process by allowing applicants and parents to retrieve tax data from the IRS. This process is called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. We strongly recommend that parents and students select this option when filing their 2015-16 FAFSA. This option will streamline and expedite the processing of your financial aid. To take advantage of the IRS Retrieval Tool, we suggest you file your 2015-16 FAFSA two weeks after you have electronically filed your 2014 federal tax return. This should allow for accurate information to be submitted and if you’re selected for verification, this should greatly reduce the amount of time and effort you need to complete the requirements for financial aid processing, awarding, and notification.
When should I complete the FAFSA?
Students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA in January as soon as their taxes have been filed and processed by the IRS as some funds are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. STI recommends that you complete your 2015-2016 FAFSA by March 1, 2015 for timely processing of your aid.
Will I need to include parent information on the FAFSA?
For purposes of receiving federal student aid, your dependency status is not determined by where you live or whether your parents claimed you on their tax return. For the 2015-2016 FAFSA, there are 13 questions an applicant must answer to help the government determine dependency status. If you answer YES to any of these questions you may be considered Independent and therefore NOT required to provide parent information. If you answer NO to all of these questions you are considered dependent and will be required to include parent information on the FAFSA.
- Were you born before January 1, 1992?
- Are you married?
- Will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program? (these degrees are not offered at STI)
- Are you serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces?*
- Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?*
- Do you have children for whom you provide more than ½ of their total support?*
- Since turning 13, have both your parents become deceased?*
- Since turning 13 have you been in foster care?*
- Do you have dependents other than children or your spouse who live with you for whom you provide more than ½ of their support?*
- Since turning 13 have you been a dependent or ward of the court?*
- Are you currently or have you been an emancipated minor?*
- Are you currently or were you in a legal guardianship?*
- Are you currently homeless or are you at risk of being homeless?*
* Additional documentation may be required to confirm status prior to receiving federal student aid.
What information will I need to have with me to complete the FAFSA?
- Federal PIN # to serve as your signature. Register for a PIN # at www.pin.ed.gov
- Your social security number
- Your driver’s license number
- Your 2014 federal tax return & 2014 W2’s
- Untaxed income such as social security or welfare
- Your current bank statements
- Stock and other investment records including real estate (not including home you live in), trust funds, money market funds, certificates of deposit, stocks and bonds and education savings plans such as 529 college savings plans
- Business and farm data including mortgage information and market value of land, buildings, machinery, equipment and inventory. Do not include the value of a small business that you own and control that have less than 100 full-time employees
- If you are a Dependent as determined by the federal student aid guidelines, your parents will also need to provide the information listed above and have a federal PIN # to sign your FAFSA.
How do I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing my FAFSA?
To utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the 2015-2016 FAFSA, follow these steps:
- Student logs into FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov
- Ensure you are on the 2015-2016 tab near the top of the page (should already be selected upon log in)
- Click on the “Make Corrections” link near the middle of the page
- Click on the “Financial Information” tab near the top of the page
- If you answer No to all 5 questions regarding your 2014 federal tax return, enter your Pin # (For a dependent student, the parent financial information will be requested first)
- Click on the “Link to IRS” button
- Click on “OK” to leave the FAFSA website and go to the IRS website
- Click on “OK” after reading the notification about the IRS website
- Enter your personal information as it appeared on your 2015-2016 federal tax return
- Click on the “Submit” button in the bottom, right part of the page
- If your information successfully matched with IRS information, your tax data will be displayed on the next page. To transfer this information directly to the FAFSA, put a check mark in the “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA” box and then click on the “Transfer Now” button.
- You will now be back on the FAFSA. All Data that was transferred from your IRS tax return will say transferred. This will be the case for about 2/3 of the questions in the Financial Information section. DO NOT CHANGE ANY ANSWERS THAT NOW SAY transferred.
- You will still need to provide answers manually to about 1/3 of the questions in the Financial Information section. The Financial Aid Office may be required to request further documentation if you fail to answer the non-transferred questions manually.
- When finished with the “Financial Information” section(s), be sure to sign the FAFSA with your Pin# (parent will also need to sign for dependent students), agree to the statement regarding accuracy of information and click the “Submit” button at the bottom of the page.
