Frequently Asked Questions About Financial Aid

Q: What is the difference between a grant, a scholarship and a loan?

A: A grant is a gift. It does not have to be repaid and is based on the students financial need. A scholarship is an achievement award which is usually based on academic grades, abilities, skills, test scores, class rank, etc. Loans are funds borrowed by the student and/or parent. In most cases, loans must be repaid with an interest charge and have a time limit for repayment.

Q: Is there a maximum income level that will make me ineligible for financial aid?

A: No. Income level does not automatically disqualify you for financial aid. Other variables such as number in the family and number attending college, are taken into consideration.

Q: What are the factors that determine need?

A: Most people have the misconception that income is the only factor in determining need. However other variables are considered such as: family size, number of family members in college, age of older parent, savings, investments, and various allowances to income and assets.

Q: What are my chances of receiving financial aid?

A: The only way to determine your eligibility for financial aid is to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The likelihood of receiving some form of financial assistance is probably better than most students and their families anticipate.

Q: In order to receive financial aid do I have to apply every year?

A: Yes. In order to receive consideration for as many programs as possible you should file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. File the FAFSA in the month of January if possible.

Q: What is the deadline to apply for financial aid at Westminster?

A: To receive maximum consideration for aid, students must apply prior to May 1 each year.

Q: What forms do I need to apply?

A: Initially, you need only to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Q: What is Westminster's Title IV code?

A: 003392

Q: Will I be required to submit additional forms to Westminster other than the FAFSA?

A: Possibly, if you are selected for review in a process called verification we will contact you about what additional forms are necessary. It is NOT necessary to contact our office.

Q: What is the Student Aid Report?

A: The Student Aid Report, or SAR, is generated from the information you submit on your FAFSA. A copy is sent to you and to the college(s) indicated on your FAFSA. It will tell you how much Federal financial aid you qualify for and how much the government expects you to contribute (Expected Family Contribution or EFC).

Q: What does it cost to attend Westminster?

A: Please see Cost of Attendance.

Q: Does Westminster College participate in a tuition payment plan that allows installment payments for each semester's bill?

A: YES! An interest-free monthly payment plan is administered by Sallie Mae's Tuition Pay. Brochures are available from the Business or Financial Aid Office. For more information and an enrollment form call: 1-800-635-0120.

Q: If I received a scholarship from Westminster College, may I also receive need-based financial assistance?

A: Yes. Receipt of a scholarship does not preclude receipt of need-based financial assistance. However, scholarship assistance must be considered as a resource in determining eligibility for need-based aid.

Q: Should I use a Scholarship Search Service?

A: These companies are not recommended. Many have been found to be fraudulent at worst and misleading at best. Don't be fooled by the money-back guarantee promised by many of these companies. It is virtually impossible to get your money back. The services provided by these companies can be done on your own by researching scholarship publications at the library or using a number of free scholarship searches available on the Internet such as FastWeb featured here.

Q: What happens after my freshman year? Will my aid stay the same?

A: The financial aid office at Westminster is committed to meeting as much of our student 's need as possible throughout their undergraduate years. However, an individual student's need may change from year to year. First, educational costs may increase. Second, changes in family size, number in college, and gross income, for example, can increase or decrease parental contribution from year to year. If a family circumstance remains the same, the parents calculated contribution, referred to as the expected family contribution (EFC), should remain relatively constant.

Q: Will my aid change if I move off campus?

A: Possibly. Please contact our office to determine how your aid may be affected.

Q: How can I apply for work study?

A: Students must file a FAFSA before May 1 and have financial need to receive work study. Students should indicate on the FAFSA that they are interested in workstudy.

Q: Do I have to work if I am given a job as part of my financial aid package?

A: The job is an opportunity to earn money to pay for personal and book expenses during the year. You may decide not to work and pay for these expenses some other way, such as through summer job earnings, work during vacation periods, or through resources provided by one's family.

Q: What does it take to be considered an independent student?

A: For Academic Year 2013-2014, any one of the following will result in you being independent:

  • You were born before 1/1/1990
  • You are a ward of the court.
  • Both of your parents are deceased (orphan).
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • You have children who receive more than half of their support from you or legal dependents who live with you (other than your children or spouse) for which you provide more than one half of their support.
  • You are married at the time of filing.
  • You are a graduate or professional student.

Q: If my parents are separated or divorced, whose income is reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

A: The parent you live with or the one who has custody should complete the FAFSA. If the custodial parent has remarried, the income of that parent and their new spouse (stepparent) must be used.

Q: What is the maximum amount that I may borrow under the Federal Stafford Loan program, subsidized and unsubsidized combined?

