Image of a male basketball player holding two basketballsImage of a male basketball player holding two basketballs

FAFSA

To ensure fairness, all post-secondary institutions across the country use the same Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC). After the University receives the results of your FAFSA form, they will assemble a financial aid package that addresses your remaining need. There are four primary sources of financial aid - the federal and state government, the University, and private agencies. If you want to be considered for financial aid, you must complete this form every year - even if you received financial aid in a previous year.

Keep this deadline in mind.

File your FAFSA as soon as possible after Jan. 1. If you file by May 1, you will receive priority consideration for all federal financial aid programs available at Cal U. The federal processor must receive your FAFSA by May 1 if you would also like to be considered for state grants. Once you file a FAFSA, the U.S. Department of Education will automatically send you an e-mail reminder when it's time to fill out the form for the upcoming school year. You can agree to let the FAFSA processors "pre-fill" your form with data from the previous year. That way, you will only need to update information that has changed since you last filed.


FAFSA Process

Completing the FAFSA

Follow these simple steps.

  1. Prior to filling out the FAFSA form, use the FAFSA4caster to estimate your eligibility for aid.
  2. Pick up a copy of the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet at our Financial Aid Office or download a copy at www.fafsa.gov .
    1. Complete the entire worksheet prior to completing the actual application. The questions are in the exact order that they appear on the official online application.
    2. Take the time to read the instructions carefully. Most questions can be answered through the instruction information contained on the form or at www.fafsa.gov. If you have more questions, feel free to contact the Cal U Financial Aid office by phone at 724-938-4415.
    3. Don't leave any blanks. If the answer is zero or the question doesn't apply, enter "0"
    4. Respond "yes" to the question asking if you are interested in work-study employment in order to be considered for student employment. A packet will be sent to you in August.
  3. Request a PIN at www.pin.ed.gov so that you can electronically sign your official FAFSA. Parents of dependent students also need a PIN to electronically sign the form. If you prefer, you can print a paper signature page from FAFSA on the Web, sign it and mail it to the address provided. Remember, if you are dependent, your parent also needs to sign, either electronically or on a hard copy.
  4. Use the answers from the worksheet to complete and submit your FAFSA on the Web.
    1. Be sure to list California University of Pennsylvania (school code number 003316) in order that Cal U may receive your electronic record.
    2. After completing your FAFSA, use your federal PIN to electronically sign your application. If you are a dependent student, both you and your parent will need to electronically sign the FAFSA. Once you submit your application, you'll be taken to a confirmation page that shows your confirmation number and estimated Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
    3. Provide a valid e-mail address. You will receive an e-mail with a link to your Student Aid Report (SAR) information within five days after filing the FAFSA. If you do not provide a valid e-mail address, you will receive a paper Student Aid Report (SAR) or SAR Acknowledgment in the mail about two weeks after submitting your online FAFSA.
    4. File as early as possible after Jan. 1. The deadline for priority consideration is May 1, so we recommend that you file your application at least 30 days prior to that, which is April 1.
Note: California University does not have an institutional financial aid application.

Transfer Monitoring

If a student transfers to California University of PA from a different college, the school is required to review financial aid history before disbursing aid.  This is known as transfer monitoring.  The school must send the student’s information to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) and wait for a response regarding whether or not any financial aid was received at a different school for the same award year.  Sometimes this causes a delay in disbursing aid.  However, once NSLDS clears the disbursement, the aid will automatically disburse to the student’s account.

 

Verification

Each year the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) selects approximately a third of the students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for Verification. The Financial Aid Office will compare information from your FAFSA with information such as verification worksheets, IRS Data Retrieval or IRS Tax Transcripts, W2’s and other documentation that the Financial Aid Office may require a student and parent to submit. Federal regulations require this information to be verified before awarding federal aid (i.e. grants, loans and works study). If there are differences between your application information and your finan­cial documents, the Financial Aid Office will make corrections electronically.

In some situations where there is conflicting data, the student or parent may be required to provide additional documentation. This could include W2’s, 1098 forms, written explanations, proof of federal benefits, etc. If errors are found, the Financial Aid Office will make corrections to your record.  Once Verification is complete, your financial aid will be finalized and you will be able to review your awards on the Vulcan Information Portal (VIP) at vip.calu.edu.

