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As winter turns into spring, one thing remains constant… financial aid offers are arriving. These offers notify students about their financial aid eligibility. If you are confused about your offer, you are not alone. As a helpful guide, I will share two fictional yet common scenarios of financial aid offers. 

A Tale of Two Students

Carl University and Jaime College are two high school seniors planning to attend college in the Fall of 2023. Both students have applied and been accepted to different colleges in Nebraska. Here is some background information about these students:

Carl University

  • Carl plans to attend a four-year college full-time and study business administration.
  • He wants to live on campus with a seven-day meal plan.
  • He is interested in work-study.

Jamie College

  • Jaime plans to attend a two-year college full-time and study nursing.
  • She will live at home with her parents.
  • She is not interested in work-study.

Understanding Cost of Attendance

After completing the FAFSA, Carl and Jaime receive financial offers from their chosen college. They first noticed the Cost of Attendance (COA). This is NOT a bill but rather an estimated cost to attend that college. Colleges determine the average for both direct costs and living incidentals so students can better prepare for college expenses.

Below is an example of the COA for both Carl and Jamie. 

 Carl University (4-year)Jaime College (2-year)
Tuition & Fees$8,300$3,500
Housing & Food$10,100$3,840
Books & Supplies$1,100$1,500
Personal & Transportation$3,700$2,250
Total Cost of Attendance$23,200$11,090

The Financial Aid Offers

Next, the students consider their financial aid offers. Colleges use the following calculation to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid.

   Cost of Attendance

– FAFSA Results

 = Financial Need

Once the college determines the student’s financial need, they can make a financial aid offer. There are four types of financial aid the college can provide: scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans. Click here to learn more.

Below is an example of Carl & Jamie’s financial aid offers:

Carl University

 Fall SemesterSpring SemesterTotal
Academic Scholarship$1250$1250$2500
Subsidized Loan$1750$1750$3500
Unsubsidized Loan$1250$1250$2000
ParentPLUS Loan$5500$5500$11000

Jaime College

 Fall SemesterSpring SemesterTotal
Subsidized Loan$1823$1822$3645
Unsubsidized Loan$928$927$1855

What will be billed?

When the fall term starts for these students, each will receive a bill. Since the COA is not the bill, what costs will they be responsible for?

  • Carl will be charged for his tuition/fees and housing/food each semester that he lives on campus.
  • Jaime will only be charged for her tuition/fees each quarter since she will live at home.

Books, supplies, personal, and transportation expenses will not be billed to the student, unless they charge any of these items directly through the college. Then it would show up on their student account.

Questions to Consider

When comparing your financial aid offers, reflect on these questions:

  • What are your direct costs? Do you have enough money to cover them?
  • How much did you receive in scholarships and grants?
  • Do you need to borrow a loan? If yes, do you need to borrow the full amount?
  • What living incidentals are your parents currently paying for you? Can that continue while you are in college? 

Accept/Decline the Aid

Once you receive your offer and know your direct costs, it’s time to accept or decline your aid. You’ll want to accept any scholarships and grants because that is money you do not pay back.

If you decide to borrow a loan, only borrow what you need! You can always borrow less than the amount you qualify for.

Need Help?

Still confused about your financial aid offer? Contact your nearest EducationQuest location or your college’s financial aid office.