Frequently Asked Questions
- Am I eligible for a Direct Subsidized Loan or a Direct Unsubsidized Loan?
To receive either type of loan, the student must be enrolled at least half-time at a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program. Generally, the student must also be enrolled in a program that leads to being awarded a degree or certificate. Direct Subsidized Loans are available only to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to both undergraduates and students who are pursuing graduate or professional degrees. Students are not required to demonstrate financial need in order to qualify for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan.
- Is there a time limit on how long I can receive loans?
If the student is a first-time borrower on or after July 1, 2013, there is a limit to the maximum period of time (measured in academic years) that he/she can receive Direct Subsidized Loans. These students may not receive Direct Subsidized Loans for more than 150 percent of the published length of their program. This is called their “maximum eligibility period.” The maximum eligibility period is generally based on the published length of the student’s current program. Students can usually find the published length of any program of study in the school’s catalog. This time limit does not apply to Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Direct PLUS Loans.
For example, if a student is enrolled in a four-year bachelor’s degree program, the maximum period for which they can receive Direct Subsidized Loans is six years (150 percent of 4 years = 6 years). If a student is enrolled in a two-year associate degree program, the maximum period for which they can receive Direct Subsidized Loans is three years (150 percent of 2 years = 3 years).
Because a student's maximum eligibility period is based on the length of his/her current program of study, the maximum eligibility period can change if he/she changes to a program of different length. Also, if a student receives Direct Subsidized Loans for one program and then changes to another program, the Direct Subsidized Loans the student received for the earlier program will generally count toward the new maximum eligibility period.
Certain types of enrollment may cause students to become responsible for the interest that accrues on their Direct Subsidized Loans when the U.S. Department of Education might otherwise have paid it. These enrollment patterns are described below.
Do I become responsible for paying the interest that accrues on my Direct Subsidized Loans because . . .
I am no longer eligible for Direct Subsidized Loans and stay enrolled in my current program?
I am no longer eligible for Direct Subsidized Loans, did not graduate from my prior program, and am enrolled in an undergraduate program that is the same length or shorter than my prior program?
I transferred into the shorter program and lost eligibility for Direct Subsidized Loans because I have received Direct Subsidized Loans for a period that equals or exceeds my new, lower maximum eligibility period, which is based on the length of the new program?
I was no longer eligible for Direct Subsidized Loans, did not graduate from my prior program, and am enrolled in an undergraduate program that is longer than my prior program?
I lose eligibility for Direct Subsidized Loans and immediately withdraw from my program?
I graduated from my prior program prior to or upon meeting the 150 percent limit and enroll in an undergraduate program that is the same length or shorter than my prior program?
I enroll in a graduate or professional program?
I enroll in preparatory coursework that I am required to complete to enroll in a graduate or professional program?
I enroll in a teacher certification program (where my school does not award an academic credential)?
- Must I pass a credit check to be eligible for a Stafford student loan?
No. Eligibility for Federal Direct Loans is not dependent on a student's credit history.
- Can I use student loan money for other expenses, such as a computer, books, or even rent?
- Yes, students can usually borrow more than the exact amount of their university balances. Leftover funds can be used to cover additional expenses. Talk to your financial aid office for details, and only borrow what is absolutely needed.
- When do I complete the Federal Direct Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN)?
The Master Promissory Note (MPN) must be signed by all Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan borrowers. Once the Federal Loan Origination Center (LOC) confirms to SFA that a valid MPN is on file, additional MPN's need not be signed for new loan periods for up to 10 years or until you contact the LOC to cancel the MPN. First-time loan borrowers may sign a new MPN as early as January 1 prior to the school year from which you seek financial assistance.
- Is it legal for a 17-year-old student to sign a promissory note for a student loan?
Normally, a minor cannot be held liable for a contract that they sign. However, in 1992 the Higher Education Act was amended to permit eligible students, defined as per Title IV regulations, to sign promissory notes for their own federal student loans. As such, student loans represent one of the few exceptions to the so-called “defense of infancy.” The specific citation is section 484A (b) (2) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 USC 1091a (b) (2)), and applies to Stafford, PLUS, and Consolidation Loans. It does not appear to apply to Perkins and Direct Loans, although that was clearly the intent of Congress.
Several states have also passed similar laws that consider minors to be competent to enter into a contract for an education loan. This extends similar protection to private and non-federal loans. Just to be safe, all private education loans require a cosigner when the student is under the age of majority.
- Where are my student loans?
The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education's (ED's) central database for student aid. NSLDS receives data from schools, guaranty agencies, the Direct Loan program, the Pell Grant program, and other Department of ED programs. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and Pell grants so that recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their Title IV loans and/or Pell grant data.
Students can log in at www.nslds.ed.gov to keep track of how much they have borrowed. Students will log in using their FSA ID.
- If I am in default on an educational loan, can I still receive financial aid?
Students who are currently in default on educational loans are not eligible to receive federal financial aid. Our office recommends that they contact their lender and attempt to make satisfactory payment arrangements with them.