Students should be aware:

  • No financial aid (including work study and student loans) will be awarded to the student until Verification is complete.  
    • PLEASE NOTE: New freshman students will receive an award package prior to verification being complete .This package is ESTIMATED and subject to change based on corrections made during the Verification process.  no aid will disburse to the student's account until verification is completed
  • During peak processing periods (between April and September), allow a minimum of four weeks for the Financial Aid Office to complete verification of your record.
  • Students are expected to respond to any requests from the Financial Aid Office in a timely manner in order to avoid delays in the processing of their request for financial aid for the academic year. 
  • Failure to complete verification prior to withdrawal from the University or by the end of the academic year (whichever comes first) may result in total forfeiture of financial aid eligibility for the academic year

Students Responsibilities:

  • Provide requested verification documentation in a timely manner to the Financial Aid Office.
  • All verification documents (i.e., verification worksheet, tax transcripts, W2’s, letter of explanation) must be complete, legible and contain all appropriate signatures. If any documents are received incomplete, the Financial Aid Office will ask the student to resubmit the appropriate documents.
  • All verification documents must be clearly labeled with the student’s full name and Campus Wide ID (CWID).
  • Provide additional documentation or a statement of explanation as requested to clarify conflicting information.
Note: Federal Stafford Loans are not certified until the verification process has been completed.

C-Codes

C-Codes or C-Flags are comment codes provided by the Department of Education on your FAFSA transaction that usually require the school to request additional documentation before the Financia Aid Office can clear the code and process federal financial aid.  If you have a c-code on your FAFSA, notifications regarding what it means and what is required to clear it will be posted on your VIP account under the Financial Aid Requirements section.  Below are some of the most common codes and documents you may need to provide. Be sure to refer to your student VIP account for more in depth explanations of the codes.

Selective Service flag:  Proof of Registration for Selective Service is required including copy of registration card or visiting the Selective Service Website to register or print proof of registration.  If you are not registered you will need to provide proof that you were not required to register.

Citizenship Status or Eligible Non-Citizen:  Proof of Citizenship Status or eligible Non-Citizenship status is required including a copy of a birth certificate, U.S. Passport, Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization, I-551 Alien Registration card or I-94 card. 

Active Bankruptcy Flag:  This is usually reviewed by us automatically and cleared if possible.  Most student loans are not part of bankruptcy status and can be cleared without additional documentation needed.

Veteran’s  Status Flag:  Proof of Veteran’s Status is required including a copy of your DD214 or if active duty but separated from the military, you will need to submit a letter from your commanding officer stating you will be separated and effective date of separation.

Default Flag:  If you are in default on a previous student loan you will need to provide proof from the lending institution or school that you have cleared this issue and are in good standing with them again. T

Loan Limit Exceeded:  At the time you filed your FAFSA, NSLDS shows that your total amount of federal student loans has exceeded your lifetime loan limits.  Our office will review your file and determine if you are eligible for financial aid.  In most cases, nothing is required from you.

Unusual Enrollment History:  The Department of Education selected you as having an unusual enrollment history and requires us to verify the credits you earned at any previous institutions.  You will need to come to our Financial Aid Office or to a notary to sign the Identity and Educational Purpose Statement.  It also would be in your best interest to submit a copy of transcripts from all previous schools you’ve attended.  In some cases, we ask for an explanation and documentation for unearned credits.

Limited Life Time Pell Eligibility:  Federal Regulations state a student can only receive a Federal Pell grant for a maximum of 12 full-time semesters. Once you received Federal Pell grant disbursements equivalent to 12 full-time semesters, you will no longer be eligible for the Federal Pell grant.  According to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) and the Department of Education, you are nearing your Federal Lifetime Pell Grant Limit. This means during academic year, your Federal Pell Grant eligibility is limited and your grant will be adjusted based on your remaining eligibility. To review your past Federal Pell Grant disbursements go to www.nslds.ed.gov and select Financial Aid Review.

Federal Pell Grant Limit Exceeded:  Based on Federal Regulation a student can only receive a Federal Pell grant for a maximum of 12 full-time semesters. Once you receive Federal Pell grant disbursements equivalent to 12 full-time semesters, you will no longer be eligible for the Federal Pell grant.  According to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) and the Department of Education you have exhausted your Federal Pell Grant eligibility.  You are no longer eligible for a Federal Pell Grant. However, you may still be eligible for other federal funding such as Stafford Loans. To review your past Federal Pell Grant disbursements go to NSLDS and select Financial Aid Review.

