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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions (Basic Information) for Financial Aid for 2023-2024

FAFSA Questions

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form used by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to determine your EFC by conducting a “need analysis” based on financial information, such as income, assets and other household information, which you (and your parents if you are a dependent student) will be asked to provide. The form is submitted to, and processed by, a federal processor contracted by the ED, and the results are electronically transmitted to the financial aid offices of the schools that you list on your application.The FAFSA is the application you will use to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, educational loans. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easier than ever, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to help pay for college or career school.

Beginning May 10, 2015, the Federal Student Aid PIN will be replaced with an FSA ID.
The new FSA ID, comprised of a user-selected username and password, has replaced the Federal Student Aid PIN as the process by which students, parents, and borrowers authenticate their identity to access their federal student aid information.

  • Existing users may link their PIN information to the FSA ID. More information here.
  • Student and parents of dependents students can create the FSA ID here. here.
  • How to create an FSA ID
The FSA ID process consists of three main steps:
  1. Enter your log-in information.
    • Provide your e-mail address, a unique username, and password, and verify that you are at least 13 years old.
  2. Enter your personal information.
    • Provide your Social Security number, name, and date of birth.
    • Include your mailing address, e-mail address, telephone number, and language preference.
    • For security purposes, provide answers to four challenge questions.
  3. Submit your FSA ID information.
    • Agree to the terms and conditions.
    • Verify your e-mail address. (Note: By verifying your e-mail address, you can use your e-mail address as your username when logging into certain ED websites. This verification also allows you to retrieve your username or reset your password without answering challenge questions.)

The FAFSA that launched on January 1 is the 2023–2024 FAFSA, which covers the period from July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024. So if you’re going to be in school during that period, then yes, you do need to fill out a FAFSA again. You have to fill out a FAFSA each year while in school in order to apply for aid.To renew your FAFSA, go to www.fafsa.gov, select “Login” to log in, and you will be given the option to complete a FAFSA Renewal that has much of your application data from last year. Students who provided their email address on the FAFSA will receive email notification of the FAFSA Renewal online.

You will need your FSA ID Username and Password to access your 2023–2024 FAFSA. If you’ve not set up your FSA ID, you can create the FSA ID here.

Yes. Many families mistakenly think they don’t qualify for aid and prevent themselves from receiving financial aid by failing to apply for it. The FAFSA form is free. There is no good excuse for not applying.

Nearly every student is eligible for some form of financial aid, regardless of income, provide that you:

  • Are U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Are not in default on a federal loan or owe money on a federal grant.
  • Are registered with the Selective Service, if you are a male (you must register between the ages of 18 and 25)
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in school
  • Go to www.fafsa.gov and click on “Start A New FAFSA.”
  • Complete and electronically submit the free application, FAFSA.
  • Federal School Code for Columbia College is 041273

As you complete the FAFSA, you should have the following records available to help you answer questions on the application: Prepare the following information to apply for the FAFSA

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s license (if any)
  • Permanent Resident Card (if you are not a U.S citizen), I-94 (if you are Refugee, or Asylum)
  • 2021 income tax return & W-2 & Other income records
  • Parents’ 2021 income tax return (if you are a dependent student)
  • Current bank statements,
  • Current stock, bond, and other investment records
In about four to six days after you have filed your FAFSA, you will receive a “Student Aid Report” (SAR) by an e-mail you included on the application.
The SAR is a needs-analysis document generated by the Federal Processor based on the financial data you supplied. If corrections are necessary, the SAR will indicate as such and will direct you to make correction. If Financial Aid Office requires additional documentation, students should provide their school with necessary documents.
The FAFSA allows you to indicate “Will File” for your tax filing status; select that option and then estimate amounts for the tax questions.
If you didn’t work for last year so you didn’t have income you can select “Not going to File” for your tax filing status.
Enter the amount of any cash support you received from a friend or relative (other than your parents, if you are a dependent student). Cash support includes payments made on your behalf. For instance, if your aunt pays your rent or utility bills, you must report those payments here.
Bankruptcy status is not a factor in determining financial need. However, before financial aid can be offered, you must submit to the Office of Financial Aid a copy of your “Meeting of the Creditors letter”, which your attorney or the court can provide, OR another document that shows your education loans are NOT included in the bankruptcy.
The FAFSA calculates a number called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is not the amount of money that your family must provide. Rather, you should think of the EFC as an index that colleges use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you attended their school. Your EFC will be listed on your Student Aid Report (SAR) and to the schools you list on the application. This number helps colleges determine the Financial Need a student can receive in financial aid.
Cost of Attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need
For the 2023–2024 Award Year, a student is automatically determined to be independent for federal student aid purposes if he or she meets one or more of the following criteria:
  • The student was born before January 1, 2000.
  • The student is married or separated (but not divorced) as of the date of the application.
Federal regulations for student aid eligibility say you are dependent on your parents, unless you’re married, have a child, are a veteran, are a ward of the court, or have already received a bachelor’s degree. When you’re 24, you’ll be independent for federal aid. You can also appeal to an aid counselor.
Report the information of the parent with whom you lived the most during the 12 months preceding the date you completed the FAFSA. It does not make a difference which parent claims you as a dependent for tax purposes. If you did not live with either parent or lived equally with each parent, the parental information must be provided for the parent from whom you received the most financial support during the preceding 12 months or the parent from whom you received the most support the last time support was given.
You can always obtain a Direct Stafford loan and your parents can apply for a PLUS loan if needed. Neither is based on need.

