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Eligibility for federal aid is determined on the basis of financial need as well as several other factors. In order to receive aid from the federal programs, you must
- Have financial need (which is NOT a criteria for student loans).
- Have a high school diploma or GED or pass a test approved by the Department of Education.
- Be degree-seeking in a program of study.
- Be enrolled in an eligible program of study and taking classes required of that program.
- Have a valid Social Security Number.
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. If you are in the U.S. on an F1 or F2 student visa or only a J1 or J2 exchange visitor visa, or a G series visa you are NOT an eligible non-citizen.
- Register with the Selective Service System if required (you can register here).
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress once in school (you can view our policy here).
- Attend at least half time to receive a Stafford Loan.
Types of Financial Aid
Federal Financial Aid
Federal Student Aid Programs include grants, loans and part-time employment. Eligibility for most of these programs is based upon the "demonstrated financial need" of the student applicant and the applicant's family. However, financial need is not an eligibility criterion for the federal Stafford Unsubsidized Student Loan or the federal Parent PLUS loan. Therefore, most federal student aid applicants will be eligible for some form of financial assistance through the federal student aid programs regardless of demonstrated financial need. In order for eligibility to be determined federal student aid applicants must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year.
Federal Pell Grant
The Federal Pell Grant is a basic "need based" grant awarded to the neediest undergraduate students working on a first bachelor's degree. Eligibility is determined through a standard formula established by Congress, which is used to evaluate the information reported on the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA). Pell Grant awards range from $400 to $5,350 per year. (You may not receive Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time.) The Pell Grant award will be shown on your Award Notification. You must be enrolled FULL-TIME, in order to receive the full amount of the Pell Grant award.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) is a "need based" grant awarded to undergraduate students, enrolled in a first bachelor's degree program who are eligible for a Pell Grant. SEOG funds are severely limited and are awarded to eligible students until the funds are depleted. The SEOG award will be shown on your Award Notification.
Academic Competitiveness Grant
An eligible student may receive this grant of up to $750 for the freshman year of study and up to $1300 for the sophomore year of study. The student must be a US Citizen or eligible non citizen, a federal Pell Grant recipient, and have completed a rigorous secondary school program of study (after January 1, 2006, if a first year student, and after January 1, 2005 if a second-year student. Furthermore, a sophomore student must have at least a cumulative 3.0 grade point average. Awards are based on full-time attendance and will be prorated or canceled for lesser attendance.
National SMART Grant
An eligible student may receive this grant of up to $4000 for each of the junior and senior years of study. To be eligible for each academic year, a student must be a US citizen or eligible non citizen, be a federal Pell Grant recipient, be enrolled in a four-year degree-granting institution and be majoring in physical, life, or computer science, engineering, mathematics, technology, or a critical foreign language and have at least a cumulative 3.0 grade point average in the course work required for the student's major. Awards are based on full-time attendance and will be prorated or canceled for lesser attendance.
Federal Work-Study Program (FWS)
The Federal Work-Study Program (FWS) is a "need based" part-time work program which allows students to earn money to help pay educational expenses. The amount shown on the Award Notification is the maximum amount available to earn on the FWS program. FWS will not be available at registration for the payment of fees. FWS student employees will be paid twice per month. The maximum award allows student employees to work up to 20 hours per week.
Federal Perkins Loan
The Federal Perkins Loan is a "need based", revolving loan fund utilizing both federal and institutional funds. This award is a loan and must be repaid by the borrower. The federal government pays the interest while the student is in school at least half-time, during a nine-month grace period, and during periods of deferment.
Federal Family Education Loan Programs (FFELP)
Federal Family Education Loan Programs (FFELP) are low interest loans that undergraduates, graduates and parents of dependent undergraduates may obtain from a lending institution such as a bank. They include the Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan, the Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan and the Federal PLUS Loan. These loan programs were created by Congress to help all eligible students and parents, with and without financial need, pay for the student's educational expenses.
Federal Stafford Loan
The type of Federal Stafford Loan a student may borrow is based mainly on the student's demonstrated need. Demonstrated need is the student's cost of attendance minus the expected family contribution, which is calculated from the information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), minus other aid. The subsidized Federal Stafford Loan is awarded to students with demonstrated need and the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school, during the grace period, and during periods of deferment. The unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan is awarded to students without demonstrated need and the student borrower pays the interest while in school and during the grace period; however, the student may defer the interest payment until the end of the grace period. Students may receive a combination of both loans depending on their eligibility of need versus no-need and their dependency status. Some independent students are eligible to borrow additional unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan funds despite their demonstrated need.