 

ISIR/FAFSA Changes

The Financial Aid Office is required by Department of Education to correct any inaccuracies found when reviewing FAFSA transactions. These corrections could potentially increase or decrease your Estimated Family Contributions(EFC) and affect your federal financial aid received such as Pell grants, Perkins Loans, FSEOG or Stafford Loans. If a change is made to your FAFSA the Financial Aid Office will send the corrected information to FAFSA, once FAFSA has processed this information they will send the corrected information to the school and notify the student of the changes made. In most cases when the Financial Aid Office makes changes to your FAFSA the turnaround time for that correction to be processed is 3-5 business days.

Reasons the Financial Aid office may make changes/correct your FAFSA are as follows:

Corrections due to Verification  

  • Household size
  • Family Members in College size
  • Corrected income Tax information
  • Wages
  • IRA or Pension Distribution
  • Tax Deferred Pensions
  • Child Support Paid or Received
  • Military or Veterans Benefits
  • Scholarship /Grant monies included in wages
  • Untaxed income

Change in Grade Level

Comment Code updates (i.e. selective services, Citizenship, Default on loans)

Dependency Status Professional Judgments

Change of Income Professional Judgments

While the Financial Aid Office is required to correct inaccuracies found on the FAFSA, often students will correct information on the FAFSA once they initially complete it. The most common change after a FAFSA has been file is either to add a school code or to import tax data directly from the IRS using IRS Data Retrieval. If you make changes to your FAFSA that is not adding a school code you should expect in most cases for your EFC to change. Once you make these changes the correction will be sent to colleges listed on your FAFSA.  If these changes are made prior to the disbursement of financial aid funds the Financial Aid Office will load correction and adjust your aid package if necessary.  If changes are made after disbursement of financial aid funds the Financial Aid Office will review the change and may question as to why the correction is made. If the change is correct the Financial Aid Office will load the FAFSA with the new information and adjust your aid package accordingly. This may result in an increase or decrease of your aid eligibility. If it decreases the aid eligibility the Financial Aid Office will reduce the funding and in turn this will increase your balanced owed with the Bursar Office. The Financial Aid Office highly encourages students to contact our office before making changes to discuss how it will affect your aid package.

Please be aware if you make changes to the FAFSA this will increase your chances of being selected for verification. If after a change is made to your FAFSA you are selected for verification the Financial Aid office will be required collect verification documents. This will also halt your financial aid from disbursing and your aid package will be estimated until the verification process is complete. If you are selected for verification after your financial aid disbursed for the semester the Financial Aid Office is required to stop any future disbursement and will un-pay any funds that had paid up to that point. Funds will be re-applied after verification is completed. 

If you were selected for verification and the Financial Aid Office completed your verification, any changes you make after verification is completed will not be reviewed. If you need to make a change to your FAFSA after verification is completed you must contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss your changes. The reason the Financial Aid Office does not review this information is because during the verification process you are required to submit proof of all information listed on the FAFSA and often changes made after verification is completed tend to be inaccurate. 

 

Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)

Undergraduate:

Eligibility for federal and state financial aid programs is determined by using a universal formula approved by Congress called Federal Methodology. It uses your parent(s)’ and your total taxable and untaxed income, current equity in assets which you were required to report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and size of household and number enrolled in college at least half-time, to determine the amount you are expected to pay toward your education. This amount is called your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Graduate:

Eligibility for federal aid programs is determined by using a universal formula approved by Congress called Federal Methodology. It uses your and/or your spouse’s total taxable and untaxed income, current equity in assets which you were required to report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and number enrolled in college at least half-time, to determine the amount you are expected to pay toward your education. This amount is called your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

It is important to note that your EFC cannot be properly calculated until your Federal Verification is complete. If you are randomly selected for verification by the Department of Education, please be sure to submit the necessary documents as soon as possible.

Financial Aid Cost of Attendance

It is important to note that Global Online (Web Based Distance Education) COA is significantly lower than the Undergraduate and Graduate COA for students attending on campus.

The Cost of Attendance is your budget for the year. The Cost of Attendance is used to determine the maximum amount of aid you can receive/borrow for the academic year. This is NOT how much you will have to pay to go to school. The Cost of Attendance contains the potential costs that you may have during the academic year. The Cost of Attendance typically will include Tuition and Fees, Loan Fees, Housing, Meal Plan, Traveling Expenses, Books and Supplies, and Personal/Miscellaneous Expenses. You can view your program specific Cost of Attendance via the Vulcan Information Portal.