There are several options for checking your application status:

  • Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. users can log in to their My FAFSA account on the secure website to check their application status online at any time.
  • Call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1.800.433.3243 to learn the status of your FAFSA
  • Check the status of your application online through the ED website at www.fafsa.ed.gov
  • Contact your school’s financial aid administrators for information

Once your financial aid file is completed, you will receive a financial aid award notice that specifies the amount you can receive.

There are three verification groups for the 2023-2024 award year. The Office of Financial Aid may request you to provide the following documents based on your group selected.Groups: Independent (or Dependent)

  • Provide all documents in V4-Custom & Tax Return Transcript
  • The IRS Tax Return Transcript for 2021 for both student and spouse/parents
  • SNAP/food stamps benefits received in 2021 & 2022
  • Statement of child support paid in 2021
  • SNAP/food stamps benefits received in 2021 & 2022
  • Statement of child support paid in 2021
  • High school completion status (in English)
  • Complete an Identify/Statement of Educational Purpose
  • Provide all documents in V4-Custom and Tax Return Transcript
Note: If the student has not filed the 2020 Tax Return, he/she needs to provide documentation from the IRS that indicates that 2020 IRS income tax return was not filed with the IRS.

Tax filers can request a transcript, free of charge, of their 2021 Federal Income Tax Return Transcript from the IRS in the following ways.

    1. Online Immediate Assess to Your Electronic Tax Transcript
      • Available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov
      • In the Tools section of the homepage click “Get Transcript of Your Tax Records
      • Click on “Get Transcript ONLINE” on the left & Create a Login by clicking “GET STARTED
      • Complete steps 1-6 to set up an account
        • Step 1: Apply for your temporary account confirmation code. Enter your name, email address and Click “Send email confirmation code.”
        • Step 2: Enter the temporary account confirmation code that was emailed to you
        • Step 3: Enter Personal Information
        • Step 4: Answer questions to verify your identity
        • Step 5&6: Create a security profile, user ID and password
    2. Select “Higher Education/Student Aid” as your reason for requesting the Tax Return Transcript
    3. Select the “2021 Return Transcript
    4. When the Tax Return Transcript displays, print a copy or to save the file.
    5. If the transcript request was unsuccessful, 1print the IRS Web page with message.
    6. Online Request for Mailed Transcript
      • Available on the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov
      • In the Tools section of the homepage click “Get Transcript of Your Tax Records
      • Click on “Get Transcript by Mail
      • Enter the tax filer’s SSN, DOB, and Address. Use the address that was listed on the latest tax return filed.
      • Click “Continue
      • In the Type of Transcript field, select “Return Transcript” and in the Tax Year field, select “2021”.
      • If successfully validated, you can receive a paper IRS Tax Return Transcript within 5 to 10 days.
      • If the transcript request was unsuccessful, 2 prints the IRS Web page with message.
    7. Telephone Request for Mailed Transcript
      • Available on the IRS by calling 1-800-908-9946
If one of above three ways was unsuccessful, please do the following step.
      • IRS Form 4506T-EZ should be used. (Download at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506tez.pdf)
      • Complete line 1-4, following the instructions on page 2 of the form.
      • Line 3 should be the most current address as filed with the IRS. It is the address where the IRS Tax Return Transcript will be sent. If the address has recently changed, include the address listed on the latest tax return filed on Line 4.Paper Request for mailed Transcript –IRS Form 45066T-EZ
    • On line 6, enter “2021”
    • The tax filers (or spouse if requesting information from a joint tax return) must sign and date the form and enter their telephone number. Only one signature is required to request a transcript for a joint return.
    • Mail or fax the completed IRS Form 4506T-EZ to the appropriate address (or FAX number) provided on page 2 of Form 4506T-EZ.
    • Tax filers can expect to receive their transcript within 5 to 10 days from the time the IRS receives and processes their signed request.
    • NOTE: Processing form 4506T-EZ means verifying/validating the information provided on the form. If any information does not match the IRS records, the IRS will notify the tax filer that it was not able to provide the transcript.
    • If the IRS cannot provide tax transcript, submit the following four documents by student.

Document must be submitted to Columbia College

  1. A signed copy of 2021 tax return
  2. The printed IRS Web pages with message (1 & 2)
  3. The copy of the completed and signed Form 4506T-EZ
  4. The copy of the IRS response to Form 4506T-EZ with signature and date by student
When filling out the FAFSA, make sure you check off the correct academic year, which would be 2023-2024 for those receiving aid for a school term after July 1, 2023. Legal names (first name & last name), not nicknames, should always be used.
  • Make corrections directly online at https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/review-and-correct/correct by clicking “Make a correction.” An updated SAR will be e-mailed to you—typically within 3 days.
  • To add a college to your FAFSA application or to update a mailing address, you may call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1.800.433.3243.
No. This rule is in effect for new (first-time) Subsidized student loan borrowers who borrow on or after July 1, 2013. Students who previously borrowed a Subsidized student loan prior to July 1, 2013 are not impacted by this policy.
Yes. The trigger of loss of interest subsidy benefits is based on attendance and not whether the borrower receives additional loans. The borrower’s responsibility for interest is from the date of continued enrollment going forward.

Questions about Verification Forms?

Read more about FAFSA Verification Process on our Verification Page.

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Eligibility Infographic