If the default status has been resolved, the student must provide a letter from the lender(s) stating that the default status has been resolved and that they are again eligible to receive federal financial aid.
- If I take a leave of absence, do I have to start repaying my loans?
Not immediately. The Direct Student loan has a grace period of 6 months before the student must begin repayment. When a student takes a leave of absence, he/she will not have to make payments until the grace period is used up. However, students who have exhausted their grace period must begin repaying their loan immediately after graduation. It is possible to request an extension to the grace period, but this must be done before the grace period is exhausted.
If the grace period runs out in the middle of the student’s leave of absence, the student must start making payments on his/her student loans.
- How do I keep my loan from going into repayment when I switch colleges?
Generally, there is a 6 month grace period between the time you stop attending school and your Direct Student loan enters repayment. Most colleges do regular enrollment reporting that provides loan holders with information on student enrollment statuses. You can contact the Department of Student Financial Assistance with questions, if needed. Also, notify the lender that you are still in school and confirm if and when payments on your loan will be due.
- I am having trouble making my student loan payments. What can I do?
There are options for borrowers who need payment relief. The most important first step is to contact the lender as soon as possible. Students can work with their lenders to adjust monthly payments, request deferment, or apply for forbearance. Research and discuss repayment options with your lender to be sure you understand each option and its consequences.
- What is a Pell Grant?
Grants are money that does not have to be paid back. Eligibility for grants is determined by the information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. A student must have a Pell eligible EFC (Expected Family Contribution) to receive Pell grants. All grants are considered need based aid. A Pell eligible EFC ranges from $0 to around *$5328. (*EFC range is applicable to the 2017-2018 academic year)
- Can all of my grant money be used for the fall semester, since I will be graduating in December?
Because Pell Grants are awarded per semester, and can only be paid during each semester of actual enrollment, December graduates cannot be awarded the Spring-term portion.
- I was awarded Pell Grant and added a course after the drop/add deadline? Will my Pell Grant increase?
The Pell Grant is initially awarded at the full time enrollment rate (based on 12 hours or more). Immediately following the 100% drop/add deadline, grant amounts are adjusted to match the student’s enrollment as of that date. (Ex. The Pell Grant for a student enrolled in 9 credit hours will be reduced from the full-time rate to the ¾ time rate). If a student drops or adds a course after the 100% drop/add deadline has passed, grants are not adjusted up or down. Some exceptions to this rule include students enrolled less than full time, who:
- Add or drop a 2nd bi-term course before the 100% drop/add date for bi-terms,
- Are dropped for non-attendance, or
- Add an On Demand class and have completed an eligible financial aid agreement.
- Is there a limit as to how many semesters I can receive a Pell Grant?
Yes, students are limited to the equivalent of 12 full time semesters, or 600%. Once that has been met, there is no further Pell Grant eligibility.
- I received a bachelor's degree but am coming back for another undergraduate degree. Am I still eligible to receive Pell Grants?
No, once a student has earned his/her first bachelor’s degree, he/she is no longer eligible for Pell Grants.
- I just graduated with my associate's degree. Am I still eligible to receive Pell Grants?
- Yes, as long as the student has not earned a first Bachelor’s degree.
Financial Aid Processing & Awarding
- I have completed and submitted the FAFSA. What happens next?
You will receive confirmation that your FAFSA data has been processed. The colleges/universities listed on your Student Aid Report (SAR) will determine your eligibility for financial aid and notify you in writing. The notification you receive is commonly known as an Award Letter. The college/university also notifies the student if any other information is required to complete the financial aid process.
- How long does it take to process my FAFSA?
If you filed or made changes electronically over the Web, the federal processor will normally process your information within two weeks. The Department of Student Financial Assistance Office will normally import your processed information within ten business days. You can check the “Award Status” section of TopNet to see determine if the Financial Aid Office has received and processed your FAFSA.
- How will I be contacted regarding my financial aid information?
The Department of Student Financial Assistance will communicate with students via their WKU email account. All students are responsible for checking their WKU email accounts weekly and must promptly respond to any financial aid office request for action or information from the student or parent. Failure to do so may result in the student's inability to receive federal financial aid.
- How will I know how much aid I qualify for?
An award notification will be emailed to you via your WKU email account. You will be instructed to log on to "Accept Your Award."
- What should I do if I have not received an Award Letter from WKU?
Call the Department of Student Financial Assistance to verify that your FAFSA data was received. You should also check your SAR to make sure you have WKU listed as one of the recipients of your FAFSA data. If WKU is not listed, contact the Federal Processor at 1-800-433-3243 to add WKU to the schools authorized to receive this information. WKU's Federal school code is 002002. Be sure to have your SAR available when you call; you will need to give the representative the four-digit Data Release Number (DRN) assigned to your SAR.
- Why am I not eligible for more aid or certain types of aid?
Some financial aid is need based and some is merit based, while other types require both need and merit. Several factors are involved when determining your aid eligibility:
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - This figure is calculated by the federal processor when a student files the FAFSA. The EFC indicates what a family is expected to contribute toward a student's educational expenses. It also serves as an index for awarding certain types of aid.
