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Funding Options

You can pay for college with a mix of grants, loans, scholarships, and out-of-pocket costs from work study, part-time jobs and your family’s contribution. Filing the FAFSA or the Illinois Alternative (RISE Act) application (for those not eligible for FAFSA) will allow you to access federal or state grants and student loans. Then add scholarships and work study. What remains is your monthly payment, which is often called the parent contribution or the “expected family contribution.”

  • Eligibility: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in the financial aid process for most students.You can find more details about eligibility requirements here.
  • Types of Federal Aid: The FAFSA process provides over $150 billion in grants, loans, and work study funds each year. Here’s the deal on the different kinds of funding the FAFSA offers. Remember you can accept or decline any part of the financial aid award letter from your institution (It’s not an all or nothing choice).
  1. Grants are your first and best option because they do not have to be repaid.
  2.  Work study, if you are eligible, will ensure you will at least earn minimum wage at a job on campus.  
  3. Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need (meaning the difference between the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the cost of tuition at a given school). Subsidized means that the federal government pays the interest on your loan while you’re in school, for six months after you leave school, and during a period of deferment (when you file to pause payment). 
  4. In Direct Unsubsidized Loans, you are responsible for paying interest in all periods. Check out this brochure from FSA.gov to understand the basics of federal loans.
  • Studentaid.gov has tried to make this process as easy and streamlined as possible. Here’s a high-level overview of the process from start to finish. We’ve laid out each step in the application process below:
    1. Apply for your FSA ID.  This video walks you through the process of applying for your FSA ID.
    2. Have your parent and/or guardian apply for their FSA ID.
    3. Gather all 2020 parent/guardian tax information (here’s a worksheet that shows the questions you will be completing), including:
      1. 2020 Federal tax return records
      2. W-2s
      3. Any other records of income in 2020 (W-4, 1099s, etc.)
      4. Current balance of cash, savings, checking accounts
    4.  Complete the FAFSA Application. Here is a video walkthrough from Khan Academy.
    5. Read your SAR (Student Aid Report) These videos walk you through how to access your SAR and how to read your SAR and find your EFC
  • ISACorps Mentor! – The Illinois Student Assistance Corps is a talented group of recent college graduates who have been trained on supporting students through financial aid applications and FAFSA verification among other topics in order to serve as near peer mentors to high school students. There is an ISACorps Mentor assigned to every zip code so go to the site to look up the mentor assigned to your high school and/or your neighborhood.

What to do if you are ineligible for FAFSA

  • Eligibility: The Retention of Illinois Students & Equity (RISE) Act provides the opportunity for a student attending any college (public and private, two and four-year institutions)  in Illinois who is deemed an Illinois resident for tuition purposes and is not otherwise eligible to receive federal financial aid (i.e., undocumented students, transgender students)  to apply and receive consideration for state financial aid. This will happen via an application process called the Illinois Alternative Application for Financial Aid.
  • The application for the 2022-23 school year is  patterned after the FAFSA and became available on Oct 1, 2021.
  • MAP (Illinois Monetary Award Program)  will be awarded to both FAFSA and  Alternative Application applicants until the suspension date for 2022-23 applicants. There is not a separate pool of funding for applicants and preference is not given to either pool of applicants.
  • Students should not complete both a FAFSA and an Alternative Application for Financial Aid

The following describes in general terms the steps of application completion and the process used to determine MAP eligibility:

  • The application will be accessible ONLY online through the ISAC website: Illinois Student Assistance Commission Alternative Application 
  • A unique ISAC identification number will be assigned to each applicant who creates a student profile & begins the process of completing the application
  • Pre-screening questions at the beginning of the application will help you determine which application (RISE vs. FAFSA) should be completed (Data you provide in the pre-screening questions will not be provided to the colleges)
  • If your answers to the pre-screening questions show the application should not be completed, a message will advise you to consult your high school counselor, a financial aid professional, or an ISACorps member for assistance in completing the FAFSA.
  • It’s important to pay close attention to the data you provide.  Once the application has been submitted, no corrections can be made.
  • The Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the eligible MAP award amount, & other relevant data elements will be provided to colleges as the Illinois Alternative Application student record
  • MAP award amounts will be calculated for eligible students and eligibility notification will be provided to the student by the college. No plans for verification!

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