College Financial Aid Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
University Financial Aid Questions:
Q: How do I know how much financial aid I am getting?
A: As an undergraduate student, you are considered for merit-based Florida Tech scholarships as part of the admission process. The rest of your financial aid "package" is determined after you file a FAFSA (www.fafsa.ed.gov) and we receive the electronic record from the Federal Department of Education. The final product, a financial aid award letter, is sent to new students in paper copy via U.S. Mail and also by email -- to the address entered on the FAFSA. Any subsequent revisions are only sent by email. For continuing students, the award letter is sent via email only to the Florida Tech @my.fit.edu email address.
Normally we begin sending award letters to new freshmen and transfer students by the first week in March -- sooner if the new federal regulatory changes are available to update our data system. For returning students, we generally wait for Spring grades to post before preparing award letters.
Your financial aid awards may also be seen online in PAWS, the Panther Access Web System. Since PAWS data is a real time reflection of your student records, any award information you see prior to receiving your award letter may be incomplete, and not indicative of your final award package.
Q: When will I receive my financial aid?
A: If you are registered for a full time class load and you have satisfied all outstanding financial aid requirements -- check on PAWS -- all your aid should pay into your student account on Monday one week before the first day of Fall (and Spring) semester classes. Florida Tech scholarships and Florida student aid will not pay if you have not registered for a minimum of 12 credit hours, Federal loans will pay with a half-time class load. If you are a returning student whose grades did not pass Florida Tech Satisfactory Academic Progress standards last semester, your appeal letter must be reviewed and approved before financial aid will pay into your student account.
Normally, Fall semester is when the most problems occur because it is the first semester in the new FAFSA Aid Year, there are more students with requirements documents to review and human procrastination prompts people to avoid addressing their requirements until the last minute. Take care of those requirements early and avoid the extra stress when classes begin.
Note: The first two weeks of each semester is when students can drop classes or withdraw and receive a full tuition refund. Consequently, refunds of student account balances are not made during those two weeks. If you live off campus, you must plan on other funds to cover any living expenses that are not billed directly to your student account.
Q: What financial aid is available to graduate students?
A. Financial aid for graduate students is not guaranteed, but may be available from four sources. The graduate admission office has a limited number of scholarships available each year. The academic departments may select students for fellowships, scholarships or assistantships based on the criteria associated with each and their availability. The Financial Aid office administers education loans available from the government and commercial lenders -- see the next paragraph for more about student loan options. Finally, students may independently find student aid opportunities available from professional associations or philanthropic organizations -- see Grants and Scholarships -- or from various scholarship search engines -- see Other Aid Resources.
To be eligible for a federal education loan, you must be registered as a half-time student and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which validates eligibility as a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. Some federal loans, and all private education loans, require a determination of the student's credit worthiness, or the credit worthiness of a co-signer. To learn more about the different type loan programs, see this comparison of Federal Versus Private Loans. To learn more about applying for these loans at Florida Tech, follow the links under Education Loans in the left navigation column of this web page.
Q: Why does PAWS show that I still have an outstanding requirement for the Stafford Entrance Interview after I successfully completed it online?
A. Our Florida Tech Banner data system is not automatically updated from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) where you complete the Entrance Interview. Our staff periodically downloads a report of the students who have completed the Entrance Interview and updates our data system so it may be seen in PAWS. Consequently, if you do not see the correct status in PAWS after 5 business days, email the Financial Aid Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will follow up on it.
Q. My parents faxed in my Verification documents and Florida Data Form yesterday, but PAWS still shows them as outstanding requirements. What happened to my documents?
A. If the status in PAWS was "Pending Review", your document was received and scanned in as an electronic record where it will soon be reviewed by a Financial Aid Counselor to determine if it satisfies the outstanding requirement. If it does, the counselor will change the status to "Complete/Approved." If there was a problem with the documents, you may see a status of "Student must complete document/information," and you will receive an email explaining the problem. If the status in PAWS is "Reviewed/Pending of other requirements," your document has been reviewed and accepted; however, the Financial Aid Office is waiting receipt of other related requirements to complete the Verification process or proof of Florida Residency. During certain times of the year, it may take 3 to 5 days for incoming documents to get scanned and ready for a counselor to review. During those same periods it is not uncommon for the counselors to also need extra time to review a backlog of incoming documents. The largest volume of incoming documents frequently occurs during the last few weeks before a new semester begins.
