Financial Aid Basics
There are four basic types of aid (scholarships, grants, loans and employment) that students may access in financing their education. Students must be matriculated and in a degree seeking program to be eligible to receive grants and federal loans. While the family is always considered the primary resource in funding a college education, families who don’t have the personal means to pay part or all of the cost of college may rely on aid from some of the programs listed below.
Scholarships are considered gift aid which does not have to be repaid and are typically awarded based on special talent (i.e. academic achievement), sometimes in combination with financial need. These awards often have annual conditions for renewal related to the specific award (i.e. a specific cumulative Grade Point Average for renewal of an academic scholarship).
Eastern will support four kinds of scholarships, Honors Scholarships, Merit Scholarships, Presidential Scholarships and Phi Theta Kappa Scholarships, beginning with the 2015-16 academic year, as described below:
- Honors Scholarships are awarded to incoming first-year students who are admitted to the University Honors Program and are conditioned on the student’s living on campus, continuing participation in the program and maintaining the following cumulative GPA’s in the four undergraduate years (freshman, 3.3, sophomore, 3.4, junior, 3.45 and senior, 3.5). The scholarship covers the student’s annual tuition (not fees) and, for in-state students, $2,000 of annual room charges. The scholarship is limited to eight semesters.
- Merit Scholarships are awarded to incoming first-year and transfer students of high academic ability. First-year scholarships are limited to eight semesters and transfer scholarships may provide up to six semesters of aid. First-year scholarships require the student to live on campus, maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and range from $9,000 to $2,500 depending on academic achievement in high school and state of residence. Transfer scholarships require the student to maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and range from $9,000 to $2,000 depending on academic achievement in college, state of residence and whether the student lives on- or off-campus.
- Presidential Scholarships are awarded to incoming international students of high academic ability. These scholarships are valued at $9,000 or $6,000 annually, depending on whether a student lives on- or off-campus. These scholarships provide eight semesters of aid to incoming first-year international students and up to six semesters of aid for incoming transfer international students
- Phi Theta Kappa Scholarships are awarded to incoming transfer students who are members of the Phi Theta Kappa Transfer Honor Society and who demonstrate sufficient financial need based on filing the FAFSA. This scholarship is valued at $1,000 annually, may provide up to six semesters of aid and requires the maintenance of good academic standing (2.0 GPA) for renewal.
The State of Connecticut also makes available two scholarships for students who ranked in the top 20% of their high school junior class or have a combined SAT score (Critical Reading, Math and Writing) of 1800 or higher or an ACT Composite Score of 27 or higher.
- The Governor’s Scholarship Program Scholarship provides a merit- and need-based award to Connecticut students with the above outlined credentials who will begin college in the fall 2013 and beyond.
- The Capitol Scholarship provides a merit- and need-based award to students with the above outlined criteria who began their college career in the fall 2012 or before. This award is being phased out through the 2015-16 academic year.
Both scholarships require filing a FAFSA and a scholarship specific application (available from the high school guidance office for new freshman applicants or the CT Office of Higher Education for returning students) by February 15 for the following academic year award. The scholarships can range up to $4,500 per academic year.
External Scholarships are funded by a variety of agencies and organizations external to the University. Students can search for such scholarship opportunities by using free on-line resources such as the FastWEB Scholarship Service at www.fastweb.com and should never pay a fee to search for scholarships. When students are notified about the award of such a scholarship by an external funding agency, a copy of the award notification should be forwarded immediately to the Office of Financial Aid.
Grants are awarded, and vary in amount, based on financial need and do not have to be repaid. At Eastern, grants may be funded by the state or federal government and from the University’s own resources. Students from outside Connecticut are advised to check on the availability and portability of state grants in their home state. While Pell Grant is an “entitlement” program that guarantees funding to any eligible student, all the other grant programs listed below have limited funding and awards are based, among other things, on whether a student files the FAFSA by Eastern’s Financial Aid Priority Dates.
- Pell Grant was established by Congress as a basic access federal grant for full or part-time undergraduate students with very high financial need. Recipients must be U.S. citizens, be pursuing their first bachelor’s degree and maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress. Awards range from $400 to $5,550 annually based on need and registration status.
- Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) is a federal grant awarded to very high need, full-time undergraduate students. The same conditions apply as for Pell Grant above. These funds are allocated to universities for distribution by the federal government and are limited. At Eastern, only full-time Pell Grant recipients who meet our priority dates may be awarded SEOG.
- Governor’s Scholarship Program Grant is provided based on financial need to Connecticut students whose academic credentials fall below those outlined above for the Governor’s Scholarship Program Scholarship. This grant requires filing the FAFSA annually prior to March 1 for fall enrollment and awards can range from $2,000-$3,000 annually.
- Connecticut Aid For Public College Students Grant (CAPCS) is being phased out through the 2015-16 academic year. For 2013-14 and beyond, only full-time upperclass undergraduate students who are Connecticut residents, demonstrate financial need, are enrolled at Eastern and received this award during the 12-13 academic year may receive an award. This grant is funded by the Connecticut Department of Higher Education and is normally values at $2,100 annually.
- Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) Grant is an institutionally funded grant that may be awarded to any undergraduate student who demonstrates financial need and is enrolled as a full degree-seeking student. These grants may range from $500 up to approximately $12,000 per year depending on a student’s need, academic profile, state of residence and the availability of funds.
- Connecticut Minority Teacher Incentive Grant is provided to full-time college juniors and seniors of African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American or Native American heritage who are enrolled in Eastern’s teacher preparation program. This grant can total $5,000 for two years of study. Additionally, these students may receive a loan repayment stipend of $2,500 per year to a maximum of four years if they have outstanding undergraduate loans and teach in a Connecticut public elementary or secondary school within sixteen months of graduation.