Financial Need

Financial Need is the difference between the Cost of Attendance at a university and the expected family contribution. After Cal U confirms your COA and EFC, we calculate your financial need: Cost of Attendance - EFC = Financial Need

Special Circumstances- Reduction of Income

Special Circumstances Can Affect Your Financial Aid Package

Although the process of determining eligibility for financial aid is the same for all students, an adjustment sometimes can be made if you or your family encounter special circumstances, such as a reduction in income due to loss of employment, death, or disability of a wage earner, divorce or separation, loss of Social Security benefits, unusual medical expenses, and so on. In addition, a student who does not meet the federal definition of an independent student for financial aid purposes may be able to document those exceptional circumstances in order to be considered an independent student.

Reduction of Income

If you and/or your parent has experienced a loss of $10,000 or more in income or benefits, or has unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5 % of the family's adjusted gross income from a prior calendar year, you may submit a Reduction of Income Information Form to the Financial Aid Office. We will review the form and re-evaluate your financial aid eligibility. See if you meet the Reduction of Income qualifications, or contact the Financial Aid office for more information.

Dependency Appeal Process

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) clearly defines who is considered a dependent or independent student for financial aid purposes. However, there are rare instances when the Financial Aid Office determines that a dependent student should complete the FAFSA as an independent student (even though the student does not meet any of the independent student criteria) due to very unique circumstance occurring in the student's family household. The Financial Aid Office makes this determination based on information provided to our office on the Dependency Appeal Form. Please contact the Financial Aid Office for more information.

The U.S. Department of Education has established very strict standards regarding the circumstances under which a financial aid office may authorize a change to a student’s dependency status.  The regulations require a student to demonstrate that circumstances have severed the relationship between the student and his/her parent(s) and left it irreparable and without chance of reconciliation.  A parent’s unwillingness or inability to financially contribute to the student’s education or to provide information does not qualify as “unusual circumstances.”  Also, a student’s desire to live on their own or move out after a falling out with their parent(s) does not qualify.  Typically, documented proof of physical and/or mental abuse or abandonment is needed to support the request.

 

Special Circumstances- Dependency Appeal Process

Who Is Considered A Dependent Or Independent Student?

Although you may consider yourself a self-supporting student - that is, you do not depend on your parents to support you or help finance your college education, you do not live in their home, and are not claimed on their income tax return - you do not automatically qualify as independent for financial aid purposes. The U.S. Department of Education has established very strict standards regarding the circumstances under which a financial aid office may authorize a change to a student’s dependency status.  The regulations require a student to demonstrate that circumstances have severed the relationship between the student and his/her parent(s) and left it irreparable and without chance of reconciliation.  A parent’s unwillingness or inability to financially contribute to the student’s education or to provide information does not qualify as “unusual circumstances.”  Also, a student’s desire to live on their own or move out after a falling out with their parent(s) does not qualify.  Typically, documented proof of physical and/or mental abuse or abandonment is needed to support the request.

 

In order to file your financial aid application as an independent student, you must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Be age 24 by Jan. 1 of the aid year
  • Be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces 
  • Be currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training
  • Be a graduate or graduate/professional student
  • Be married prior to filing and signing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Be an orphan or ward of the court
  • Have legal dependents other than a spouse
  • Be an emancipated minor or an unaccompanied homeless youth

See the FAFSA instructions for additional information on these criteria. If you do not meet one of the above conditions, you must file as a dependent student and include your parents' information on the FAFSA.

The only exception to the dependency rules stated above is in those rare situations where it can be proven that there is a total breakdown in the relationship between the student and parent(s). If you believe that this describes your situation, you may be eligible to file a Dependency Appeal Form with the Financial Aid Office.

Contact the Financial Aid Office for advice on whether you are eligible to file a Dependency Appeal Form.


Financial Aid Record Retention

Financial Aid student records document student eligibility common to all Federal Title IV Aid Programs. May include, but not limited to: Student Aid Report (SAR) or Institutional Student Information Report (ISIR) used to determine eligibility; documentation of need and eligibility for Title IV funds; Cost of attendance information; documents used to verify applicant data; required student certification statements and supporting documentation; documentation of all professional judgments decisions; financial aid history information for transfer students; documentation of student’s satisfactory academic progress; documentation of amount, date, and basis of all refund and repayment calculations for a student (last dates of attendance, grade rosters); and documentation of outside resources.

