Financial aid packages

"Financial aid packages" submitted by SchoolGrantsfor Editorial Team and last updated on Thursday 14th July 2011

The total amount of financial aid offered by a school; usually a combination of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study employment from all sources (federal, state, institutional and private) offered to a student to enable them to attend the college or university. Your college financial aid advisor will create a financial aid package for you. It’s based on financial need and may include scholarships, grants, work-study and loans. Your school’s process for determining the type and amount of assistance in your financial aid package.

This combination of aid is your financial aid package. Review each award letter very carefully and compare how much aid you can receive at each school. Once you accept a school’s award letter, sign it and return it to the school for processing. The financial aid administrator at a post-secondary institution combines various forms of aid into a “package” to help meet a student’s education costs. Using available resources to give each student the best possible package of aid is one of the aid administrator’s major responsibilities. Because funds are often limited, an aid package might fall short of the amount a student needs to cover the full cost of attendance. Also, the amount of federal student aid in a package is affected by other sources of aid received (scholarships, state aid, etc.).

Grant programs provide money that you don’t have to pay back, while loan programs require you to pay back the loan money in full, with interest, once you graduate or leave school. So if you don’t need the money for education expenses, don’t take it.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to accept your entire student aid package but can pick and choose the aid you want. If you do decide to decline aid, however, that aid may not be available later if you change your mind. If you’re offered a loan, remember that accepting a loan means accepting the responsibility of repaying it. Note that unsubsidized Stafford loans and PLUS loans are not considered part of the financial aid package, since these financing options are available to the family to help them meet the EFC.

Creating a Financial Aid Package for Students

Students identify the institution(s) that should receive an ISIR showing the amount of the student’s EFC. If the cost of attendance exceeds the EFC, the student is eligible for need-based student aid. Using the information from the ISIR and the results of any institutional methodology calculations, the campus financial aid administrator prepares a financial aid package for every qualified student. Institutions generally issue award letters to notify students of their financial aid packages.

Under federal law, students who have the lowest EFC among FAFSA applicants are entitled to a federal Pell Grant before any other federal financial aid. Students who still have financial need after receiving a Pell Grant—and needy students who do not qualify for a Pell Grant—may be offered a package of grants, loans, and workstudy jobs. Campus financial aid administrators use a wide variety of techniques to put together financial aid packages. One of the most popular strategies is equity packaging, a method designed to equalize the treatment of all needy students by establishing a minimum amount of aid for each student from grants, scholarships, and parental contributions.

As part of their financial aid package, many colleges have a “self-help requirement” that holds all students responsible for meeting at least some of the cost of attendance themselves. Typically, students meet the self-help requirement by working and/or taking out loans.

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