Scholarships and Financial Aid

Financial Aid

Completing the FAFSA is the first step in the college financial aid process. The FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid is available to families October 1st each year. You will use your 2016 tax returns. Remember, the FAFSA is FREE! Do not ever use a website that is asking for payment to submit the FAFSA.

The FAFSA is used to determine the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to the price of attending a postsecondary institution. This is commonly referred to as EFC (Estimated Family Contribution). This form is required for any student seeking federal aid.

Federal student aid is awarded in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds. Grants are typically awarded on the basis of need and generally do not have to be repaid. Grants are offered at the Federal and State level. Although more than 3,400 colleges and universities across the country take part in the Federal Work-Study Program, some schools award positions based on the date that students complete the FAFSA. This is a strong reason to file your FAFSA as soon as possible each year.  Here is a helpful article on the Federal Work-Study Program.  Many colleges require students receiving any kind of scholarship funds to complete a FAFSA.  Additionally, some families complete a FAFSA in order to get access to unsubsidized federal loan funds that are not income dependent.

When completing the FAFSA, you will identify colleges to receive your FAFSA report.  You may submit the FAFSA to a college even if your child hasn't yet submitted his/her application for admission to the school. After filing the FAFSA, if you want your FAFSA information sent to more colleges than what you originally listed, go back to www.fafsa.gov and add additional colleges as a correction. You can have up to 10 colleges listed on your FAFSA to receive your report.  Expect to receive financial aid information from colleges in the spring.

To determine your approximate financial aid package, use FAFSA4caster. It is a free financial aid calculator that gives you an early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid.

Helpful Web Resources:

Types of Scholarships

College-specific:  For most students, their best bet is scholarships offered through their college or university.  Students should find out if scholarships at the schools to which they are applying require a separate application or if their application for admission ALSO serves as the application for scholarships.  Students should check the admissions website of the colleges to which they have applied AND the site for the specific major they are interested in (many colleges offer major-specific scholarships).  Students may also contact the Admissions Office or Financial Aid Office of a college to ask about additional scholarships.

Local:  Seniors should check the Student Service Webpage for Local Scholarship listings as well as their MCIS Account. The Student Support Service Office posts local (and some national) scholarship information on our website as it is received in our office.  

Other places students may look for local scholarships:  the student’s employer, their parents’ employers, civic and community organizations, local businesses, religious institutions or organizations, banks or credit unions, etc.

National:  National scholarships can be found on many scholarship search sites including:

Additional Resources

Tuition Reciprocity

Minnesota has agreements with neighboring states to provide lower tuition for Minnesota residents to attend public colleges and universities in those states. This is called reciprocity. Typically, non-resident admission fees and tuition are reduced (or eliminated) if you are a reciprocity student.

Minnesota has reciprocity agreements with Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.  It also has an agreement with the Canadian province of Manitoba, and a limited agreement with Iowa Lakes Community College in Northwestern Iowa.

Midwest Student Exchange Program

The Midwest Student Exchange Program, or MSEP, is a multi-state tuition reciprocity program. Through the MSEP, public institutions agree to charge students no more than 150% of the in-state resident tuition rate for specific programs; private institutions offer a 10% reduction on their tuition rates. All enrollment decisions are made at the discretion of the receiving campus and the campus may exercise its right to limit participation or set specific admission requirements for MSEP. To learn more about which states and which institutions participate in MSEP, go to http://msep.mhec.org/.

529 College Savings Plan

Net Price Calculator

To determine the approximate cost of a specific college or university, use the Net Price Calculator on the school's website. Every college/university is required to have some kind of price calculator on its website.  Cost estimate precision depends on what and how much information is asked for. Generally, Net Price Calculators provide trustworthy cost estimates for families.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources for Financial Aid and Scholarships that you might find helpful.

College Affordability - College Affordability and Transparency Center (US Dept of Education)

College Greenlight - A scholarship resource site for first-generation college students

Scholarship Search (Fastweb) - Search scholarships based on your strengths, interests and skills

CSS/Financial Aid Profile - Financial aid information provided by the College Board

Education Tax Credits - Information on tax credits, deductions and savings that can help with college expenses

Fair Opportunity Project - Guide on how to get into college and how to afford it

American Indian College Fund

Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund

Federal Student Aid - Comprehensive guide to federal aid and loans

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid

FinAid - Student guide to financial aid

Financial Aid Toolkit - US Dept of Education information on Federal Student Aid

High School Study Abroad Scholarships - The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs offers scholarships to high school students (ages 15–18) to study abroad for one academic year.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Important financial considerations - for college students.

Institute for College Access & Success - Works to make college available and affordable to people of all backgrounds

MoneyGeek.com - A helpful guide to completing the FAFSA

Project on Student Debt - Organization dedicated to making college more available and affordable to people of all backgrounds

Sallie Mae - Financial planning for college

Scholarship Search (GoodCall) - Search scholarship and financial aid information

Student Scholarships - Minnesota School Districts are eligible for the following scholarships.

The Purpose Challenge - The Purpose Challenge helps high school seniors find their purpose and write their college essays–and be eligible for scholarships up to $25,000

Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid - Reports from the College Board on trends in pricing and aid

uAspire - Financial planning tools

UNC - 100 Scholarships for Minority Students

UNCF - United Negro College Fund

Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities - Awards up to $2,500 renewable scholarships for full-time students and up to $1,250 renewable scholarships for half-time students.