Financial Aid FAQs

At Brown College, students have many decisions to make about the various forms of financial aid options that may be available.* Some of the most common questions they have are answered below. If you have a question that is not answered here, a Brown College financial aid representative will be happy to assist you.

What is financial aid?

Financial aid refers to federal, state and private resources that may help fund college costs. Typically financial aid consists of grants, scholarships, loans and student employment. Grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid. Loans must be repaid with payments usually beginning after the student is no longer enrolled at least half time. Student employment consists of opportunities for students to earn money to pay for educational expenses.

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How do I apply for federal financial aid?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as the FAFSA, is the single application needed to apply for all sources of federal student aid. The FAFSA can be completed online at It helps to complete and sign the FAFSA electronically to expedite the process. In April, the PIN, which previously allowed students to “electronically sign” the FAFSA, will be replaced by a FSA ID. A FSA ID can be obtained by visiting and clicking on the link to register. If you are a dependent student for aid purposes, both you and your parent will require a FSA ID to sign the application electronically. All students and parents who already have a PIN will have the option to link that PIN to their new FSA ID.

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What is a FSA ID?

A Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID is a user-selected username and password that will authenticate your identity to access your federal student aid information. This new login process will be used to access student and borrower-based websites, including FAFSA , NSLDS® Student Access, and The FSA ID is a single sign-on process that makes applying for aid quick and easy. Remember, your FSA ID is private and should never be shared with anyone."

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Why do I have to provide parent information on my FAFSA?

The federal government has established the conditions by which a student is considered dependent or independent for federal financial student aid purposes. For example, students who are under the age of 24, single, have no dependents and are not veterans are typically considered dependent. Dependent students must have their parents provide financial information on the FAFSA. Check with your Student Finance Representative if you have questions.

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What forms or other information do I need?

The FAFSA is the most important document to complete when applying for financial aid. In addition, there are a few other things that you need to have on hand before you start.

If you are a U.S. citizen, you are required to have a social security number. The U.S. Department of Education will match your social security number to your name, so be sure that you enter your full name as it appears on your social security card.

If you are not a U.S. citizen but are an eligible non-citizen, have your alien registration number ready.

If you have a driver’s license, have that number handy. You will also need your federal tax returns and your parents’ returns, if dependent, as well as other asset information. Examples of assets include checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, mutual funds, real estate (other than the family home), businesses and farms.

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What’s the difference between a grant and a loan?

A grant is money that does not have to be repaid. Loans are borrowed money and must be repaid regardless of whether you complete the program or are satisfied with your educational experience. Failure to repay your loans can result in serious consequences and negatively impact your ability to obtain credit in the future.

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When do I have to repay my loans?

Repayment on most student loans will begin after the student is no longer enrolled at least half time. Some loans are interest free while the student is enrolled. Interest may accrue on other loans even while the student is enrolled. Check with your student finance representative, who can help explain the differences in the types of loans you have. In all cases, loans must be repaid regardless of whether you complete the program or are satisfied with your educational experience. Failure to repay your loans can result in serious consequences and negatively impact your ability to obtain credit in the future.

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What’s the difference between a Federal Stafford loan and a private loan?

A Federal Stafford loan is a federal loan available to help students pay for their education. These educational loans have low interest rates and require no credit check. A private loan is an unsecured loan made by a lender which may have higher interest rates.

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Where can I find tuition and fee information?

Students should contact the Admissions Office at the school to find out information regarding tuition and fees.

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How often do I have to reapply for aid?

Students must reapply for federal and state aid each award year. Typically, students should reapply for aid as soon as possible after January 1st; however, check with your financial aid office to determine if there are other deadline dates that affect you.

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How can I apply for scholarships?

Besides the Brown College scholarships, you can research options using a variety of free scholarship search websites. Researching and applying can be time consuming, but your effort may be worth your time if you find extra funding. A word of caution: do not use agencies that charge fees to find scholarships. You can do this search on your own and free of charge.

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Why would a parent borrow from a Federal PLUS loan instead of a co-signing on a private loan in the student’s name?

Federal Parent PLUS loans are part of the Federal Student Aid Program. Parents who co-sign on a private loan are just as responsible for repaying the loan (usually at higher rates) as the student if the student fails to make payments. In other words, whether one is the borrower or co-borrower, both the Federal PLUS loan and the private loan appear on a credit report and the financial responsibility is the same.

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My parents make too much money for me to receive financial aid. What options are available to me?

Regardless of how much money you or your parents make, you should still apply for federal aid and complete the FAFSA. Some sources of federal aid are not need based and are available for those who qualify.

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How is my eligibility for Federal Student Aid determined? Which forms of financial aid will I qualify for?

There is a Congressionally determined set of formulas used for assessing financial need for the Federal Student Aid programs. The process starts with the FAFSA. If you haven’t already, you’ll be hearing a lot about this important form. These formulas are used to calculate an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a theoretical index of a family’s financial strength. Don’t worry; this is not the amount you are expected to contribute. The EFC is simply the result of a specific calculation. The difference between the EFC and the calculated cost of attendance (which includes the estimated average tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, board, transportation and personal expenses), will determine the amount of aid (need-based and non-need based) for which you may qualify.

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What does dependent vs. independent mean?

Determining your dependency status is an important step in the financial aid application process. The definition for dependent or independent student for the purposes of federal student aid may be very different from what you might consider for yourself. It also is different from the IRS definition of dependency. This is not a status that Brown College assigns to you but rather a determination made from your answers to several questions on the FAFSA form. Some of the more common criteria that lead to an independent status are:

  • You are 24 years of age prior to January 1 of the current award year.
  • You are married as of the day you sign your FAFSA.
  • You are an individual with dependents, other than a spouse, for whom you provide more than half of their financial support.
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • You are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training.
  • You are an orphan or a ward of the court.
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