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Question about award letter/unsubsidized

pugglemom1223pugglemom1223 Posts: 15Registered User New Member
A little background- I am an independent student transferring to a new school. At my previous school, I received full Pell, and full sub and unsub Stafford loans, in addition to Work Study eligibility, and a couple other federal and university grants.

I received my award letter from my new school and for the Spring semester they only awarded me the remainder of the Pell grant (2775) and subsidized Stafford for a total of around $4700. Why was I not awarded unsubsidized loans? They included a loan request form, where I had to put in an amount requested and select if it is subsidized, unsubsidized or both. I read somewhere that sometimes schools don't include unsub Stafford on award letters even if the student is eligible for it, sometimes the student has to ask for it.

Since I live on my own and am putting myself through school, and when I budgeted I planned on received full sub and unsub Stafford as I had at my previous school, this disrupts my budget quite a bit.

I looked on the school's website to find their Cost of Attendance number, and the only one I could find was from 2008-2009. My award was less than the COA from a couple years ago, by about $1000. I was selected for verification, and since I only worked part time, my EFC is 0.

I plan on calling the financial aid office next week and finding out what is going on, but it bothers me that my award seems to be less than what the COA is, and that I apparently am not even being offered unsub loans.

So, why would my award be less than the cost of attendance? Why would unsub Stafford not be on my award letter, can I request it from them? Is it true that it sometimes isn't on an award letter?

Edit: The cost of attendance from 2008-2009 at my school is $5800, so there is a gap between my EFC, COA, and financial aid award.
Post edited by pugglemom1223 on

Replies to: Question about award letter/unsubsidized

  • swimcatsmomswimcatsmom Posts: 15,060Registered User Senior Member
    Really only your school can answer this as each school has their own policies. A lot of schools do not automatically include unsub loans in their aid awards. For instance I know my daughter's school does not award unsub Staffords to dependent students as they assume parents will take out PLUS loans instead. You need to ask the school if you can get the additional unsub loan. Good luck.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Posts: 12,626Super Moderator Senior Member
    If the school's COA is by year, your award for the spring semester will be half the annual COA. It is only going to be for a single semester, not a year. You will only be eligible for your annual loan limits based on year in school.

    So let's say your current award is $4700. That would mean the annual COA at this school is $9400. So COA-Pell=$1925. If you have at least that much sub eligibility based on year in school remaining from you annual limit, the entire amount can be sub. You are then packaged to COA & cannot receive any more aid (including unsub).
  • pugglemom1223pugglemom1223 Posts: 15Registered User New Member
    Yes I plan on calling them next week, I was curious mainly to see if anyone else had ever run into this or heard of this happening with the unsub
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 16,839Registered User Senior Member
    I don't think that the unsubsidized loan is something that needs to be "awarded" by the school -- since students are eligible to take the loan without regard to need. So technically it isn't really "financial aid" (no one is doing you any favors by allowing you to take a loan with interest immediately accruing -- other than the interest rate, its the same as if you used a credit card to charge part of the next semester's tuition.)
  • kelsmomkelsmom Posts: 12,626Super Moderator Senior Member
    Unsub does not require a credit check, can be consolidated, is deferred during school, etc ... it IS financial aid. Schools cannot award unsub in excess of COA-all financial aid.
  • pugglemom1223pugglemom1223 Posts: 15Registered User New Member
    I understand the Cost of Attendance issue, but now my concern is that my financial aid award is LESS than my cost of attendance- there is a gap, despite me having an EFC of 0. On the website, the 08-09 COA rate for the year is $11500, so for 1 semester, it would be $5750. However, that COA is from 2 years ago. My award is $4525, so there is a $1225 gap. In addition, I live 30 miles from the campus, so I have much higher transportation costs than the assumption (an on campus student) and I also have rent and utilities to pay.

    By federal guidelines, are schools required to re-evaluate a student's COA if the student requests that they do so?

    At the very least, my COA should be met, especially since my EFC is 0. It would be ideal for them to re-evaluate it based on my commute to campus and associated fuel costs... but just getting that extra $1,225 would be nice at the very least.
  • swimcatsmomswimcatsmom Posts: 15,060Registered User Senior Member
    They are not required to re evaluate your COA, but you can certainly ask them if they will do so. At my daughter's school they will consider requests for COA adjustments for various reasons including commuting expenses. The COA does usually include an allowance for travel expenses so they would have to be over that amount.