- Federal TEACH Grant is a non-need based grant awarded to upperclass undergraduates and graduate students who are enrolled in Eastern’s teacher preparation programs and can provide up to $4,000 per year. The recipient must agree to teach, within eight years of graduation, in a high-need field (defined by the federal government) for at least four years in a low-income elementary or secondary school or the grant must be repaid as a Direct Loan.
Student loans have long been a part of the array of federal financial aid programs and continue today as one important component of financing a higher education. There are several federally-funded programs, some of which have recently undergone significant change in terms of funding source, as well as privately funded programs, available to families. Loans represent financial aid that must be repaid over time and interest rates vary from program to program. Eligibility for borrowing through most of these programs is determined by filing the FAFSA on an annual basis and require at least half-time enrollment (6 credits/semester for undergrads and 4.5 credits/semester for grad students). See the charts below that describe annual and aggregate borrowing limits and interest rates. Students should only borrow what they absolutely need to cover mandatory expenses.
Please note under HEOA Sec. 489, amended HEA Sec. 485B (d) (4) (20 U.S.C. 1092b), all potential students or parents of a student borrowing a Federal Student Loan will have their information submitted to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), and that information will be accessible by guaranty agencies, lenders, and institutions determined to be authorized users of the data.
- Direct Loan is by far the largest federal loan program through which students borrow. This program serves both students who demonstrate financial need and well as those who don’t. The difference is that undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need qualify for “subsidized” loans, while undergrads who don’t demonstrate need and graduate students only qualify for “unsubsidized” loans. The term “subsidized” means that the federal government pays the interest on the loan for the student as long as the student is enrolled as at least a half-time student. “Unsubsidized” means that the student must pay the interest that accrues during their college career or defer the interest payments until they graduate.
First time Direct Loan borrowers are required to complete Entrance Counseling and a Master Promissory Note (MPN). An MPN is a contract under which a borrower receives federally funded loans. These items can be completed electronically at www.studentloans.gov.
Direct Loan Interest Rates and Aggregate Borrowing Limits
|Year||Dependent Students||Independent Students**|
|First-Year Undergraduate (0-29 credits)||$5,500—No more than $3,500 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.||$9,500—No more than $3,500 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.|
|Second-Year Undergraduate (30-59 credits)||$6,500—No more than $4,500 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.||$10,500—No more than $4,500 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.|
|Third-Year and Beyond Undergraduate (60 or more credits)||$7,500 per year—No more than $5,500 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.||$12,500 per year—No more than $5,500 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.|
|Graduate or Professional Degree Students||Not Applicable||$20,500 – all unsubsidized*|
|Maximum Total Debt from Direct Loans||$31,000—No more than $23,000 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.||$57,500 for undergraduates—No more than $23,000 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans.
$138,500 for graduate or professional students—No more than $65,500 of this amount may be in subsidized* loans. The graduate debt limit includes all federal loans received for undergraduate study.
*The interest rate is currently 4.66% for subsidized loans and 4.66% for unsubsidized loans.
**Includes dependent students whose parents are unable to qualify for a PLUS Loan
- Perkins Loan is another federal loan program whose more limited resources are targeted to students with exceptional need. At Eastern, loans in this program are typically packaged for students who qualify for Pell Grant. The interest on this loan is paid by the federal government while the student is enrolled and for nine months after the student graduates and the student may spread payments over a ten year period.
- Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) is designed for parents to borrow at a favorable interest rate in order to help finance their child’s college education or spread the expense of college over time. The loans are disbursed twice a year at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters and parents typically begin payments of principal and interest after the second disbursement. These payments may be deferred until the student graduates or is enrolled less than half-time. In some cases, an undergraduate student may borrow additional “unsubsidized” Direct Loan if a parent doesn’t qualify for PLUS. Graduate students may also be eligible to borrow from PLUS if they have exhausted their eligibility for Direct Loan. The interest rate is currently 7.21% for the Direct PLUS Loan.
- Direct Consolidation Loan provides the opportunity for graduates with loans from multiple federal programs to combine these loans into one loan with a single interest rate, payment plan and loan servicer.
- Alternative (Private) Loans are privately-funded loans available to students who don’t demonstrate financial need and/or who need additional funding. As these loans are offered by a variety of lenders and under varying conditions and interest rates, we strongly encourage students to compare and contrast such things as interest rates, rate types, fees, grace periods, terms and repayment options before borrowing. Some lenders may make loans to students who have not been admitted to a degree program, who don’t have a co-signer, who are enrolled less than half-time or who are not making Satisfactory Academic Progress. Simply Google “Alternative or Private Student Loans” to find lenders who offer these loans or check with your local bank or credit union. Do the research and make comparisons in order to find the loan and lender that best meets your particular needs. In all cases, students and parents should exhaust their eligibility for Federal Direct and PLUS Loans before considering Alternative Loans as these loans will always offer lower interest rates.
Working during college is also a longstanding part of the way students help finance their educations. In fact, holding a part-time job is one of the factors that improves a student’s chance of persisting to graduation as it provides another opportunity for the student to make campus connections that provide support. Eastern provides opportunities to work on and off campus through funding made available by the Federal Work Study Program, the CAPS Work Grant and the institution itself. Regardless of funding source, students may receive a work award as part of their package if they indicate an interest when filing the FAFSA, demonstrate financial need and meet Eastern’s priority filing date. Such awards allow students to earn approximately $2,600 during the academic year based on working approximately 10-12 hours per week.