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Financial Aid Q & A 9-27-10

circular fountain in front of the library building on the SMC campus
1. What types of Federal Financial Aid are available?

There are three types of Federal Financial Aid: grants, loans, and work study. (A grant is money that does not need to be paid back. Loans are borrowed from a bank and MUST be repaid. Work study is a job on campus.)

2. How do I apply for Federal Financial Aid?

You must complete (and send) the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to the federal processor. You can either chose to do it electronically at or by the traditional paper application method.   With either application method (electronic or paper), you will receive a SAR (Student Aid Report.)  SMC will also receive this information electronically.

3. Is there anything else that I have to submit to the SMC Financial Aid Office?

Students need to send their official academic transcripts (from ALL other schools that they have attended) to the SMC Financial Aid Office.  In addition, after SMC receives an electronic version of your financial aid application, it will send you a Document Request Form for any additional documents (or information) that is needed.   Please note that about a third of the applicants will be chosen for verification.

4. What is verification?

Verification is proving that the income you reported on the FAFSA is correct.  Usually, verification is completed by submitting a photo copy of your and/or your parent's signed federal tax return.  In addition, you will be asked to submit a Verification Worksheet.

5. Do I have to go to school full-time to receive Federal Financial Aid?

No. You will be eligible for most Federal Financial Aid if you attend school half-time. However, with the Pell and SEOG Grants, your awards will be larger if you attend full-time.

6. If I'm eligible for aid, how often will I receive money?

Generally, grant recipients receive two checks a semester. One check comes at the beginning of the term and one check comes at the middle of the term. Loan recipients usually get two checks a year--one in fall and one in spring. College Work Study students are paid twice a month.

7. How much money can I get if I apply for financial aid?

It depends upon YOUR family's situation. The maximum Pell Grant would be $5550 per year. The maximum Subsidized Stafford Loan for a first year student is $3500. 
Work study allocations usually begin at $2500 / year.

8. If I am living away from my parents, am I considered to be "independent?"

Not necessarily. Applicants for Federal Financial Aid-below the age of 24- are considered to be dependents . . . unless they are married, a veteran, an orphan, a ward of the court, or have dependents. (Usually children.)

9. What is the maximum money that I could earn in a year and still qualify for a grant?

About $13,500-for a single, "independent" student without dependents.

10. How long does it take from the time I submit my FAFSA to when I receive my first check?

It will (probably) take from 8 to 12 weeks.

11. Why does it take so long to receive the money?

Because many people are applying for financial aid.  But here's a rough breakdown of the steps and the approximate time-frame for each:   For you to receive your SAR (after you have submitted the FAFSA )and then  bring  the requested documents to the Financial Aid Office: 2-3 weeks.   For SMC to process your paperwork and then mail an award letter: 4 to 8 weeks.  For the county to process your grant check or a
bank to process your loan check:  2 weeks.

12. I didn't get a response from the Department of Education  after submitting the FAFSA.  Is there a number I can call to find out what happened?
(800) 4 FED AID / (800) 433-3243 (Note: If you provided an e-mail address, the SAR will be sent to you electronically.

13. I have a job that allows me to pay my bills but doesn't offer much upward mobility.   I want to go back to school, full time, and transfer to a four year university.  Can I afford to quit my job and go to school?

It might be difficult--especially in the first year. However, regardless of your income in the previous year,
you will probably qualify for student loans.  You will likely also be eligible for a work study job on campus.

14. Do I have to pay a loan back?

Yes. Payments for student loans begin once a student leaves school for six months (or falls below half-time enrollment for six months.)

15. Is there a deadline for applying for Federal Financial Aid?

Yes. Students may submit a FAFSA application as early as January--for the academic year that begins in the following fall. Students that apply by March 2 will receive priority consideration for several types of Federal Financial Aid. Students that don't meet the priority deadline can still apply throughout the school year. (However, some Federal Financial Aid may no longer be available for those that apply late.)

16. Do I have to "do well" in school to receive Federal Financial Aid?

Yes. For each semester that you receive aid you will need to complete a certain number of units with a minimum GPA of at least 2.0. In addition, you need to maintain an overall completion rate of at least 67%
and an overall GPA of at least 2.0. (This is called maintaining "satisfactory academic progress.")

17. How long can I receive Federal Financial Aid at Santa Monica College?

Provided that you maintain satisfactory academic progress, you can receive Federal Financial Aid until you exceed 150% of the published length of an eligible program. (Students in 60 unit A.A./A.S. programs or planning to transfer to 4-year schools will need to complete their studies by the time they earn 90 units. ) Students who exceed the maximum time frame may petition for an extension of funding through an "appeal process."

18. Do I have to reapply for Federal Financial Aid every year?


19. Can I attend SMC and another local community college and get financial aid from SMC for my enrollment at both schools?

No.  SMC no longer participates in Financial Aid Consortiums with other local community colleges.

20. Do I have to view the on-line orientation meeting each year?

Yes, after you receive your award letter, you  need to view the on-line Financial Aid Orientation.