To use IRS Data Retrieval Tool, 2014 Federal Tax Return must be filed and processed by the IRS. The Retrieval Option is typically available 10-14 days following an electronic filing or 6-8 weeks following a mailed filing, but can take longer. Tax Returns for those individuals or families who are required to pay taxes along with their return are not typically processed before April 15th. If you have already received a refund check, your tax return has been processed. If you are unable to make the IRS Data Retrieval Tool work you may also provide a copy of each 2014 IRS Tax Return Transcript requested.
How long will it take to find out what federal student aid I am eligible for?
Each individual situation is unique. In general, the more unique your particular situation is, the longer the process may take. Depending on the time of year and the documentation required, the process can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. To ensure the process goes as quickly as possible, be sure that the mailing address you use while completing the FAFSA is accurate as all correspondence will be sent to this address. Check your mail on a regular basis and return all requested materials in a timely manner. Be sure to read all instructions carefully when completing required documents.
Is it possible to get an estimate of the federal student aid I may qualify for?
For an early estimate, use the FAFSA4caster at http://www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov/. Please remember that these are only estimates. Actual eligibility is determined only after all required documentation is received.
What if I need more assistance than the federal student aid I am eligible for?
By completing the FAFSA a student is only determining the federal student aid she or he is eligible for. Additional sources of assistance include:
- Scholarships and Grants – Scholarships and grants are educational funds that are not required to be paid back once a student graduates. It is up to the student to seek and apply for scholarships and grants. Review the “Scholarships” link on STI’s Financial Aid website for a list of know scholarship and grant opportunities.
- Federal Plus Loan – For Dependent students only, these loans are in the parent’s name and based on the parent’s credit history. If the parent is approved for a Plus Loan the parent can apply for up to the COA (Cost of Attendance) of the school. If the parent is denied, the student is usually eligible for additional unsubsidized loan of up to $4,000 for the year. A parent can apply for a PLUS Loan at www.studentloans.gov.
- Alternative Loans – These are non-federal loans in the student’s name and based on the student’s credit history. Students with limited credit history will usually need a co-signer. A list of possible alternative loans can be found on the “Alternative Loans Information” link on STI’s Financial Aid website.
What if I will be taking classes during the summer? How does financial aid work for summer classes?
The federal aid a student is eligible for as a result of completing the FAFSA is determined on an annual basis. When a student completes the FAFSA, she/he will be awarded for the fall, the spring or both fall and spring semesters depending on when the FAFSA is completed and other eligibility factors. Summer financial aid is NOT awarded without a specific request to do so by the student because it will affect loan amounts for the fall and spring. A student may handle their charges for summer classes in one of the following ways:
- Once awarded for fall and spring, a student may request that the subsidized and unsubsidized loan(s) they are eligible for be divided into 3 disbursements instead of 2. This does NOT change the total loan amount a student is eligible for, but instead gives the student less loan(s) funding in the fall and spring in order to set aside a portion of their loan(s) funding for the summer session. To do this a student must be a minimum of ½ time enrollment status for the summer session (credits must be required for the program(s) they are accepted into) AND they must complete the appropriate Summer Financial Aid Request Form found on the Financial Aid Forms page.
- Once awarded for fall and spring, a student may decline a portion of their fall and/or spring loan(s) and then complete the appropriate Summer Financial Aid Request Form found on the Financial Aid Forms page during the spring semester once they have registered for summer classes. To do this, a student must be a minimum of ½ time enrollment status for the summer session (credits must be required for the program(s) they are accepted into).
- Once awarded for fall and spring, a student may accept all of their federal loan(s) as awarded for the fall and spring semesters. If a refund check is received, it is the student’s responsibility to save as much of the refunded funds as needed for the summer session. By accepting all federal funding a student is eligible for in the fall and spring semesters, there will be no additional federal student aid to accept during the summer session because the summer session at STI is a trailer session at the end of the award year.
- If a student has good credit history or if a student is able to find a co-signer with good credit history, an alternative loan could be used during the summer session if federal funding has been exhausted. To utilize an alternative loan a student must be a minimum of ½ time enrollment status for the summer session (credits must be required for the program(s) they are accepted into) AND they must complete the appropriate Summer Financial Aid Request Form found on the Financial Aid Forms page.
- Those students who are starting at STI for the spring or summer sessions must actually be registered for a minimum of ½ time enrollment status for the summer session (credits must be required for the program(s) they are accepted into) before summer eligibility can be awarded. The appropriate Summer Financial Aid Request Form found on the Financial Aid Forms page must be completed to request a summer financial aid award. If eligible for summer aid, the student will be awarded once this form is received.