Q: I transferred and I am now in repayment on my previous student loan. How do I get my payments deferred while I am attending Florida Tech?
A: First, you must be admitted to a degree seeking program at Florida Tech and registered for a minimum of 6 credit hours or a graduate student in a 3 credit hour "full load" course. Next, download, complete and return the appropriate deferment request, along with the name and address of your lender to the Financial Aid Office: If you are the student, use the In-School Deferment Request. If you are not a student, but the parent of a student for whom you have an outstanding Parent PLUS loan, use the Parent PLUS Borrower Deferment Request. If you have more than one lender, you will need a separate form for each.
Q: Can I get financial aid for Summer classes?
A: Florida financial aid, such as Bright Futures, and Florida Tech merit scholarships are not available for Summer classes. Normally the only financial aid available for Summer is student loans. You must be registered for at least 6 credit hours to be eligible for federal student loans, unless you are a graduate student taking a 3 credit hour "full load" course.
Financial aid for the Summer Semester is not included with students' initial financial aid packages. Consequently, students should plan to contact the Financial Aid Office at least 30 days before Summer classes begin. If possible, register for Summer classes before contacting the Financial Aid Office.
New students entering in the Summer semester, which begins in May, need to file two FAFSAs: a current Aid Year FAFSA for the Summer semester and a new Aid Year FAFSA for the Fall semester. You should file the FAFSA 6 to 8 weeks before classes begin in case your FAFSA is selected for verification and you have to provide documents.
Q: I have a negative balance in my student account. What does it mean?
A: A negative balance, or credit balance, means that your current payments on the account, including financial aid, are greater than the current charges made against your student account. It may also mean that you are eligible to receive a refund. For more information go to Account Refunds on the Office of Student Accounting website.
Be sure to check Your "STUDENT REFUND" Address Type in PAWS and change it if necessary. If you have not created a "STUDENT REFUND" Address Type, your refund will be mailed to your "MAILING" Address. To create the address:
Open PAWS and go to the Personal Information tab.
Select the Update Addresses and Phones option.
From the Type of Address drop down box choose "Student Refund."
Enter your preferred address, confirm that it is correct and save it.
Q: Where can I find more information about getting my Student Account refund?
A: To learn more about the student refund policy, go to Account Refunds on the Office of Student Accounting website.
Q: Where can I find more information about billing procedures and making payments?
A: Start with the Student Financial Services FAQs .
FAFSA and Verification Questions:
Q: When must I file a FAFSA?
A: For new undergraduate students, the University's priority consideration deadline for Fall Semester financial aid is March 1st of each year. Keep in mind that financial aid packages for new and transferring students cannot be completed until after we receive the electronic record of your FAFSA from the federal government. In order to meet the March 1st date, you can always file a FAFSA with estimated tax information and update the FAFSA after filing your taxes for the year.
Check FAFSA Tips to avoid common mistakes that can delay your Award Letter and even prevent your financial aid from paying on time.
For returning students and graduate students, please file your FAFSA a minimum of 8 weeks before your first scheduled class to leave some time for correcting errors or omissions or to provide any supporting documentation that may be needed to complete verification, if selected.
The federal Student Financial Aid Year runs from July 1st through June 30th. A new FAFSA must be filed for each Aid Year in which you will need federal student aid. You can determine which FAFSA to file based on your first scheduled day of class. For example, if you are registering for a term that begins before June 30, 2013, you would file the 2012-2013 FAFSA. If you are registering for a term that begins after July 1, 2013, you would file the 2013-2014 FAFSA.
Q: Do I need to complete the FAFSA every year?
A: Yes, a new FAFSA must be filed for each Aid Year in which you wish to be considered for federal student aid.
Q: Why must I file as a Dependent when I consider myself to be an Independent student?
