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FAQ: Financial Aid (General)

College Costs

Financial Aid (General)

College Costs

What is it going to cost me this year to pay for higher education?

Average 2011-2012 Tuition and Fees for Resident Undergraduates Attending Minnesota Schools
Type of School Average
Technical and Community Colleges$5,173
State Universities$7,323
University of Minnesota$13,062
Private Career Colleges$14,042
Private Colleges and Universities$31,862

Note: These figures vary by campus. There are additional costs a student should consider in determining the cost of attending a postsecondary education institution: living expenses; transportation; books and other materials, such as tools, art supplies, lab fees; and child care. In fact, living and miscellaneous expenses exceed tuition and fees for students at public colleges.

View actual Minnesota tuition and fees.


Financial Aid (General)

What is available for my child to help pay for postsecondary education?

There are many financial aid programs available. Some are based on financial need, while others are based on other considerations. There are three major types of financial aid (grants/scholarships, loans and work-study jobs), and four major sources of the funds (federal government, state government, institutions and private foundations). See the college's financial aid office for specific information. Parents should also explore the tax credit and savings options that can help them pay. View more information on how to pay for college.


Is financial aid available to help families keep up with the rising prices?

Both the state and federal governments provide need-based student financial aid, as do the colleges themselves and private sources. Loans and work study also are available. It's important to apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) since it is used to award most aid. View more information on how to pay for college


How do I get financial aid?

You apply for it. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the standard application for federal and state financial aid. You can apply online after January 1 at Complete the form and have it sent to all the colleges you are considering for admission. Remember: applying for admission is a separate process from applying for financial aid. You must complete both processes separately. Some colleges may have additional forms you must complete.


How do I apply? What are the deadlines?

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online at The deadline for 2011-2012 is June 30, 2012 for a Pell Grant.

For the Minnesota State Grant Program, the FAFSA must be received no later than 30 days after the beginning of the first term for which the student wants to receive a State Grant award. Each student should check with the college they plan to attend to determine the deadline for that institution. Missing the deadline for one term does not mean that the student is ineligible for the entire school year.


Does work study count as income on the FAFSA?

No. Income earned from a need-based work-study program is not counted as income.


I think I applied, but I am not sure. How do I find out if I did or did not?

Contact the financial aid office at your college to determine if you filed a FAFSA application. Or visit and click on "Check Status of a Submitted FAFSA" under "FAFSA Follow-up."


I am thinking of going back to school. Is there anything to help me pay for it?

Even if you don't think you will be eligible, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. There is no fee to apply. The FAFSA will determine your eligibility for federal and state financial aid based on your financial situation and the college you select. The best advice is to pick several colleges that meet your academic or training needs, and ask those colleges about the availability of financial aid. At the very least, there would be three no-need loan programs available to you: federal PLUS Loan, Minnesota's SELF Loan and the federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan. Financial Aid Basics also describes the federal tax credits that may help you pay for college.

The Alliss Opportunity Grant pays tuition, fees and books for one course at some Minnesota community colleges if you have no bachelor's degree and have been out of school for seven or more years. Ask the financial aid office how to apply.


Our income dropped significantly this year. Can we get help?

College financial aid administrators are able to update or alter the student's or parents' financial data on the FAFSA if they have clear evidence that the family's income has changed. Try to figure out how the family's current tax-year information will differ from the family's previous tax year, and send that information, in letter form, to your school's financial aid office, asking for reconsideration of your family financial need.


We filled out the FAFSA and we were turned down, but our neighbor got a grant. Why?

Eligibility for most grants is based on demonstrated financial need. Need is a function of not only family income, but also family size, number in college and the cost of the school for which the grant was applied.

Your neighbor's child might have qualified for a grant even though their income is higher because they have fewer assets than you do, there are more children in the family, there are more people in the family enrolled in college, or their child is attending a more expensive school. Your neighbor may be receiving a scholarship from the institution based on student grades or athletics. Furthermore, you might not really know what your neighbor's income is. Many families live beyond their means.

Many colleges are now collecting federal tax forms from the families along with the financial aid application in order to audit the accuracy of the information being submitted.


How can a person apply for financial aid without involving his/her parents?

There are two models for applying for financial aid: the dependent model and the independent model. You cannot choose which one to use.

Students who do not meet the definition for an independent are classified as dependent and must report their parents' financial information

If your parents are unwilling to complete the FAFSA, you can submit it without their information, but you will only qualify for the federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan.

If you have any questions about your dependency status or if there are unusual circumstances that would prevent you from obtaining your parents' financial information, you should contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend.


Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to qualify for financial aid?

No. You must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or an eligible non-citizen. You are considered an eligible non-citizen if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are a U.S. permanent resident with an Alien Registration Card (I-551).
  • You are a conditional permanent resident with an I-551C card.
  • You have an Arrival Departure Record (I-94) from the Department of Homeland Security with any of the following designations: refugee, asylum granted, parolee, Cuban-Haitian entrant, victim of human trafficking or holder of a T-Visa.


Do online learners qualify for financial aid?

Yes. Students enrolled in online courses or programs may be eligible for some types of financial aid. To be eligible for federal financial aid, the student must:

  • attend an institution that is eligible to participate in federal financial aid
  • meet the student eligibility requirements for federal programs

Students may be eligible for a SELF Loan at participating schools. Undergraduate Minnesota residents also may qualify for the Minnesota State Grant Program if the institution is physically located in Minnesota and participates in the program.

To learn more about your financial aid eligibility, check with the financial aid office at the institution you are attending or plan to attend.


Is financial aid available for graduate students?

Be sure to talk with your employer about any education benefits it may provide. Many businesses reimburse all or part of the tuition and other educational expenses you incur.

Unlike undergraduate study, there are no federal or state grant/scholarship programs for graduate study. Most assistance for graduate students comes from the graduate schools themselves or from private scholarships.

Most graduate students use student loans, personal savings and jobs (internships/teaching or research assistanceships) to pay for graduate education. As for student loans, there are primarily five that are used: Perkins Loan, Subsidized Stafford Loan, Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, PLUS Loan and the SELF Loan Program. Perkins and Stafford are need-based. Unsubsidized Stafford, PLUS and SELF are not. There are also several alternate educational loans offered by private lenders. If the graduate school is in the health sciences, there may be some loans specifically for that area, such as the Federal Health Professions Student Loan Program, available.


Does Minnesota have a pre-paid tuition plan or other saving incentive programs?

No. Minnesota does not offer a prepaid tuition plan. However, the state does have the Minnesota College Savings Plan to help families financially prepare for education beyond high school.