Retention: (a) Records relating to a student or parent borrower’s eligibility: 3 years after the end of the award year in which the student borrower last attended the institution, destroy; (b) Other records relating to the participation in FFEL or Direct Loan Program: 3 years after the end of the award year in which the records are submitted, destroy; (c) Fiscal Operations Report, Application to Participate and supporting documentation: three years after the end of the award year in which the FISAP is submitted, destroy; (d) Records involved in any loan, claim, or expenditure questioned by a Title IV, HEA program audit or review, investigation, or other review: Until the resolution of that questioned loan, claim, or expenditure or the end of the Retention period applicable to the record, whichever is longer, destroy.

FERPA (Authorization & Student Privacy)

FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects students' privacy by prohibiting disclosure of education records without adult consent. FERPA also allows parents and students over age 18 to inspect and review education records and request that inaccuracies be corrected.

Schools may share basic "directory" information, such as student names and phone numbers, if they give parents the opportunity to opt out. However, advance written permission is required to release all other student-level information, such as student coursework, class discussions, recorded comments, and grades, if they are linked to any information that would enable a member of the school community to identify the student. Several exceptions in the law allow individuals such as teachers and administrators with a legitimate educational interest in the student's record to access personally identifiable student data without prior parent consent.

In 2008, FERPA was updated to provide better access to education data for research and accountability. These changes permit the release of student-level data that has been stripped of personally identifying information and allow states to share student information in consolidated education data systems designed to improve student achievement.

Clear guidance on how schools can collect and share data without compromising student safety and anonymity would empower educators and learners to take full advantage of emerging technologies and tools without fear of violating FERPA.

Source: http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

Cal U FERPA Policy can be found online at: http://www.calu.edu/current-students/records/ferpa/index.htm

FERPA AND FINANCIAL AID:

In the Financial Aid Office, we take the students privacy very seriously. When you call into our office regarding a student’s account please be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Students Campus Wide ID and Name
  • Are you a parent on the FAFSA for Dependent Students and for Independent students we check to see if we are given permission to discuss the students account with the person calling.
  • We will verify your name
  • We will verify your date of birth
  • Last four of social security number ( if the above cannot be answered)

If you are not the parent whose information is appearing on the FAFSA we will need a signed statement or an email from the students Cal U email account stating that we have permission to speak with you. The student will need to include your  name, relationship to student and your date of birth.  If we do not have this authorization on file we cannot release financial aid information to you.

 

Fraud & Financial Aid

Financial Aid Fraud is the attempt to mislead a school, funding agency or guarantor to allow a student to pay tuition with money for which he or she would not otherwise qualify. This type of fraud can be perpetrated by parents or students.

Students and potential students who enroll in classes and accept financial aid based on enrollment with no intent to complete classes may be considered perpetrators of financial aid fraud. The student's tuition and fees are usually paid by financial aid funds, and the student receives refunds of financial aid funds in excess of those costs.

Falsifying information on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is considered to be fraudulent.

Schools develop systematic approaches to detect fraud, although one of the chief deterrents tends to be the threat of expulsion if the fraud is detected and proven. Fraud that results in money in the perpetrator's pocket, rather than in the school's account to pay down a tuition bill, is more likely to be criminally prosecuted. Based on guidance issued by the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education, Cal U has instituted procedures designed to identify such students who may be committing financial aid fraud or be at risk of being a victim of this crime.

In cases where Cal U finds that there is significant reason to be concerned that financial aid fraud is occurring, the University has an obligation to refer that information to the Office of The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education.

Financial Aid Fraud is not taken lightly and deemed unacceptable at Cal U.

Filing Tip

File early - at least by April 1, even though the deadline is May 1. The extra 30 days gives the federal government plenty of time to process your FAFSA and send the results to Cal U. If you have to use estimated financial information, you will have the opportunity to correct your figures once your application is received.


Why do you need a FAFSA PIN?

Use your FAFSA Personal Identification Number (PIN) to electronically sign your FAFSA online, complete and make corrections to your Renewal FAFSA, and complete and sign your Federal Stafford Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN).

Quick Links:

FASFA4caster

FAFSA on the Web

Verification

Am I Dependent or Independent

Information Needed to Complete a FAFSA

Reporting Same Sex Marriage on FAFSA

Which Parent to use to Complete the FAFSA

Glossary of financial aid terms

Get Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader is required to view and print PDF files. Click on the image below for free download.

Get Adobe Reader. Clicking on this image will take you to another web site where you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free. The site will open in a new window.