A: For Academic Year 2013-2014
The maximum annual amounts for full-time dependent undergraduates enrolled in a program of study that is at least a full academic year are :
  • First-year $3,500 subsidized, $2,000 unsubsidized 
  • Second-year $4,500, subsidized, $2,000 unsubsidized
  • Third-year $5,500, subsidized, $2,000 unsubsidized
  • Fourth-year $5,500, subsidized, $2,000 unsubsidized
    The maximum aggregate amount is currently $31,000, but only $23,000 of this amount may be in subsidized loans.  . Repayment begins six months after you graduate or terminate your studies.

A: A graduate student may borrow up to $20,500 each academic year in Unsubsidized Loan.  The maximum aggregate amount is currently $138,500.   The graduate debt limit includes any Stafford Loans received for undergraduate study.

Q: What is the difference between a subsidized and an unsubsidized Stafford Loan?

A: A subsidized loan is awarded on the basis of financial need . You will not be charged any interest while you are enrolled in school at least half time, during a grace period, or during authorized periods of deferment. An unsubsidized loan is not awarded on the basis of need. You will be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed until it is paid in full. You can receive a subsidized loan and an unsubsidized loan for the same enrollment period.

Q: What is the interest rate on my Stafford loan?

A: Effective for loans disbursed after July 1, 2012, the interest rate on the subsidized Stafford loan will be 3.4%; un-subsidized loan will be 6.8%.

Q: How do I secure an application for a Federal Stafford Loan?

A: An application for this loan, commonly referred to as a Master Promissory Note (MPN) is available on line through the Department of Education Student Loan Program

Q: Why does the loan amount on my award letter differ from the amount on my bill?

A: The amount on your bill reflects the amount you are eligible for per semester, minus the origination fees which are deducted prior to disbursement. You may want to refer to your promissory note to see an explanation of the difference.

Q: When do I begin repayment of my Federal Stafford Loan (s)?

A: You have 6 months after you graduate, leave school or drop below half-time enrollment, before you begin repayment.

Q: What is a Federal Perkins Loan?

A: A Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest (5 percent) loan for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. The school is your lender. The loan is made with government funds with a share contributed by the school. You must repay this loan to the school.

Q: What is the maximum amount that I can borrow under the Perkins Loan Program?

A: Depending on when you apply, your level of need, and the funding level of the school, the Amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 have authorized:
$5,500 for each year of undergraduate study. The total amount you can borrow as an undergraduate is $27,500.
$8,000 for each year of graduate or professional study. The total amount you can borrow as a graduate/professional student is $60,000. (This includes any Federal Perkins Loans you borrowed as an undergraduate.)

Q: When do I begin repayment of my Federal Perkins Loan?

A: You have 9 months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time status before you must begin repayment.

Q: What is a Parent Plus Loan?

A: This is a loan that enables parents with good credit histories to borrow to pay the education expenses of each child who is a dependent undergraduate student enrolled at least half time.

Q: How much can my Parents borrow?

A: The yearly limit on a PLUS Loan is equal to your cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you receive.

Q: What's the interest rate on PLUS Loans?

A: The interest rate is fixed at 7.9%. Interest is charged on the loan from the date the first disbursement is made until the loan is paid in full.

Q: When do my parents begin repaying a PLUS Loan?

A: Generally, repayment must begin within 60 days after the final loan disbursement for the academic year. There is no grace period for these loans. Interest begins to accumulate at the time the first disbursement is made. Your parents must begin repaying both principal and interest while you are in school.

Q: Is the money I receive from financial assistance programs taxable?

A: Any scholarships, benefits, fellowships, or grants (gift aid) you receive from Westminster or any other source that, combined, exceed the cost of tuition, fees, books, and required equipment and supplies are considered taxable income. Loans are not included. Since you are required to report taxable awards to the I.R.S. as income, you should keep a detailed record of all expenditures for tuition, fees, books, and required equipment and supplies. Housing and food are considered non-exempt, so money spent on these items are subject to income tax. For more detailed information, consult your personal tax advisor. Work-study earnings are taxable and must be reported on your tax return.

Q: What should I do if my family's financial circumstances change after I apply for financial aid?

A: If your family's financial circumstances have changed due to death of a parent, divorce or separation or loss of employment, contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss your situation.

Q: Will the financial aid offered at one school transfer to another school?

A: NO. Financial aid does not transfer from school to school. If you are planning to transfer to another school during an academic year, you should contact the financial aid office at both schools about application requirements.

Q: Where do I find information about Tax Benefits for Higher Education?

A: You will find information at the Federal Student Aid for Students web-site. Additional Tax Information is available from the Internal Revenue Service in Publication 970,Tax Benefits for Higher Education. Tax Information for Students is another resource provided by the IRS.