As a reminder, a student must be enrolled for at least ½ time (credits must be required for the program(s) they are accepted into) to be eligible for any loan(s) set aside or scheduled for the summer session. If loan(s) are split to include summer and the student fails to maintain at least ½ time enrollment for the summer session, the loan funds set aside for summer will be void. In addition, summer courses which end prior to the initial summer disbursement (typically mid-June) must be completed successfully to count toward a student’s enrollment status for the summer. Failing or withdrawing from a summer course prior to disbursement of summer funds may result in loss of eligibility for summer funds altogether.
What is “Verification”?
Verification is a process by which information provided on the FAFSA is confirmed by the institution. As described in part 668.54 of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, you may be selected for verification by the Department of Education or by your institution. When selected for verification, all documents requested must be completed in full before a student can be awarded. If there are discrepancies between your FAFSA application and any verification documentation submitted to Southeast Tech, corrections will be sent electronically to the U.S. Department of Education. For the 2015-2016 FAFSA year, the Department of Education has expanded the verification process significantly which may result in different types of documentation than you have been asked for in previous years.
Why do I get chosen for verification every year?
While the Department of Education indicates that the verification selection process is random, certain factors may increase the likelihood of being selected. Those students who are eligible for federal Pell Grant funds may have a tendency to be selected for verification more often.
Why do I have to get a Tax Return Transcript instead of providing a copy of my Tax Return?
Beginning with the 2015-2016 FAFSA, federal guidelines no longer allow a student to provide a signed copy of a tax return as documentation of having filed a federal tax return. If using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA is not an option, students and/or parents must provide a Tax Return Transcript provided by the IRS. The ability to provide a Tax Return Transcript proves that a federal tax return has actually been filed and processed by the IRS.
How do I make corrections to my FAFSA?
Know that changing information on your FAFSA may result in selection for the verification process. Changes should only be made to your FAFSA if absolutely necessary. To make corrections to your FAFSA, login at www.fafsa.gov, click on the tab for the year you are wishing to make corrections to, create a password for this session and then use the tabs at the top of the page to select the section that you need to make corrections to. If you are unsure which section you are looking for, start with the Student Demographics section and proceed. Once the appropriate changes have been made you will be shown a summary page of all updates. Review this page carefully to be sure all changes are appropriate. Any changes made to transferred data after using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will make all transferred data invalid which will in turn require Tax Return Transcript(s) and W2(s) be provided in hard copy. Once done reviewing be sure to submit the changes. If done correctly you will see a confirmation of submission page and receive a confirmation email.
I forgot my federal Pin#. How do I get a reminder?
Go to www.pin.ed.gov, click on the “Request A Duplicate” link on the left side of the page and answer the Challenge Question you had established when you first registered for your federal Pin#. If you are having problems with the answer, remember that answers to the Challenge Question are CASE SENSATIVE. For example: If the question you chose was ‘What city were you born in?’ and you typed Aberdeen, try typing aberdeen. If you try three times without success you will be required to either “Reestablish My Pin” or “Apply for a Pin” on the same website.
Why can’t I get the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to work?
Review the information on how to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and how to obtain an IRS Tax Return Transcript. If you are still unable to make the Data Retrieval Tool work you may also provide a copy of each IRS Tax Return Transcript requested.
How do I obtain an IRS Tax Return Transcript?
Copies of 2014 IRS Tax Return Transcripts can be obtained in 3 ways:
- Request copies at https://sa2.www4.irs.gov/irfof-tra/start.do (mailed to you in 10-14 days)
- Request copies at 1.800.908.9946 (mailed to you in 10-14 days)
- Visit your local IRS office (printed for you same day – must have photo ID)
To obtain an IRS Tax Return Transcript using options 1 or 2 as listed above (IRS website or 1-800 number), an exact match of all information requested must be achieved. If you are having difficulties making a match, it is typically due to one of the following errors:
- “The address you have entered does not match our records.” - Try abbreviations for words such as avenue (ave), drive (dr) or street (st) without a period. If you have recently moved, try both your current and previous address(es). If you have an apartment number, try leaving the apartment number off. If using box number, leave the # off (Box 123).