Grade Point Average (GPA) - Certain scholarships require a specific cumulative GPA.
Class Rank - The Federal Direct Loan Program has annual limits based on the total number of hours you have successfully completed.
Budget/Cost of Attendance - All Western Kentucky University students are assigned a cost of attendance budget based on academic level, residency, living arrangements, etc. A budget includes tuition, room and board, transportation, clothing, laundry, telephone, and other miscellaneous expenses for the terms you enroll in an academic year. Federal regulations prohibit any institution from awarding aid that exceeds a student's annual budget or need-based aid in excess of a student's demonstrated financial need.
Deadlines - There are federal, state, and university deadlines. If you do not file the FAFSA or Scholarship Application by your priority deadline, you may be ineligible for certain types of aid.
- Can I start my course if my financial aid process is still in progress?
Yes, you may begin classes, but you must work closely with the Department of Student Financial Assistance to complete your application. If your university balance is not paid in full by the due date, you may be subject to late fees imposed by the Billings Office.
- What happens if I decide to attend part-time?
Your aid may be reduced or, in some cases, canceled, in order to comply with regulations or eligibility requirements.
- How will I know if I've been awarded aid, and how do I accept or decline it?
Once all requested documentation has been submitted to our office, you will receive an official email award notification. The award notice outlines how much aid you are eligible to receive and directs you to accept or decline awards on TopNet,
From the WKU home page you can access TopNet from the Students menu. Select TopNet Login and enter your Net ID and password. If you have trouble with this step, please contact the IT Help Desk at 270-745-7000.
After reviewing the bulletin board, continue login and select Financial Aid, Award, and Accept Award Offer.
After choosing the appropriate aid year you will be able to view your awards and accept* or decline them.
*Some awards, i.e., upperclassmen scholarships, including KEES, and grants will be automatically accepted by the Department of Student Financial Assistance, depending on the programs' specific requirements and after all audits have been completed. There is nothing the student needs to do to accept these awards. (Beginning freshmen scholarships must be accepted).
Also, students cannot accept the Parent PLUS Loan. Parents can visit http://www.studentloans.gov to apply for the Parent PLUS Loan. The parent must login with Parent FAFSA FSA ID and complete the "Request PLUS Loan," which is the credit check. If approved the parent can then e-sign the Parent PLUS MPN. Once the parent’s credit is approved and the MPN is signed, WKU will update the PLUS Loan offer to “accepted.”
- I don't want to use my WKU email address for my correspondence with WKU. Can you send information to another email address?
The University uses the WKU email account, known as TopperMail, for all university email communication. To use your TopperMail account, go to webmail.wku.edu and enter your credentials.
- Once I have accepted my award package, can anything change or affect my award?
Changes in enrollment may affect your financial aid eligibility. If you have financial aid and are considering cancelling registration, dropping courses, withdrawing, or auditing any course, contact the Department of Student Financial Assistance before doing so. You will be advised as to how your aid will be affected by the change, which will help you make the best possible enrollment decision.
- Is there anything else that could affect my award/eligibility?
Yes. All aid is monitored to ensure that the total amount awarded, including federal financial aid, scholarships (both institutional and outside), and other resources, does not exceed the total cost of attendance for the academic year. Initial financial aid awards are our best estimate of what you are eligible to receive. Also, please remember to notify the Department of Student Financial Assistance of any outside awards you may be receiving. Most changes in awards, however, involve factors which are under your control or of which you should be aware. Your award may be increased, reduced, or even canceled, if:
Your family's financial circumstances change, causing your need to change.
You receive any additional outside resource, such as a privately-awarded scholarship, which was not listed on your award letter.
You provided incorrect data on your FAFSA.
You do not maintain academic progress as required by the WKU Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy.
You are suspended by your college or by the University.
You do not enroll for the required number of hours to receive aid through programs awarded you.
You decide to audit a course for which you received financial aid.
- How is my "financial need" determined?
When you submit a FAFSA, the federal processor determines your individual family’s ability to contribute to the cost of your education. The processor assigns an "Expected Family Contribution” or “EFC” using the information you provided. This figure is used solely for the determination of financial need and does not represent a figure you will owe the University. The formula they apply is referred to as “Federal methodology.” After receiving your EFC from the processor, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Aid subtracts that EFC from the Cost of Attendance to determine your "need." In essence, the formula is Cost of Attendance-EFC= Financial Need.
- My award is based on a prior year's income. My income and/or my parents' income has changed. What should I do? What if I have unusual circumstances since I completed my FAFSA?
If any of the following circumstances apply to you/your family, check with your financial aid adviser immediately to see if this might affect your financial aid application.
Divorce of parents or you from your spouse
Death of a major wage earner
Loss of employment of a major wage earner
Loss of other income or benefits (such as Social Security or child support) by you, your parents, or your spouse
Student Financial Assistance
317 Potter Hall
Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Blvd. #11018
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1018
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