Financial-Aid + Student Loan Guide


Financial Aid

Financial aid is any grant or scholarship, loan, work study, or combination of the three offered to students to make college expenses affordable. While grants, scholarships, and work study positions do not require students to make repayments, students must repay loans. Financial aid varies by school and is awarded to students based on the cost of attendance, family contribution, and financial need. For more information on financial aid, use this guide.

A note to undocumented students:

Some U.S. colleges and universities offer additional financial assistance to undocumented students. You can find more information on navigating financial aid as an undocumented student here.

For low-income survivors, it’s very important to understand how financial aid packages work and in order to make financially sound decisions after an assault. Due to the variation of financial aid packages and rules by each school, it is important for survivors to speak with a financial aid advisor before making any decisions about withdrawing from school, transitioning to  part time status, or making any additional changes to your student status. Also, speak with a financial aid advisor if your experiences with sexual assault jeopardize your academics and prevent you from keeping your grants and scholarships. Sexual violence and its financial impact should not hinder a person’s access to education, jeopardize financial aid, or cause someone to drop out.

Student Loans

For low-income survivors it is important to understand how transferring schools or taking time off from school may affect your student loans. If you apply for financial aid, your school will likely include student loans to your financial aid package. It’s important to understand what types of loans you are offered as a student. There are federal student loans funded by the federal government and private student loans are usually funded by private lenders such as a bank, credit union, state agency, or school. There are many differences between federal and private student loans you can read about here. The terms for private loans can vary for each borrower. However, the options for federal loan programs are standardized. The following are some basics of federal student loans:

  • The basic eligibility criteria for students is to demonstrate financial need (for most programs), be a US citizen or eligible noncitizen, be enrolled or accepted to a school with at least a half time course load in a degree or certificate program, and maintain satisfactory academic progress in school.
  • Federal student loans can be direct subsidized or unsubsidized loans, direct plus loans, or federal perkins loans. Direct subsidized loans the interest is paid by the US Department of Education until you leave school (see grace period and in-school deferment), while unsubsidized loan interest accumulates while you’re in school during grace periods and deferment. Federal PLUS loans are for graduate and professional students or parents. Federal Perkins loans are only offered at certain schools where they are the lender.
  • Additionally, some federal student loans have loan forgiveness programs where a borrower can apply for their student loan debt to be cancelled or forgiven — meaning you are no longer expected to repay your debt.