Financial Aid Myths vs. Facts

Our Top 10 Financial Aid Myths and the facts that debunk them

There is a lot of information out there regarding financial aid and how to get it. Many of the things out there are incorrect. Here are some of the misconceptions we come across frequently.

Myth #1

My family's income is too high to qualify for grants. I am not going to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA is the application for federal loans and need-based grants.  Many families assume that if they do not qualify for grants that they cannot receive assistance from the Federal Government.  All students that complete a FAFSA are eligible to receive Federal Direct Stafford Loans but the only way to receive these funds is to complete the FAFSA. The FAFSA not only determines Federal loan and grant eligibility but it also is part of the application to see if you qualify for the New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant (NJ TAG).  Also, the FAFSA is needed to determine federal work study eligibility.  All families are encouraged to complete the FAFSA.  

Myth #2

Not a lot of students receive financial aid and those that do only receive a small amount. 

During the 2012-2013 Academic year, 76.3% of all Undergraduates received some sort of assistance in the form of financial aid (loans, grants and/or scholarships).  Students received approximately $180 million in financial assistance. 

Myth #3

Financial Aid is supposed to cover all of my expenses. 

Financial Aid is assistance from the Federal, State and/or University. It is not supposed to cover all of your costs. It is there to assist you in covering your costs. 

Myth #4

If my Financial Aid package doesn't fully cover my cost of attendance, I cannot attend school.

If your Financial Aid package does not fully cover your cost of attendance there are many other avenues you can take to assist you in paying your balance.  There are various agencies outside of the University that offer private loans and scholarships. The key is applying for loans early and doing research for the scholarships.  Also the Student Accounts office offers a payment plan to assist families looking to finance their educational costs out of pocket. 

Myth #5

I cannot concentrate on my studies if I work.

Actually, those students who work a reasonable amount show better academic progress and achievement than those who work too much or who never hold a job at all.

Myth #6

I have money set aside for college so I don't need/I would not qualify for financial aid.

Saving money is always a good thing to do, especially when it comes to your education. Any savings you have can reduce the amount of loans you would have to pay with interest. Keep in mind, financial aid awards are based on a number of factors. Savings is just one of the considerations used in the financial aid formula.

Myth #7

Loans are not a form of financial aid.

Financial Aid is the umbrella term used to describe funds that are not directly coming from you to assist in paying your balance. This term includes grants, scholarships and loans.  Loans are considered part of financial aid because they help to lessen the overall cost, which otherwise may have been paid out-of-pocket by the student.  If you are awarded a student loan in a financial aid award package and do not wish to borrow the entire amount, you always have the right to cancel or reduce your loan.  

Myth #8

A financial aid package cannot be changed.

Your financial aid package is based upon information you provided at the time you filed your FAFSA.  If your family has extenuating circumstances, you may be eligible to have your file reviewed based upon the change in circumstances.  If your family's financial situation has changed since you completed the FAFSA please review the criteria regarding completing a special circumstances form. 

Myth #9

I am over 18, so I can complete my FAFSA as an independent student. 

There are strict guidelines regarding a student being able to file their FAFSA as an independent student.  The U.S. Department of Education defines an independent student as:

-A student over 24 years of age (the date cut off for this classification can be found on the FAFSA);

-A student that is married;

-A student with a dependent of their own that the student provides for more than 50% of their expenses;

-A student that is a veteran;

-A student that is an orphan or a ward of the court;

-Or a student that is enrolled in a program that is considered to be a Graduate Level program

Many students (and parents) think that if a parent does not claim a student as a dependent on taxes that the student is independent. This is not the case.

If you are a student that does not fit one of the criteria above but you have sufficient proof that you should be considered independent, please complete the .  Please note that completion of this form does not guarantee a change in dependency status. 

Myth #10

Federal and State aid can be used for winter and summer session.

Students enrolled for Summer Session courses can use the unused portions of Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.  If a student was awarded aid for the academic year that they did not use because they either: did not enroll for one semester (or both), reduced their aid amount, or were not eligible due to not being enrolled in enough credits, they can apply to use that aid for the summer.  The Summer Loan form can be found on the forms section of the Financial Aid webpage.  Students should be aware that State aid is not offered during the summer.  If you are a student that does not have leftover aid, you can apply for a private loan

Students should be aware that winter session is not eligible for Federal or State financial aid. If you need assistance for the winter session please look into a private loan.

All students should be aware that balances on your account at the end of the academic year cannot be rolled over to be paid by next year's Financial Aid.  Therefore, any balance you incur during the academic year must be paid in full prior to the start of the Fall semester as that is the beginning of the next academic year.

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