- “The information you have entered does not match our records.” – The social security number and birthdate entered don’t match with the information on file with the IRS. Check to be sure these items were typed correctly.
- “A transcript is not available for the year you have requested.” – Either you did not file a tax return for the year requested OR the tax return you have filed for the year requested has not yet been processed by the IRS. Transcripts are typically available 10-14 days following an electronic filing or 6-8 weeks following a mailed filing, but can take longer. Tax Returns for those individuals or families who are required to pay taxes along with their return are not typically processed before April 15th. If you have already received a refund check, your tax return has been processed.
- “Married filing jointly?” – When filing jointly, the Tax Return Transcripts are listed under the social security number for the primary taxpayer listed on the tax return. If you get this error message try the same process using the social security number and birthdate of your spouse.
If you are unable to achieve an exact match using the IRS website or 1-800 number, visiting your local IRS office may be your best option. If you do not have an IRS Office near you, you may also get assistance from the IRS at 1.800.829.1040.
I already provided a copy of my High School transcript to Admissions. Why are you asking for another transcript?
To be eligible for federal student aid a student must show proof of high school graduation, GED completion or state certified completion of Home Schooling. To get accepted into a program at STI, you may have provided Admissions with an incomplete copy of your transcript prior to your graduation. Be sure the transcript you provide includes your graduation date.
I have already sent the documents requested. Why are you requesting them again?
Documents that are still needed before you can be awarded are automatically generated by letter and/or e-mail. Occasionally, documents that you have mailed, faxed or emailed have not arrived and/or been processed when reminders are generated. If you believe you have already sent the documents requested, check your “Financial Aid Document Tracking” page on STInet to see if the documents arrived after the letter/reminder was sent to you.
How do I know what documents I still need to turn in?
Review your “Financial Aid Document Tracking” page on STInet. An ‘incomplete’ status means that we received the document but it was filled out incorrectly, illegible or missing a portion of the needed information. A ‘not reviewed’ status means that the document has been received but is not yet processed. A ‘not received’ status means that the document is still needed.
My actual aid was less than my estimated aid. How can this happen?
The actual aid you receive is based on your actual eligibility for funds at the time of disbursement. There are many reasons why your eligibility may have changed from the time you were first awarded to the time your funds are disbursed. If you were awarded before you registered for classes, you were awarded on the assumption that you would be registered as a full-time student (12+ credits required for your major). The actual aid you receive is based on the actual enrollment status for the semester. If your enrollment status dropped to ¾ or ½ time, your aid may also be lowered. If you are less than ½ time (6+ credits required for your major) your federal loan funds are removed all together. Aid you received at other schools and changes in federal financial aid rules and guidelines can also affect eligibility. Students who are on Financial Aid Suspension are not eligible for federal student aid.
When will my 3rd party funding be applied to my student account?
STI has no way of knowing when 3rd party funding may be arriving, but it will always be after the drop/add period for the given semester. Stay in communication with your 3rd party provider to estimate arrival of funds. Once funds have arrived you will be able to see those funds applied to your student account on your “Course and Fee Statement”. The Financial Aid Office will send a message to your STI email account if we have received a scholarship check that requires your endorsement.
Why does it say that my scholarship is pending?
A ‘pending’ status for a scholarship means that we have received the scholarship check but your signature on the check is required before it can be applied to your account. Stop by the Financial Aid Office to sign your scholarship check.
How can I find out the total amount of federal student loans I have accepted?
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) provides a website where you can review all of your federal student loan information. Go to www.nslds.ed.gov, click on the “Financial Aid Review” link and sign in using your 4-digit federal Pin# (used when filling out your FAFSA). By clicking on each individual loan you can determine the status of each loan and also identify the servicer who has been assigned to your federal loans by the Department of Education. Your servicer is the company you will eventually pay the loans back to. Contact your servicer to update your contact information, to establish/change your repayment schedule or with any other questions you might have about your existing federal student loans.
I have accepted federal financial aid funds but they are not showing on my student account. Why is this?
The answer to this question is very unique to each situation and possible explanations are limitless. By reviewing your Document Tracking page on STInet you can determine whether you still have requirements that need to be completed before you receive your funds. If this is the case the document status will be listed as ‘Not Received’. If you have questions about missing documents you can review the Glossary of Document Tracking Terms for clarification. Remaining questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.