Financial Aid & Scholarships
Parents often ask whether their family should apply for financial aid. The California Student Aid Commission, which administers the Cal Grant program, recommends that every student apply for financial aid. Applying is also a good safety measure in case the family's financial situation changes.
The term Financial Aid includes need-based grants, scholarships, work study, student loans, and parent loans. All institutions of higher education evaluate requests for any type of financial aid by considering a student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if a family's income is too high for need-based aid, the student may qualify for scholarships, work-study, or low interest student loans.
Don't assume you will not qualify for financial aid. The FAFSA formula not only considers income and savings in calculating a family's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) but also other factors such as the age of the parents and the number of children enrolled in college. Families can receive a personalized estimate of the net price (not the sticker price) for the cost of of one year of college by using a Net Price calculator.
For the financial aid award year 2024-25, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is making several changes to determine a dependent student’s aid eligibility, starting with the calculation of a family’s ability to pay for college. The new Student Aid Index (SAI) will replace Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as the calculated amount a family is able to pay for college for a given year. Colleges will use SAI in place of EFC in the fundamental equation to determine need-based financial aid eligibility. The most significant changes to the calculation are:
- child support received will count as an asset
- small businesses (or farms) will count as an asset
- number of students in college no longer considered (e.g. siblings, twins)
- each contributor (student & parent/guardian) has to provide consent for the IRS retrieval tool to be used to verify income tax data
- if parents are divorced, the parent who provided more financial support over the past 12 months reports the income and assets; if both parents provided the same support, the parent with the greater income or assets must report their income and assets
For a detailed summary of FAFSA changes, see information from the CA Student Aid Commission.
Cost of Attendance - Student Aid Index - Financial Need
Your financial need is the same as your need-based financial aid eligibility, but rules on federal student aid plus a college’s own institutional need-based financial aid policies determine your financial aid package.
Filing the FAFSA on time is important in case circumstances suddenly change (e.g. a parent loses a job); it is much easier to amend an existing application and ask a college to reconsider the application before their discretionary funds are distributed. Families should NOT wait until the last year's tax return to complete the FAFSA; estimate information based on the previous year, then amend the application when you have the most accurate data. It's important to file the FAFSA on time; check the colleges for specific deadlines.
For help and advice, you can call FAFSA Customer Service at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).