Understanding Financial Aid - FAQs
At American InterContinental University, we strive to take as much stress out of the financial aid process as possible for our prospective students.
As you move through the financial aid process, you may have questions about your options. A few of the most common questions students have about understanding financial aid are answered below. If the question you have is not answered here, an AIU Financial Aid Advisor will be happy to provide the information you need.
What is financial aid?
Financial aid is the name used for federal, state and private resources that may help pay for college costs. Typically financial aid consists of grants, scholarships, loans and student employment. Grants and scholarships usually do not have to be repaid. Loans must be repaid with payments usually beginning after the student is no longer enrolled at least half time. Student employment consists of opportunities for students to earn money to pay for educational expenses. Financial Aid is available for those who qualify.
How do I apply for financial aid?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as the FAFSA, is the single application needed to apply for all sources of federal student aid. The FAFSA can be completed online at www.fafsa.ed.gov. It helps to complete and sign the FAFSA electronically to expedite the process. A FSA ID can be obtained by visiting fsaid.ed.gov and clicking on the link to register. If you are a dependent student for aid purposes, both you and your parent will require a FSA ID to sign the application electronically.
See our guide to filling out the FAFSA application
Why do I have to provide parent information on my FAFSA?
Students are considered dependent or independent for federal financial aid purposes based on criteria established by Congress. For example, students who are under the age of 24, single, have no dependents and are not veterans are typically considered dependent for federal financial aid purposes. Dependent students are required to have parents provide financial information on the FAFSA in order to determine eligibility for the various federal aid programs. Check with the financial aid office to determine your dependency status if you are unsure.
How often do I have to reapply for aid?
Students must reapply for federal and state aid each year. Typically, students should reapply for aid as soon as possible after January 1st; however, check with your financial aid office to determine when you should reapply.
What’s the difference between a grant and a loan?
A grant is money and usually does not have to be repaid. Loans are borrowed money and must always be repaid regardless of whether you complete the program or are unsatisfied with your educational experience. Failure to repay your loans can result in serious consequences and negatively impact your ability to obtain credit in the future.
When do I have to repay my loans?
Repayment on most loans will begin after the student is no longer enrolled at least half time. Some loans are interest free while the student is enrolled. Interest may accrue on other loans even while the student is enrolled. Check with the financial aid office, they can help explain the differences in the types of loans you have. In all cases, loans must be repaid regardless of whether you complete the program or are satisfied with your educational experience. Failure to repay your loans can result in serious consequences and negatively impact your ability to obtain credit in the future.
If at any point in the financial aid process you have questions or need more information, an AIU Financial Aid Advisor will be happy to provide assistance.
Why should a parent borrow from a Federal PLUS loan instead of a co-signing on a private loan in the student’s name?
Federal Parent PLUS loans are part of the Federal Student Aid Program. Parents who co-sign on a private loan are just as responsible for repaying the loan (usually at higher rates) as the student if the student fails to make payments. In other words, whether one is the borrower or co-borrower, both the Federal PLUS loan and the private loan appear on a credit report and the financial responsibility is the same.
What do I need to apply for financial aid?
The FAFSA is the most important document to complete when applying for financial aid. In addition, there are a few other things that you need to have on hand before you start.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you are required to have a social security number. The U.S. Department of Education will match your social security number to your name, so be sure that you enter your full name as it appears on your social security card.
If you are not a U.S. citizen but are an eligible non-citizen, have your alien registration number ready.
If you have a driver’s license, have that number handy. You will also need your federal tax returns and your parents’ returns, if dependent, as well as other asset information. Examples of assets include checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, mutual funds, real estate (other than the family home), businesses and farms.
What is a FSA ID?
A Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID is a user-selected username and password that will authenticate your identity to access your federal student aid information. This new login process will be used to access student and borrower-based websites, including FAFSA, NSLDS® Student Access, StudentLoans.gov and StudentAid.gov. The FSA ID is a single sign-on process that makes applying for aid quick and easy. Remember, your FSA ID is private and should never be shared with anyone.
How is it determined which forms of financial aid I qualify for?
There is a Congressionally determined set of formulas used for assessing financial need for the Federal Student Aid programs. The process starts with the FAFSA. If you haven’t already, you’ll be hearing a lot about this important form. These formulas are used to calculate an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a theoretical index of a family’s financial strength. Don’t worry; this is not the amount you are expected to contribute. The EFC is simply the result of a specific calculation. The difference between the EFC and the calculated cost of attendance (which includes the estimated average tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, board, transportation and personal expenses), will determine the amount of aid (need-based and non-need based) for which you may qualify.
My parents make too much money for me to receive financial aid. What options are available to me?
Regardless of how much money you or your parents make, you should still complete the FAFSA. Some sources of aid are not need-based, and are available to those who qualify.
What does dependent vs. independent mean?
Determining your dependency status is an important step in the financial aid application process. The definition for dependent or independent student for the purposes of federal student aid may be very different from what you might consider for yourself. It also is different from the IRS definition of dependency. This is not a status that American InterContinental University assigns to you but rather a determination made from your answers to several questions on the FAFSA form. Some of the more common criteria that lead to an independent status are:
- You are 24 years of age prior to January 1 of the current award year.
- You are married as of the day you sign your FAFSA.
- You are an individual with dependents, other than a spouse, for whom you provide more than half of their financial support.
- You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
- You are an orphan or a ward of the court.
What’s the difference between a Federal Stafford loan and a private loan?
A Federal Stafford loan is a federal loan available to help students pay for their education. These educational loans have low interest rates and require no credit check. A private loan is an unsecured loan made by a lender which may have higher interest rates.
What’s the difference between a grant and a loan?
A grant is money that usually does not have to be repaid. Loans are borrowed money and must be repaid regardless of whether you complete the program or are satisfied with your educational experience. Failure to repay your loans can result in serious consequences and negatively impact your ability to obtain credit in the future.
How can I apply for scholarships?
Besides scholarships through AIU*, you can research options using a variety of scholarship search websites. Researching and applying can be time consuming, but your effort may be worth your time if you find extra funding. A word of caution: do not use agencies that charge fees to find scholarships. You can do this search on your own and free of charge.
Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
*University grants or scholarships are based on established criteria as published in the University's catalog and are awarded after verification that the conditions of eligibility have been met.