What types of Federal Financial Aid are available?

There are three types of Federal Financial Aid:

  • Grants: A grant is money that does not need to be paid back

  • Loans: Loans are borrowed from a bank and MUST be repaid

  • Work Study: Work study is a job on campus

How do I apply for Federal Financial Aid?

You can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) electronically at fafsa.gov or by the traditional paper application method (PDF available). You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) by the federal processor and Santa Monica College(SMC) will receive an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR).

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

After SMC receives an electronic version of your financial aid application we 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. Aid applicants requesting student loans will have to submit a loan request form application, a loan budget worksheet, and other documents. Please see the SMC Financial Aid Loans Page for directions.

What is verification?

During verification, the college financial aid administrator will ask the applicant to supply copies of documentation, such as income tax returns, W-2 statements and 1099 forms, to verify the data that was submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

Verification is intended to improve the accuracy of the information submitted on the FAFSA. It is not intended to function like a forensic audit. But the college financial aid office may not process requests for professional judgment or disburse federal student aid until the verification process is complete.
Financial aid administrators have the right to ask for any documentation they feel is necessary to complete verification. If the family refuses to supply this documentation, the college is prohibited from disbursing federal student aid to the student.

The set of data elements potentially subject to verification has been significantly expanded and may change from one year to the next. Data elements currently subject to verification include household size, number in college, child support paid, adjusted gross income, taxes paid and several untaxed income items (untaxed IRA distributions, untaxed pensions, education credits, IRA deductions, and tax exempt interest).

Do I have to go to school full-time to receive Financial ‚ÄčAid?

No. If your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) is 0, then you will receive financial aid even if you take a single unit. Federal work study students must maintain at least 6 units per semester while working. State aid requires to be at least 6 units for the CalGrant and 12 units for the full-time Student Success Grant (FTSSG).

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

Generally, grant recipients receive two checks per 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.

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

The maximum Awards for a full-time student with a 0 EFC is:

  • Pell Grant - $5815 per year (2016-17 school year).

  • SEOG - $200 per year

  • Subsidized Stafford Loan for a first year student is $3500.

  • Work study allocations usually begin around $2,000 per year.

  • CalGrant B - $1670 per year

  • FTSSG - $300 per year

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

Not necessarily. Applicants under 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).

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

Approximately 8 to 12 weeks after submitting your required documents to the Financial Aid Office.

Why does it take so long to receive the money?

Many people are applying for financial aid. But here's a rough breakdown of the steps and the approximate time-frame for each: 

  • After you have submitted the FAFSA and then submitting the requested documents to the Financial Aid Office: 2-3 weeks. 

  • SMC to process your paperwork and awards your financial aid: 4 to 8 weeks. 

  • The county to process your grant or loan check: up to 2 weeks.

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?

Note: If you provided an e-mail address, the SAR will be sent to you electronically.

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. You can go to SMC Student Employment for more information regarding SMC job opportunities.

Do I have to do any additional steps to request a student or parent loan?

For student loans, you will need to submit a loan request, see a counselor for an educational plan, and complete a financial literacy exercise. Go to the Loans page for more details. For parent loans, your parent should also go to the Loan Page for guidance.

If I get a loan, do I have to pay it back?

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

Is there a deadline for applying for Federal Financial Aid?

Yes. 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 June 30th of the respective academic year.

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).

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. Please see the SMC Financial Aid Appeals page for more information.

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


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.

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.