Applying for financial aid is an important step for incoming and current students in college.
According to a 2015-2016 Princeton Review Survey, 93 percent of incoming freshmen and 94 percent of all other undergraduate students qualify for some type of financial aid.
Alyssa Dobson, director of financial aid and scholarships, said the first thing a student should do is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Dobson said the process for filling out the FAFSA is changing this year. While students and families used to fill out the FAFSA after Jan. 1 each year and use the previous year’s income, it was hard to start because they would have to wait for their taxes to be completed. This new process will open the FAFSA on Oct. 1 and families will be able to use tax information that was already filed.
Completing the FAFSA before May 1 allows students to be considered for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) grant. Missing this deadline means that students will not be considered for the award.
After the FAFSA is completed, each school the student selected during the application will receive a copy. The schools then use that information to create a financial aid award package.
“The school reviews everything and determines what a student is eligible for,” Dobson said.
First-time students who want to use student loans also have to complete entrance counseling and a master promissory note.
Dobson said the financial aid office communicates with students through the SRU portal. If the office sees that students are a first-time borrower, they will include the requirements and explanations of how to complete the introductory courses. The portal can also be used if the government decides that they need more information about a student, with the office notifying the student on their financial aid report.
Dobson also encouraged students to fill out the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency state grant application.
The different awards given to students have their own requirements which are measured annually after the spring semester. The requirements themselves vary, with federal aid requiring a student to maintain a 2.0 GPA and a 67 percent completion rate, which is the ratio of the number of classes a student attempts to those they successfully complete.
“Things that would make that number lower are going to be withdrawals and failures,” Dobson said.
The PHEAA state grant policy requires a student to complete 24 new credits each full-time year of the award they receive. This would mean that a class that a student is repeating for a better grade would not count.
“All the other types of aid out there, whether it’s athletic, honors or tuition waiver, all have different academic requirements,” Dobson said. “If a student is concerned or worried or doesn’t know what they need to maintain that award they can always call or stop in, and we’re always happy to help them.”
If a student misses the required academic benchmarks for their aid, they can go through an appeal process, which consists of the student describing what was outside of their control that impacted their academic performance. They then have to follow up with what has changed that will allow them to be successful in the future.
Dobson encourages incoming students to be active participants in the financial aid process and to look at their community for resources.
“Pay attention to the communications we send and that PHEAA sends and make sure you’re monitoring your campus email and your portal for requirements,” Dobson said.
Questions regarding the financial aid process can be directed towards the financial aid office at 724-738-2044 or email@example.com.