Financial Aid 101

ConIbanezMelissaMugForFeb4Postfused by financial aid? We hear, ya. So, we posed several questions you may have to Melissa Ibanez, our director of financial aid.

Q: How do students and their families get started in the financial aid process?

A: The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is now available.  Students should complete and submit a FAFSA using the university’s school code: 008815.

Q: When should they get started in this process?

A: Preferably once they complete their federal tax return. The bottom line is students should complete their FAFSAs between late February and early March. The PA State Grant deadline is May 1, so students should definitely plan to meet that deadline.

Q: How do they find out what aid they’re eligible for?

A: We start sending out award letters to admitted students in mid- to late March and send out letters weekly after that.

Q: When can students expect to receive a financial aid award letter?

A: New freshmen and transfer awards letters start going out in mid- to late March; returning student awards are emailed to them starting in mid-June.

Q: What kind of information will be in the award letter?

A: The actual award letter contains enrollment data assumptions — for example, whether a student is full time or part time — award data, and residency information — in state vs. out of state.  We also send the link for our Guide to Financial Aid, which contains a lot of valuable additional information such as estimated costs, loans, etc.

Q: What does a family do after receiving the financial aid award letter?

A: I hope that they’ll read the Guide to Financial Aid and then call us if they have any questions.

Q: How does the financial aid office determine how much aid a student is entitled to?

A: We have packaging guidelines that award aid based on eligibility criteria: the length of academic program you’re enrolled in, how many credits you’re registered for, what your Expected Family Contribution is, etc.

Q: Will a student get the same amount of financial aid each year?

A: Not necessarily, but if there are no major changes the awards are usually the same or similar. However, an award could change if there have been funding cutback or other unforeseen events occur – if a student did not meet requirements to maintain an award.

Q: Can a student or family member negotiate a financial aid award in the hopes of getting more money?

A: They certainly can ask, but most state and state-related schools package a student with what they can and do no hold aid back.  Negotiations take place to a greater extent at private schools.

Q: Are there other places besides Pitt-Bradford where students can get aid?

A: Yes. We encourage students to check out free scholarship search services, tuition remission opportunities through employment, and military benefits if they are or were recently enlisted.

Q: If a student needs to borrow money to pay for school, what do you recommend he or she do?

A: Fill out the FAFSA early to meet deadlines and get the maximum free aid for which he or she is eligible. Borrow only what he or she needs since you’ll have to pay a loan back. Talk to the financial aid office to find out available lending options.

Q: What other advice do you have for families?

  • Plan ahead and do not do things at the last minute.
  • Save for your college education and then use the funds for that purpose.
  • Borrow only what you need.
  • Apply on time.
  • Don’t miss deadlines.
  • Check free scholarship search services.
  • Respond to inquiries from the Financial Aid Office, state agency or other aid-related organizations in a timely fashion.
  • Ask questions if you’re not sure about something.
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