A: For the purpose of receiving federal student financial aid, the determination of dependent or independent status is based on specific federal criteria. The Federal Student Aid website includes a webpage on dependency status to help you make that determination.
Q: Why have I been selected for verification and what do I do now?
A: Verification is one process the federal Department of Education uses to maintain the integrity of the federal student aid system and ensure that federal student aid funds are used as Congress intended. Verification focuses on the students' requests for student aid by validating selected information entered on the FAFSA. The Department of Education uses audits and other methods to evaluate information reported by colleges and universities to ensure they are also applying student aid funds in the manner intended by Congress.
The federal Student Aid Report (SAR) you receive after completing your FAFSA should identify if your FAFASA has been selected for verification by the Department of Education. In addition, the Department periodically publishes guidelines identifying when the school must, and when the school may, identify a student's FAFSA for verification.
Florida Tech normally initiates verification after receipt of an electronic copy of a FAFSA from the Department of Education and after the applicable Florida Tech admission office officially accepts the same person as a Florida Tech student. In other cases verification will be initiated if the school later discovers an apparent discrepancy between the FAFSA and other information provided to the school or to a government entity such as the Internal Revenue Service.
If your FAFSA is selected for verification, the Financial Aid staff will identify specific documents you, and perhaps a spouse or parent, must provide to satisfy the verification requirement. Once established, the requirements can be seen online in the Financial Aid section of the Panther Access Web System (PAWS). If the document is a Florida Tech Financial Aid form, that form will be available on our Financial Aid website -- look for a clipboard icon on the Financial Aid home page or click here to go directly to Financial Aid Forms. Be sure to select the correct form from the correct Financial Aid Year tab.
Federal Student Aid Questions:
Q: How do I apply for a federal student loan?
A: You must complete the FAFSA (www.fafsa.ed.gov) to be eligible for any federal student aid. You must also be accepted at Florida Tech in a degree seeking academic program. Once we receive the electronic FAFSA record for a new or transferring undergraduate, and confirm admission status, our counselors prepare the student's financial aid "package." If eligible for a subsidized and/or unsubsidized Stafford loan, the maximum eligible loan amounts will be offered to the student in the financial aid "package." The student must then accept the offered loan in PAWS and complete the Entrance Interview and a Master Promissory Note (MPN) on the StudentLoans.gov website.
The parents of undergraduate students can also take a federal education loan, the Parent PLUS, These loans are now offered in the student's financial aid "package" and in the financial aid award letter. The Parent PLUS loan is subject to a credit check, but if the parent cannot pass the credit check, their student will become eligible for an increased unsubsidized Stafford loan amount. For particulars about a Parent PLUS loan application, look on this website under Loan Providers for a link to Federal PLUS Loans or look for similar information on StudentLoans.gov.
Graduate students may be eligible for a Stafford loan and the Grad PLUS loan. Like undergraduate students, only Stafford loans will be included in the graduate student's financial aid "package." For particulars about a Grad PLUS loan application, see the Loan Providers link to Federal PLUS Loans.
Q: What is the difference between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans?
A: The Federal Stafford Loan program includes two different loans. The subsidized loan is need-based and eligibility is based on information provided in the FAFSA. The government traditionally paid the loan interest while the student remained in school and maintained at least a half-time class load; however, beginning July 1, 2013, new federal regulations place additional limitations on subsidized loans for first-time undergraduate borrowers. The unsubsidized loan is available to students who do not meet the FAFSA needs test. The student is responsible for all interest on unsubsidized loans beginning on the date of each incremental loan disbursement. When the student signs the Master Promissory Note, the options of paying the interest while in school or adding the in-school interest to the loan principle will be offered to the student.
Q: I have been offered a certain amount in loans but I only want to take a portion of what I have been offered. Can I do that?
A: Yes, when you accept your loan in PAWS, you will have an option to accept the amount offered or a lesser amount. Keep in mind that the amount offered is normally for both the Fall and Spring semesters. Federal regulations dictate the loan be disbursed in two payments at the beginning of each semester.
