Financial Aid Information

  • There is no denying it - colleges are getting more expensive with each passing year. Education beyond high school, however, is still an excellent investment. The financial aid process can be time-consuming, confusing and frustrating, though with the right amount of research and planning, it doesn't have to be.

    In this brief overview of the financial aid process we will cover the different types of financial aid and how to apply for financial aid.

    Types of Financial Aid
    There are three basic types of financial aid for families:

    1. Scholarships and Grants
    2. Federal Student Loans
    3. Alternative Loans

    1) Scholarships, Grants and Work StudyScholarships are awards from a private source that do not need to be paid back. They can be merit- or need-based and are an excellent source of financial aid for college. The Career and College Resource Center at HPSH is a great place to start looking for scholarships - Ms. Levine is an excellent resource! There are also resources on the web like

    Grants are federal, state or institutional sources of student aid that do not have to be paid back. There are many different types of grants, including:

    • Federal Pell Grant: need-based grant from $400-$4,050
    • Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG): for students who have completed rigorous secondary curriculum, meet GPA requirements, the freshman/sophomore award ranges from $750-$1,300
    • National SMART (Science And Mathematics Access to Retain Talent) Grants: enrolled in a science or math degree program, junior and senior grant awards up to $4,000
    • Federal Supplementary Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG): limited funding, priority given to students with exceptional need, awards range from $100-$4,000
    • Minnesota State Grant: for MN residents enrolled at an eligible MN school, awards range from $100-$8,000
    • Institutional Grants: grants given by colleges and universities to students with financial need

    The Federal Work Study Program is money students can earn while attending school by working on campus or for a non-profit. Money does not have to go directly to tuition, but can be used for living and school expenses.

    2) Federal Student Loans
    Families may be eligible for Federal Student Loans which must be paid back. Loans include: Federal Perkins loans, Federal Stafford loans and Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) loans.

    Loans may be subsidized or unsubsidized. With a subsidized loan the government pays the interest while the student is in college. Students/families are required to pay the itnerest with an unsubsidized loan.

    3) Alternative Loans
    Unfortunately, the above programs may not cover all of the cost of college. Alternative loans are from banks and other private lenders that students and families use to cover remaining costs. These loans generally have higher interest rates and are less flexible than the federal loans.

    How to Apply for Financial Aid

    It all starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be completed online at beginning in January of the student's senior year.

    Before you log on to complete your FAFSA, you will need to gather together the following materials:

    • Social Security Numbers
    • Driver's License
    • W-2 forms and other records of money earned in the previous year
    • Student's Federal Income Tax Return for the previous year
    • Parents' Federal Tax Return for the previous year
    • Records of untaxed income: Social Security benefits, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Welfare, and/or Veteran Benefits Records
    • Current bank statements
    • Current business and investment and mortgage information; business and farm records; and stock, bond and other investment records
    • Alien registration or permanent residence card (if you are not a US citizen)

    To complete the FAFSA online, follow these steps:

    • If the student worked in the past year, the student's W-2(s) and income tax forms (1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) are needed.
    • If the student lives with both natural parents, and they are currently married, W-2 forms and income tax records for both parents are needed.
    • If the student lives with one natural parent who is not currently married, the W-2(s) and tax returns from the parent the students lives with for most of the year are needed. If divorced parents share equal custody, then use the W-2(s) and tax returns from the parent who provides more money to the student for support.
    • If the student lives with one natural parent and one step-parent, W-2(s) and tax returns from both will be needed.
    1. Request a PIN for the student and parents at
    2. Figure out exactly whose tax forms will be needed to complete the FAFSA:
    3. Complete the FAFSA at
    4. List all the schools to which you are applying on the FAFSA, so those schools can access your FAFSA.

    Your FAFSA will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - the amount the government believes the student and family can afford to pay for college each year. 

    Based of the EFC and the college's Cost of Attendance (COA), the school determines your financial need. It is basic math - let's look at an example:
        COA College X    $20,000
        Your EFC            -$5,000
                                 =$15,000 (Your financial need)

    College X will then put together a financial aid award package that lists a variety of options to help you meet your financial need which may include federal grants/loans, work study, and institutional grants or aid.