Getting Started with Financial Aid
Despite today’s economic climate and the increasing costs of a college education, a college degree remains one of the best investments of time and money that families can make. Whether you choose to attend SIUE or another university, we want to help you navigate the college financial aid process.
Last year alone, SIUE administered more than $148 million in student financial aid. No matter what your financial circumstances, we are here to help you afford a quality education. Here are some tips and resources to help you get started.
1. Be organized
Create a file for all of your financial aid documents, and keep copies of everything you submit. As you complete financial aid applications, think about your family’s special financial circumstances. Contact the financial aid office at the colleges to which you have applied to learn about financial aid opportunities.
2. Complete and submit the FAFSA early
Some federal and state aid is awarded only while funding is available, on a first-come, first-served basis. To take full advantage of the financial aid available to you, it is important that you apply for federal financial aid by filing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid: fafsa.gov) as soon as possible. The FAFSA launch date has changed, and you can file your FAFSA beginning October 1. You don’t have to have your tax return completed in order to file a FAFSA. The FAFSA can be completed using tax information from the “prior-prior” year. In other words, if you will be attending college during the 2017-2018 academic year, you may use 2015 income information. Please note: This is a free service; you need not pay for it.
Apply online: fafsa.gov
The SIUE Office of Financial Aid is here to help you afford a quality education. To qualify for grants, loans, work study and institutional scholarships, list SIUE (Code 001759) as one of your schools of choice on your FAFSA.
What is my Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?
Calculated using a formula established by law, the EFC measures your family’s financial strength and determines the amount your family will be expected to contribute to your college costs for one year. Your EFC is calculated using the information you submit when filing the FAFSA. It is important to understand your family’s EFC and how it will impact your cost at different schools.
FAFSA Reporting Tips
Be sure to include:
- All income (excluding untaxed Social Security)
- All non-retirement assets
- Investment properties
- Student- or parent-owned 529 Plans (as parent asset)
Do not include:
- Assets in defined retirement plans
- Cash value of life insurance
- Home equity or grandparent-owned 529 Plan
Review my Student Aid Report — The government will send you a Student Aid Report that addresses any corrections that need to be made to your FAFSA and gives an estimated family contribution (EFC). The EFC is used to determine how much need-based aid you are eligible for and what your loan offer may be. This is an estimate, not a guarantee.
Review my award letter — SIUE retrieves your FAFSA information starting in March and sends you an email notifying you that your official award letter is available on CougarNet.
How Do I Review My Award Letter?
Accept or decline loans — Decide how much in loans you will need and accept or decline the loans you’ve been offered.
How Do I Accept My Aid?
If your parents want the PLUS loan, they will have to apply each school year.
How Do My Parents Complete PLUS Loan Process?
If selected for verification, turn in documents — You may be randomly selected for verification. (All university financial aid offices are required by law to select a percentage of their student population and verify that the information submitted on the FAFSA is correct.) If you are selected, there will be a list of documents you will need to submit to SIUE. Once verification is complete, you may accept or decline your loans.
How Do I Check For Missing Documents?
Do my entrance loan counseling and sign master promissory note — First-time borrowers need to sign and complete a master promissory note and entrance loan counseling.
How Do I Complete Counseling and Sign the Master Promissory Note?
Check CougarNet to verify aid is applied to my account — Check CougarNet to verify you’ve successfully completed all financial aid requirements.
Do I Have Any Messages About My Financial Aid?
Your aid should appear on your student account.
How Do I Check My Bill?
3. Learn all you can about financial aid
There are many sources of information. Some colleges award aid from money they have received from donations and gifts from alumni and other donors. Many organizations and foundations award scholarships. Ask your high school counselor’s office for recommended financial aid resources.
Here are some great online resources
- fafsa.gov — complete and submit your FAFSA online, check the status of your completed FAFSA, and view your Student Aid Report.
- collegeboard.org — Find information about how financing works, financing and loan options, and scholarship searches.
- bigfuture.collegeboard.org — A collection of college planning tools and links, including an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculator
- nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator — Find the right college for you and learn about college admissions and financial assistance.
- fastweb.com — An excellent resource for searching for outside scholarship options
- finaid.org — Scholarship database and calculators to estimate your federal Expected Family Contribution and monthly loan payments
- collegescholarships.com — Create a profile to see all the scholarships that match your criteria.
- irs.gov/publications/p970 — Explains the American opportunity and lifetime learning credits, student loan interest deductibility, education savings and 529 plans, and the tuition and fees deduction
- studentaid.ed.gov — Information about federal sources of student financial aid and links to state agencies
- siue.edu/financialaid — The SIUE Office of Financial Aid will work with you to put together a combination of scholarships, grants, student loans, parent loans and student employment to help you fund your education.
- siue.edu/apply — Apply for admission and scholarships to SIUE beginning in June prior to your senior year.