If you choose a lesser amount and later find that you need more, just ask the Financial Aid Office to make an application for your remaining eligibility. Another option is to obtain the whole amount for Fall and then reassess your needs for the Spring semester. If you find you will not need all of the scheduled Spring amount, just ask the Financial Aid Office to reduce your Spring disbursement. It is best to do such changes soon after the Thanksgiving break.
Q: Why is the amount I received from my loans not exactly what I asked to borrow?
A: Federal regulations specify the upfront fees on federal student loans. Private student loans are also subject to upfront fees, but these fees are not regulated by the federal government. That is one reason it is normally best to take advantage of federal student loans before considering a private loan.
Q: What is an Entrance Interview?
A: The Entrance Interview is a requirement associated with each type of federal student loan: Stafford, Grad PLUS and Perkins. The process provides the student with information about legal financial obligations that many students will undertake for the first time in their lives. You must complete this requirement before your loan will pay into your student account. The good news is that you can conveniently satisfy your requirement on the web. For Federal Direct Loans go to https://StudentLoans.gov. If you have a Perkins Loan, you will be provided the website, and instructions, for completing Entrance Counseling after you accept the loan in PAWS.
Q: What is an Exit Interview?
A: The Exit Interview is another federal student loan requirement that applies when you withdraw from school or graduate. It is a refresher course about the student's legal financial obligation. The Exit Interview also provides information about the student's rights and options and it seeks updated contact information from the student. The requirement can be completed online at StudentLoans.gov -- look for the "Manage My Direct Loan" block, click on the big green "Sign In" button and use your PIN to logon and complete the Exit Counseling process.
Florida Student Aid Questions:
Q: How do I verify my Florida residency?
A: The Florida Department of Education requires institutions to verify claims of Florida residency before disbursing Florida financial aid to students. Proof of Florida residency consists of signing a certification, such as Florida Tech's Florida Data Form, and providing documentation to establish that legal residence has been maintained for 12 consecutive months prior to the first day of classes of the academic term for which assistance is requested. Two official documents are required for proof of residency. Acceptable documents include voter registration card, driver's license, vehicle registration or homestead exemption certification. Dependent students must provide two documents for one of their parents or a legal guardian and the same person must sign the Florida Data Form certificate.
If you are a new freshman or transfer student who was awarded Florida student financial aid, you can fill out the Florida Data Form online and print it for signature from our financial aid website -- look for the clipboard icon on the home page or look under Resources in the left navigation pane and follow the "Forms" hyperlink. Be sure to select the form for the academic year in which you are enrolled. Once your Florida residency has been verified by Florida Tech, you should not need to verify it again unless other facts, such as subsequent FAFSA information, indicate that your residence has changed.
Q. How will I be affected by changes the Florida Legislature made to Bright Futures?
A. The legislature has established a series of eligibility requirements affecting students differently for those graduating from high school between 2009 and 2016. To determine your specific requirements, please review the most current information on the Florida Bright Futures website. The award is currently based on the number of credit hours the student is registered for during each semester at Florida Tech. Your initial award amount will be an estimate and will be adjusted to the actual number of credit hours you are registered for after the two week "drop/add" period. Some important facts:
- The legislature discontinued the requirement that Bright Futures recipients must file the FAFSA.
- Bright Futures award amounts are set during each annual legislative session.
- Current per credit hour award amounts (2013-2014) are shown below.
- Florida Academic Scholarship - $ 103 per semester hour
Florida Medallion Scholarship - $ 77 per semester hour
Students must pay for dropped classes ("W' grades) so stay on top of your classes. Seek help immediately if you have a problem class and consider your own limits -- take what you can pass and pass what you take.
Note: Bright Futures includes three award programs applicable to Florida Tech: Florida Academic Scholars Award, Florida Medallion Scholars Award and Academic Top Scholars Award (the latter is referred to at Florida Tech as the Florida Challenger Astronaut Scholarship).
Q. How will I be affected by changes the Florida Legislature made to the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG)?
A. The legislature discontinued the requirement that FRAG recipients must file the FAFSA, but continued the requirements shown below.
- All recipients must register as full time students (12 credit hours per semester).
- The current award amount for 2013-2014 is $ 1,250 per semester ($ 2,500/year).