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When and how is financial aid money dispersed?

computerfreak99computerfreak99 Posts: 41Registered User Junior Member
Just last week my parents and I finally sat down and filled out all of the annoying promissory notes for financial aid loans.

My question is, how exactly does this all work now? The government's website is incredibly vague about how and when we will actually see the money.

When does the $ get sent out? Where is it put? Is it given to the university first (for tuition, room, and board) and then the remainder to the student? If that's the case, then when does the $ find its way back to the student to pay for books and other expenses?
Post edited by computerfreak99 on

Replies to: When and how is financial aid money dispersed?

  • college_ruledcollege_ruled Posts: 1,243Registered User Senior Member
    Grants/ loans from the government are sent directly to your college. Your college knows that this money is coming. If there is any money left over, you can have the college apply that money to the next term or give you a refund. It depends on the policy of your college, but the time to process this refund check can take several weeks.

    Many students use their summer earnings to buy textbooks, and work during the school year to pay for personal expenses.
  • computerfreak99computerfreak99 Posts: 41Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks for the reply college_ruled!

    With a little digging I found something on the U of I website that said the refunded $ doesn't usually come until after the school year has started.

    My award letter accounted ~$1,200 just for books, but how can I use it for books when it won't I have access to it in time? Does this basically mean I'm forced to buy books from the university (assuming I won't be able to find the $ over the summer)?
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Posts: 11,376Registered User Senior Member
    Yes, usually you have to front some money for the books etc. But the best thing to do is call your college and ask what kind of schedule they are on. If you are not working this summer then you'll need a Plan B between needing books and picking up the check. I have not gone through this with my kids, but I have heard people mention on these forums that colleges could sometimes arrange temporary emergency loans but this is not standard so take a few minutes, call the financial aid people and have a conversation. Obviously the best solution is to try and find a summer job althouogh times a tickin.... it's always a good idea to have some sort of cushion for expenses that come up.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 60,554Registered User Senior Member
    My award letter accounted ~$1,200 just for books, but how can I use it for books when it won't I have access to it in time? Does this basically mean I'm forced to buy books from the university (assuming I won't be able to find the $ over the summer)?


    ????

    What is your EFC? If it is more than 1200, what's the big deal? And, in reality, you're only buying one semester's worth of books...so 600 (actually much less if you buy online).

    Did this school meet need?


    Edited to add....your EFC is about 1800...so, why are you expecting the school to give you money for books? Your EFC expects you/your family to pay at least 900 per semester...that is more than enough for books.
  • computerfreak99computerfreak99 Posts: 41Registered User Junior Member
    @mom2collegekids

    Thanks for the reply!

    Yes, my aid was met fully by U of I. They were actually able to cover ~50% of my coa with grants, and considering what some of my friends got I am very happy with that.

    I only mentioned the $1200 to make a point. I assumed I would have that $ available to spend on my books.

    It seems stupid for the university to budget that $ for books when I won't have it in time to purchase said books unless I go through the (ridiculously expensive) campus bookstore.

    EDIT: The EFC is more or less a non issue since U of I budgeted ~$2,500 for "living expenses". Pretending I could get by with ~$750 a year (most of my food is already covered w/ mandatory meal plan factored into room & board) I could probably get by without using any outside $.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 60,554Registered User Senior Member
    It seems stupid for the university to budget that $ for books when I won't have it in time to purchase said books unless I go through the (ridiculously expensive) campus bookstore.

    EDIT: The EFC is more or less a non issue since U of I budgeted ~$2,500 for "living expenses". Pretending I could get by with ~$750 a year (most of my food is already covered w/ mandatory meal plan factored into room & board) I could probably get by without using any outside $.



    Well, in reality, the EFC isn't a non-issue because there is an assumption that you could pay for the books with a SMALL part of your EFC.

    If you carefully start shopping for your books, then you should be able to find a semester's worth of books for under $500. Certainly, you should be able to earn $500 over the summer to pay that.

    Don't misunderstand what EFC means. It doesn't mean the most that you have to pay. It's just a number that schools use to determine what FEDERAL aid you'll get. Schools don't have to do anything more than that with that number.

    Do you have work-study money in your FA package? If so, that is what is going to cover your personal expenses since you won't get that money until you being working...and you'll only get it in paychecks paid out over the school year. So, if you got $2000 in W-S, you won't have that money when school starts, either.

    Do you have a summer job? If not, you probably should get one.

    BTW....$750 for personal expenses is REALLY low. You will get tired of meal plan food rather quickly...and you'll soon find yourself with pals (especially on weekends) eating off-campus at various off-campus hangouts. And "personal expenses" isn't just off-campus food...it's every thing else...from a school hoodie, to shampoo, to shaving cream to shoes to whatever!

    Have you talked to your parents about how much they can help you?
  • computerfreak99computerfreak99 Posts: 41Registered User Junior Member
    @mom2collegekids

    Thanks again for the reply, but I wasn't trying to say that I didn't understand the purpose of the EFC.

    I was just trying to point out how misleading it is for the award letter to budget $ for books when the $ won't be available in time to purchase any books.

    Finding out of pocket $ to buy books over the summer won't be a problem for me. I'm just surprised that I didn't find out about this sooner. In a way this seems like another move by the university to make people pay their inflated prices for textbooks.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 60,554Registered User Senior Member
    I was just trying to point out how misleading it is for the award letter to budget $ for books when the $ won't be available in time to purchase any books.


    I think you misunderstand your award letter.

    The budget just lists everything that is in Cost of attendance...and that includes books. The budget has nothing to do with when/how FA is disbursed. The budget is the same even if you don't get any FA.

    The award letter isn't "budgeting financial aid for books"....it is just listing the various line items of the COA...regardless of what your EFC or aid is.

    For example...say COA was $25k and your EFC was $12k ......and the school gave you various aid to "meet" the rest of your need. Your award letter would still be listing those same COA line items....$5k for dorm, $3k for meal plan, $X for tuition, $1k for books, $2k for personal expenses, etc....even though YOU were going to have to come up with $15k towards some of those expenses...and even though your aid wouldn't be available to you until school starts.
  • computerfreak99computerfreak99 Posts: 41Registered User Junior Member
    @mom2collegekids

    ok, I think I understand what you're saying.

    But what if, hypothetically, the EFC was $0. Would that not make "budgeting financial aid for books" misleading?
  • college_ruledcollege_ruled Posts: 1,243Registered User Senior Member
    The EFC is only an index of eligibility for federal financial aid. It is not a guarantee that the family will only pay that amount. In nearly all cases when a school and the government determines that the student's family should pay nothing, the student will still have "self help." In other words, the student will have to work to cover textbook and other expenses and perhaps even take out federal loans.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 60,554Registered User Senior Member
    ^^^

    Right. EFC 0 doesn't mean that the family/student pays nothing.

    Also...many schools (all should) include a "summer work contribution" expectation of $1500-2000. That money could go towards books and other expenses that occur before school starts.

    Keep in mind that most colleges have no intention of paying for every aspect of a student's education....they typically don't want to pay for "pocket money", shampoo, and pizza out with friends (personal expenses) or transportation.
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