Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions for First-Time Students

  1. What is the FAFSA?
    The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the application that most schools will ask a student to fill out if the student is interested in obtaining financial aid (including loans). The application is based on prior tax year information and requires parent information for dependent students. (The FAFSA has a series of questions that determine a student’s dependency status.) The application must be submitted each year the student wishes to apply for financial aid. The 2014-2015 academic year includes Fall 2014, Winter 2015, and Spring/Summer 2015; the 2014-2015 FAFSA is used for this academic year.

  2. When should I apply with the FAFSA?
    The FAFSA can be submitted as early as January 1, 2014, for the 2014-2015 academic year. Tax information can be estimated on the form, but must be adjusted once the official tax return is completed. Around 30% of these applications are selected, by the federal processor, for a process called “verification”. This is similar to an audit and the school will request certain documents from the student and/or parent to verify the information that was listed on the FAFSA.

  3. What kind of financial aid can I expect?
    It is hard to predict what specific kind of financial aid a student will be eligible for. Need based aid eligibility is determined by this calculation: Cost of Attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Need. The COA is determined by the school based on estimated costs. The federal processor determines the EFC based on all of the information provided on the FAFSA. Most schools award institutional and state need based funds on a first-come, first-served basis; therefore, early application is essential.

  4. What are alternative loans?
    Federal loans have limits based on the grade level and dependency status of the student. The dependent freshman limit is $5500 (up to $3500 in subsidized funds if eligible) for the academic year. Students often need additional funding or borrowing opportunities to help with remaining costs. That is where alternative loans come in. These are student loans with some flexibility in repayment, but typically higher interest rates. In most cases, students need co-signers for these loans. You can find out more information about the alternative loans SVSU students tend to utilize on the alternative/private loan page.

  5. Can my parents borrow money?
    Parents are able to apply for the Parent PLUS Loan. Approval of this loan is based on a credit approval. If a parent is denied, the student is eligible for additional Federal Stafford Unsubsidized Loan funds in his/her own name. A dependent freshman student, whose parent is denied for a PLUS loan, can borrow up to $4000 additional unsubsidized funds.

  6. When is my bill due?
    Fall 2014 tuition, fees, and/or housing charges will likely be due in late July 2014. Winter 2015 tuition, fees, and/or housing charges will likely be due in late November 2014. Once the tuition and fee amounts are established for the 2014-2015 academic year, the student’s charges are posted to Self-Service/Cardinal Direct, at Payment by credit card or e-check is accepted online.

  7. Can I make payments?
    The university does offer a 4-month, interest-free payment plan option for the Fall and Winter semesters. It is called the Cardinal Payment Plan. Information and forms can be obtained at

  8. When do I or my parents pay the loans back?
    Federal Direct Stafford loans (both subsidized and unsubsidized) do not have to start being repaid until 6 months after graduation or departure from at least half-time enrollment. Unsubsidized loans start accumulating interest as soon as the funds are disbursed. The U.S. Department of Education will send quarterly interest statements to the student with the option to pay at any time. Federal Parent PLUS loans must start being repaid 60 days after the second disbursement of the loan, but at parent can request deferment on the loan as long as the student is enrolled at least half-time, contact your loan servicer for more information. Alternative loans have varying options. Some have the 6 months after graduation repayment option and others allow for up to 5 years forbearance.

  9. When do I get my money?
    At the earliest, loan funds are disbursed to the school, as long as everything is in place, up to 10 days before the semester begins. The funds are applied to any outstanding balance and any excess is refunded to the student. The first disbursement of a Federal Stafford Loan for a first-time borrower must be disbursed 30 days into the semester. This means a first-time freshman student cannot expect any refund from a loan until after this 30 day period. Any excess scholarship or grant funds are disbursed to the student after the refund periods (about 5-6 weeks into each semester) after all awards are finalized.

  10. How do I pay for my books?
    If a student has excess funds from scholarships and/or grants after tuition, fees, and/or housing is paid, up to $610 will automatically transfer to the bookstore the week before classes for the student to use to purchase books. If the excess funds are from a loan, the student must “opt-in” to have up to $610 transfer to the bookstore. This is done on Self-Service/Cardinal Direct, at Any funds that are not used at the bookstore will ultimately be refunded to the student.