    You need to ask the school about the unsub loan eligibility. It could be they just don't automatically include unsub loans. Only they can tell you that.
  • KatMTKatMT Posts: 3,488College Rep Senior Member
    "At the very least, my COA should be met..."

    Does the school guarantee to meet full need? I believe many schools gap, and even with an EFC of 0 will not meet the full COA.

    I believe you can request a re-evaluation.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Posts: 12,626Super Moderator Senior Member
    When a school re-evaluates your COA for things like unusual commuting expenses, they also have to set your tuition/fee component from estimated to actual. For some students, this is beneficial; for others, it actually results in a loss of aid eligibility. And yes, the school CAN (is not required to ...) re-evaluate your package for unusual commuting expenses.

    There could be other issues at play here in terms of the aid package. Are you close to your aggregate loan limit ($57,500 independent/$31,000 dependent)? How much have you borrowed so far for 10-11 (including any you borrowed in the summer that may be considered 10-11)? Were you at a Borrower Based Academic Year school last year (this can have a negative effect on your loan eligibility for this year if the last school was BBAY & the current school is not BBAY)? There are a lot of reasons the package may have been the best it will be ... and other reasons it may not. Hang in there for now. Try to stop worrying until you know what is what.
  • pugglemom1223pugglemom1223 Posts: 15Registered User New Member
    Thanks, I'm trying not to worry, but I've been planning this move for a couple months now and had a budget all figured out... I never expected this kind of issue. I am 25 years old, so I am independent student and nowhere near my aggregate limit. I didn't have any summer aid, and my package for the fall semester of this year was half the maximum allowed Pell and Stafford loans for the academic year. If I was staying at my current school, I would be getting the other half in the Spring.

    I plan on calling them first thing Monday morning and requesting to speak to an actual Financial Aid employee- not just the student workers in the office. I've made up a list of questions to find out what is going on, i.e. what is the cost of attendance, am I able to get the unsubsidized Stafford, if not, how did they determine my award, can I ask for my COA to be re-evaluated since I live off-campus (and not freeloading off mom and dad either- I have my own rent/utilities/groceries, being that I am an adult and have been on my own since I was 18, etc) and have a 30 mile commute.

    It's just frustrating because just when you think you understand how all this financial aid stuff works, a wrench gets thrown in your spokes and something like this happens that screws things up. Luckily I re-adjusted my budget and cut it WAY down and so long as I am able to find a decent part time job, I should barely scrape by, but even just getting another $1200 or so by having my Cost of Attendance met would be a HUGE help, if they can't give me the full unsubsidized Stafford that I normally get.

    It's incredibly misleading when you are told you are eligible for x amount of unsubsidized loans per academic year, but the fine print is up to the cost of attendance, which varies from school to school. Oh well, just gotta be patient and keep my fingers crossed and find out what's going on Monday.

    Thank you to everyone for your input though, it has been very helpful.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Posts: 12,626Super Moderator Senior Member
    Relax for the next couple days. Most likely you will receive good news ... no use worrying if it will end up okay. :)
  • pugglemom1223pugglemom1223 Posts: 15Registered User New Member
    Just an update: I talked to the financial aid office and I am eligible for another $3k in unsub Stafford, but they have a "Default Prevention Program" so they don't automatically award unsub funds to people, they need to request it and demonstrate need. So she will be sending me a spreadsheet to fill out with my housing costs, gas costs, food costs, book costs, and any other educational related expenses, to submit back to them and see if I can get more.

    The COA for a year there is $13k, and since I only got $4525, they didn't even come close to meeting my COA for the semester ($6500). So fingers crossed that I at least get my COA met, it would be a HUGE help. But I think the fact that I do live 30 miles from campus and drive a truck so I will be spending a pretty penny in gas, have rent and utilities, and then can also ask for more for textbooks, and grocery costs, I'm hoping it works out.

    Thanks again for the words of wisdom!
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