How do I begin applying for financial aid?
To begin applying for financial aid, you must first complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
You can complete the FAFSA in one of two ways: via a paper application or online. It is strongly recommended that you complete your FAFSA online for faster and more accurate processing of your application. In order to complete the FAFSA online, you need to obtain a personal identification number, or PIN. The PIN serves as your electronic signature and is a valid, legally binding confirmation of your agreement to the terms and conditions for applying for financial aid. You may apply for a PIN at the U.S. Department of Education’s PIN web site, http://www.pin.ed.gov/. To complete your FAFSA online, go to http://www.fafsa.gov/.
If you'd like to complete the FAFSA via a paper application, please call 1-800-433-3243. The U.S. Department of Education will mail you a paper application within two weeks of your call. The Financial Aid Office recommends you complete the online FAFSA to expedite processing and reduce application errors.
As part of the FAFSA, you will be asked to provide the school code(s) of the school(s) that you would like to receive your FAFSA information. The St. Thomas school code is 002345.
Should I wait until I've been admitted to my program before I complete my FAFSA and apply for financial aid?
You do not have to wait until you're admitted to apply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA.
You do, however, have to be admitted as a regular degree-seeking student in an eligible program located at an approved site to be awarded any federal financial aid. For example, if you are admitted to the Evening MBA program but have not taken the GMAT, you may be admitted as a non-degree seeking student. You are not eligible for financial aid until you have completed all of your admission requirements and the department has updated your admission status to degree-seeking. Students seeking a certificate only are not eligible for federal aid. You may initiate the private loan application process once you are admitted as a certificate-seeking student.
What is the FAFSA?
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the standard financial aid application used by all colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs. Information from the FAFSA is used to determine whether you meet the eligibility criteria for financial aid and the amount that you are expected to contribute to your own education. Information from the FAFSA is matched against records with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Selective Service Administration and the National Student Loan Database.
You must file the FAFSA each year. In subsequent years the information from your prior year's FAFSA is pre-populated when you begin the process. This saves you time in the data entry process and means that you must only enter data that has changed from the prior year (primarily income information).
What's a PIN?
Your PIN is a "Personal Identification Number" assigned by the U.S. Department of Education. The PIN takes the place of your signature in electronic transactions such as filing the FAFSA online or signing an electronic version of the Master Promissory Note for federal and private loans. You will use your PIN each year when your reapply for financial aid and complete a new FAFSA online.
The PIN also serves as your key to the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS). If you ever want to look up your comprehensive borrowing history under the federal loan programs, you may review that history at http://www.nslds.ed.gov/.
Be sure to keep your PIN in a secure place. If you forget or lose your PIN, you may request the PIN be sent to you again. Go to the PIN web site and click on "Request a duplicate PIN".
What's an EFC?
The EFC (Expected Family Contribution) is used to determine eligibility for "need-based" financial aid. "Need-based" financial aid is a type of financial aid for which you must show financial need to qualify. The EFC is used to determine if you qualify for a Federal Direct Subsidized Loan (only available to licensure students enrolled in the School of Education) or other need-based scholarships or grants.
Is the EFC the amount I'm expected to pay for graduate school?
No. The EFC is calculated based on your income, assets, family size and number in college. Your cost of attendance is not considered when calculating the EFC. It is used as an index of your financial strength.
What is the difference between a dependent and an independent student?
Dependent students are considered to be financially supported by their parents. Independent students are not considered to be financially supported by their parents. If you are a dependent student for purposes of the federal financial aid programs, you must provide parent’s information on the FAFSA. This means that parent’s financial resources are combined with the student’s financial resources to determine the amount and type of available financial aid.
Are all graduate students independent?
All graduate students are indeed independent, but not all students admitted through the graduate schools at St. Thomas are graduate students. Students who are admitted through the Graduate School of Education into the teacher licensure track only (as opposed to being admitted into the Master of Arts in Teaching track) are considered to be 5th year post-baccalaureate students, i.e. undergraduate students.
To qualify as a graduate student, you must be pursuing a master’s degree or doctoral degree (including the J.D.) or a graduate certificate.
What makes a student independent?
You may be considered financially independent if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You are 24 years old before the first filing date for that academic year’s FAFSA;
- You are pursuing a graduate degree or certificate (NOT teacher licensure);
- You are married at the time you file the FAFSA;
- You have a dependent other than a spouse for whom you provide more than half of his/her financial support and will continue to provide that support from July 1 to June 30 of the upcoming academic year;
- You are a veteran of the armed forces;
- You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training; or
- You are an orphan or were a ward of the court until age 18.