Federal Stafford Loan Limits:
- Freshmen may borrow up to $5,500 per year.
- Sophomores may borrow up to $6,500 per year.
- Juniors and Seniors may borrow up to $7,500 per year.
- The maximum that all undergraduates may borrow for all years is $31,000 (not to exceed $23,000 in subsidized).
- Freshmen may borrow up to $9,500 per year.
(Not to exceed $3,500 in subsidized)
- Sophomores may borrow up to $10,500 per year.
(Not to exceed $4,500 in subsidized)
- Juniors and Seniors may borrow up to $12,500 per year.
(Not to exceed $5,500 in subsidized)
- The maximum that all undergraduates may borrow for all years is $57,500. (Not to exceed $23,000 in subsidized)
- Graduate student may borrow up to $20,500 per year (Not to exceed $8,500 in subsidized)
- The maximum that all graduate students may borrow $138,500. (Not to exceed $65,500 in subsidized loans)
Federal PLUS Loan
Only eligible parents of eligible dependent undergraduates may borrow through the Federal PLUS Loan Program. The amount parents may borrow is the student's Cost of Attendance minus the Estimated Financial Aid to be received during the loan period. Parents must begin repaying both principal and interest within sixty days after the loan is disbursed. The lender charges interest on the loan from the date the first disbursement is made until the loan is paid in full.
Federal Graduate PLUS Loan
Graduate PLUS loans are federally sponsored loans for students attending graduate school. With a Grad PLUS loan, you may borrow up to the full cost of your education, less other financial aid received including Federal Stafford loans. The current fixed interest rate is 8.5% and a credit check is required.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH)
Conditional grants of up to $4,000 per year to students who intend to teach in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families.
In exchange for receiving a TEACH Grant, you must agree to serve as a full-time teacher in a high-need field in a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves low-income students (see below for more information on high-need fields and schools serving low-income students).
As a recipient of a TEACH Grant, you must teach for at least four academic years within eight calendar years of completing the program of study for which you received a TEACH Grant.
To receive a TEACH Grant you must meet the following criteria:
If you receive a TEACH Grant but do not complete the required teaching service, you will be required to repay the grants as a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, with interest charged from the date of each TEACH Grant disbursement.
- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must have been filed for the application year and USA must have the results of the FAFSA.
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
- Attend full-time each term (at least 12 hours for undergraduate and at least 6 hours for graduate)
- If an undergraduate student:
Be enrolled in teacher candidacy in an eligible USA major. Contact the Advising Office in the College of Education for eligible majors.
Meet and maintain a cumulative USA GPA of at least a 3.25
- If a graduate student:
Be enrolled in an eligible USA major. Contact the Advising Office in the College of Education for eligible majors.
Meet and maintain a cumulative USA GPA of at least a 3.25
Alabama Student Assistance Program
Alabama Student Assistance Program (ASAP) is gift aid awarded to eligible Alabama residents seeking a first undergraduate degree. Students must meet general eligibility requirements including demonstrating financial need. Funds are awarded only to students who are Federal Pell Grant recipients.
The amount of ASAP awards depends on the student's need and the amount of funds allocated to the University and the availability of those funds.
Students who do not qualify for federal financial aid, or who need additional funds beyond what federal financial aid can provide, have an option of applying for an alternative (private or non-federal) educational loan. Alternative loans are generally more expensive, therefore should only be considered if absolutely necessary. In most cases, the student applicant's credit and/or co-signer's credit must be approved by the lender. In addition, you must be in good academic standing as defined by the University Registrar Office. The eligible loan amount can be no greater than the Cost of Attendance minus all other Estimated Financial Aid and you must be at least half-time at the time of disbursement.
You (and your co-borrower, if applicable) should carefully research the options and apply for the alternative loan that best suits your needs. Keep in mind that usually your best option is to pursue federal loans. Be sure you have applied for all of the federal loans you are eligible for before you consider private loans. If you do wish to take out a private educational loan, you need to provide any documentation requested by the sponsor of the loan and follow the application procedure that is specific to that loan. Note that our office can only process the Smart Option Loan electronically. To complete any other private loan you must submit a paper loan certification. We do not process faxed certifications.
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