What is Financial Aid
What is Financial Aid?
Financial aid is monetary assistance offered in the form of scholarships and grants, work-study programs, and loans available through federal and state governments as well as private sources. There are two types of financial aid available, “merit-based” and “need-based”. In most cases the amount of financial aid offered to a student will be based on a combination of factors involving both of these types of aid.
“Merit-based” aid is scholarships or grants that students can earn for their achievement in academics, music, athletics and/or other extra-curricular activities. Merit-based scholarships are not contingent on the student demonstrating financial need.
“Need-based” aid refers to assistance offered to students based on their or their family’s ability to pay for college. “Need” is determined by the difference between the total cost of attending college (including tuition, living expenses, books, supplies and travel) and a student’s expected family contribution to college expenses (as determined by a student’s FAFSA results). In other words, it refers to the amount of money you “need” to pay for college. Need-based aid is available in the form of grants and/or loans.
Work-study programs are need-based awards involving on or off-campus employment in which the student is able to earn money which is applied directly to college expenses. In some cases, these jobs can relate to an individual’s field of study.
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Published by the Department of Education, the Student Guide is the most comprehensive resource on student financial aid.
Complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online.
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Financial Aid Terms
Financial Aid Terms
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
The FAFSA is the financial aid form used to determine eligibility for need-based aid. Available online, the FAFSA is submitted to the federal processor for evaluation. The evaluation is then sent to the student and to as many as six colleges of the student’s choosing.
Student Aid Report (SAR)
Issued by the federal government and sent to the student after submitting the FAFSA, the SAR includes the information the student reported and an opportunity to make revisions or corrections. The SAR also informs the student of their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and guides financial aid officers in determining federal and institutional monies
After completing the FAFSA, students and parents may be required to provide copies of their income tax returns and W-2s, as well as federal verification worksheets to the university. The federal processor often requires verification because the FAFSA is frequently filled out before taxes have been completed, and figures are based on estimated or projected information.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
The amount the student and parents are expected to be able to pay toward educational expenses for the coming year. The EFC is calculated from a formula established by Congress, based on the information provided by the student on the FAFSA. The EFC is used by the school to determine what need-based aid a student qualifies for and may or may not reflect the actual amount that a family may be required to contribute for school costs.
The Master’s University Financial Aid Application
This form is required by the TMU Office of Financial Aid in order to receive any federal, institutional or private aid. Both the Financial Aid Application and FAFSA are used to determine the aid offered to a student. Contact The Master’s University Office of Financial Aid if you have questions about this or if you would like our office to supply this form to you.
FAFSA Waiver Form
This form can be filled out by a student who wishes to be considered for merit-based aid only and does not wish to complete the FAFSA. It is recommended that a student thinking of waiving the FAFSA contact the TMU Office of Financial Aid before doing so.
Financial Aid Package
The Financial Aid Package informs the student of the types and amounts of grants, scholarships, loans and/or work-study the student has been awarded. The student will be offered the Financial Aid Package in an Award Letter. He or she can then accept or decline the awards offered online.
Available to all students who file a FAFSA, Stafford Loans are federally funded and available through various lenders. Repayment on Stafford Loans begins six months after graduation. There are two types of Stafford Loans: Subsidized and Unsubsidized. The Subsidized Stafford Loan is available to students who demonstrate need. The Federal Government pays the interest on the loan until the student enters repayment. The Unsubsidized Stafford Loan is available to students who do not demonstrate need and does accrue interest while the student is in school.
Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
Provided by the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the PLUS is a loan for the parent of dependent students to help pay for college expenses. This loan is dependent on credit approval for the parent and may not exceed the institution’s estimated cost of attendance. For information on this loan, contact The Master’s University Office of Financial Aid.
Awarded by the Federal Government, Pell Grants are free money that does not have to be repaid. The student applies for the Pell Grant by filing the FAFSA and their eligibility is determined by the Federal Processor.
Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG)
Financed by the Federal Government, SEOGs are free money that does not have to be repaid. They are awarded to students with exceptional need as determined by the institution based on the student’s SAR.
Awarded to students with financial need, federal work-study programs offer on or off-campus employment by which a student is able to earn money which is applied directly to college expenses.
Circumstances not reflected on the FAFSA may affect a student’s EFC. Such circumstances could include unusual medical or dental expenses, tuition expenses for younger siblings in private school or a change in employment for parent or student. The student should report any such conditions to the financial aid officer at the college(s) where the student is applying for financial aid.
Prior-Prior Year Information
Prior-Prior Year refers to a change in the required financial data on the FAFSA beginning in the 2017-18 academic year. This change was announced by President Obama on September 14, 2015 in effort to give students more time to make the important decision about which university to attend. Historically, students have been required to provide the most recent tax information on their FAFSA. For example, the 2015-16 school year required 2014 data and the 2016-17 school year required 2015 tax data. In the following 2017-18 school year, the 2015 tax information will be required again so that the “prior-prior” year’s tax information is required. Requiring prior-prior year information allows students more time to fill out the FAFSA. In fact, the FAFSA will be available by October 1, 2016 instead of the normal January 1st availability.
A variety of changes to financial aid are necessary to note so that there will be minimal change to your financial aid award. This webpage will first explain the implications of Prior-Prior Year to your financial aid and then will detail examples so that you can see how this works.
Conflicting Information Could Impact Your Grant Amounts:
Since the 2016-17 school year and the 2017-18 school year both require the same 2015 tax information, it is important that the financial data matches on both years of the FAFSA applications. For example, if you have a data mismatch, such as a different Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, then the Financial Aid Office would be required to find out which AGI you reported is correct. A change in your AGI could affect your financial aid awards in both the 2017-18 and the 2016-17 years! This means that your 2016-17 financial aid could be adjusted in the middle of the school year because of data placed on the 2017-18 FAFSA.
We want to mitigate any surprises in your financial aid as much as possible. For this reason, we highly recommend that you ensure your 2016-17 FAFSA information is correct. The most efficient way to do this is to use the Data Retrieval Tool through the FAFSA. The Data Retrieval Tool links your FAFSA data to the IRS database and ensures that the FAFSA data matches IRS records. Later, when you are ready to fill out the the 2017-18 FAFSA, you could use the Data Retrieval Tool again to ensure that all of the data was input correctly. Consult www.masters.edu/verify for instructions about how to use the Data Retrieval Tool.
Please note: some data can be different between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 years if the data is not sourced in the 2015 tax information. For a list of the data that can be different on the two applications, please see the bottom of this webpage.
New Students Could Receive Financial Aid Award Letters Earlier:
One of the benefits to the Prior-Prior Year change is that new students could receive their financial aid awards earlier. This can potentially give the students more time to compare financial aid awards between schools to make an informed decision about which school to attend. For this reason, some students may desire to complete the FAFSA when it opens on October 1, 2016. (The FAFSA normally would have opened on January 1, 2017.)
In summary, the Prior-Prior Year system could potentially lead to conflicting information which the Financial Aid Office would need to resolve. Resolving that issue could potentially lead to a negative change in your 2017-18 and 2016-17 financial aid awards. Those potential changes to your 2016-17 financial aid could occur in the middle of the school year. In order to prevent that from happening we highly recommend using the Data Retrieval for your 2016-17 FAFSA at your earliest convenience. We also recommend using the Data Retrieval Tool for your 2017-18 FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016. Find instructions to use the Data Retrieval Tool on www.masters.edu/verify.
We understand that this change to the FAFSA is technical and can be confusing. Please contact us with any questions so that we can assist you.
The following examples are more technical and designed to give you a better grasp on how conflicting information could lead to financial aid changes.
Pell Grant Example:
You entered your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) on the 2016-17 FAFSA as $62,000, but you indicated on the 2017-18 FAFSA that the AGI was $64,286. Since there is a discrepancy, the Financial Aid Office would be required to determine the correct AGI and ensure that the correct AGI is reported on both the 2016-17 FAFSA and the 2017-18 FAFSA. It is possible that changing the AGI would change the Expected Family Contribution and thus change financial aid awards such as Pell Grant, Cal Grant, TMU Grant, and/or Subsidized Loans. These awards could be changed in the middle of the 2016-17 school year. For instance, the Pell Grant could be lowered if the AGI was increased. If the AGI of $62,000 was replaced by the correct AGI of $64,286, then the Expected Family Contribution could potentially increase by $1,000. If the student previously had $3,865 of Pell Grant and the Expected Family Contribution increased by $1,000, then the Pell Grant would be lowered to approximately $2,865. Even though you had relied on your financial aid for months, we would be required to make the necessary changes on your account. To mitigate this surprise, please use the Data Retrieval Tool or send us an IRS Tax Transcript immediately. Find instructions for both the IRS Data Retrieval and the IRS Tax Transcript on www.masters.edu/verify.
Cal Grant Example 2:
You are in the military or pastorate and receive a housing allowance and you have four people in your family. You reported a $29,000 housing allowance for the 2016-17 FAFSA and a $35,000 housing allowance for the 2017-18 FAFSA. Since both years of the FAFSA should be pulling 2015 tax information, one or both of these reported housing allowances is incorrect. The Financial Aid Office would be required to collect documentation to verify the right housing allowance and then make the changes on the student’s account. If the 2016-17 housing allowance of $29,000 was reported incorrectly and needed to be changed to $35,000, it could change the Expected Family Contribution and thus potentially change the amount of financial aid awarded in the 2016-17 year as well as in the 2017-18 year. This could practically apply in affecting a student’s Cal Grant award. If the change of housing allowance increased the family’s total income from $89,418 to $92,478, then a student could lose their Cal Grant award since the income threshold for a family of four (that is, $90,500) was exceeded by the correction. Note that we would uncover this discrepancy as early as October which means that we would potentially change your financial aid award even though you have relied on it for months without change. Completing the Data Retrieval Tool or sending us and IRS Tax Transcript before the 2016-17 school year begins can help reduce the chance of a change in your financial aid award.
Many examples could be cited, but the data which would need to be consistent between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 FAFSA applications includes, but is not necessarily limited to: tax return type, filing status, adjusted gross income, income tax, exemption number, education credits, need based employment, grant/scholarship aid, combat pay, co-op earnings, housing allowance, veterans non-education benefits, other untaxed income, other non-reported money, pension payments, IRA payments, interest income, IRA distributions, and untaxed pensions.
One should also note that some data can be different on the 2016-17 and 2017-18 FAFSA applications; including: number in household, number in college, address, contact information, food stamp use, child support received, and child support paid.
Financial Aid Application Process
Submit the TMU Financial Aid Application.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), listing The Master’s University as one of your school choices (Title IV school code: 001220).
Sign and submit our Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy.
Submit all documents listed above and/or requested by the Office of Financial Aid by March 2nd for priority awarding. Some scholarships and grants may require additional forms which can be found here. If you are notified that you have been required for verification visit our verification webpage.
Once you receive an award letter from our office, follow the instructions to accept or decline your awards.
To apply for the Cal Grant, complete the FAFSA and submit a GPA Verification Form through your high school counselor or college registrar by March 2nd. If home-schooled, contact the Office of Financial Aid for information on how to submit your GPA to the California Student Aid Commission.
To Be Eligible for Federal Financial Aid, a Student Must:
Be a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident (international students, see below).
Be enrolled at least half-time (6 units per semester).
Maintain satisfactory academic progress.
Not be in default on any student loans.
Meet Selective Service registration requirements (men only).
International students (non-U.S. citizens; non-permanent residents) are welcome to apply for financial aid from The Master’s University. However, international students are not eligible to complete the FAFSA or receive financial aid from the U.S. government. Information about applying for financial aid as an international student can be found here.