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Financial Aid FAQs

What is financial aid?

Financial aid is a combination of scholarships, grants, low-interest loans and work-study. If you are eligible, your financial aid package will consist of aid provided by the federal government, the state of South Carolina, outside organizations and CSU. With contributions from students and parents, we all work together to make a secondary education possible for all students who desire one!

How do I qualify for financial aid?

In order to qualify for financial aid at CSU, all students must first apply for admission and be accepted to the university. Then, if you want to determine your federal eligibility for aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Finally, we will create a financial aid package for you and send you an award letter detailing all of your financial aid for the academic year. The aid in this package will be based on several criteria — academic merit, financial need, residency and athletic qualifications, just to name a few.

How do I apply for admission and for financial aid?

You can apply for admission to CSU by contacting the Enrollment Services Office at 843-863-7050 or 1-800-947-7474. You will then be sent an admissions packet, information on Charleston Southern University and financial aid. Once you’ve been accepted, you should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Remember to add CSU to your list of colleges on the application! Our federal code is 003419.

All students, however, have the opportunity to be considered for music, institutional, federal and state awards as part of an overall CSU award package. You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be considered.

Why should I fill out the FAFSA if I know I do not qualify for Financial Aid?

All students receiving financial assistance from CSU must complete the federal aid application. The only way to be sure that you do not qualify for federal aid is to not apply for it! You must also complete the FAFSA to receive state aid and student loans. If you feel your situation is unique, please notify the Enrollment Services Office to discuss it.

What if I miss the deadline for applying for aid?

You can apply for financial aid as early as January 1. Though most families wait until they have filed their income taxes, you can use an estimate of the prior year’s income taxes to complete the FAFSA and simply correct the data with the financial aid office after you have filed your current year’s taxes. Remember, financial aid is distributed on a first-come basis — the later you apply, the less aid you may get.

What is FAFSA on the Web?

FAFSA on the Web is a great online resource devoted to students! Students may apply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA on the web. You may also apply for a Personal Identification Number (PIN) from the U.S. Department of Education, which allows you to electronically sign your FAFSA online. You can also watch a demo of the online process to make sure you understand how to fill out the application. This site also allows you to go back and make corrections to any mistakes that you have made on the application. FAFSA on the Web is a comprehensive, multifunctional site that makes the FAFSA application process easy, more accurate and, most important, quick!

Why do I need a PIN and where do I get it?

You can apply for a PIN on the FAFSA on the website or you can visit A PIN will be mailed to you — or if you put in an email address, it will be sent to your email address. This number confirms your identity with the U.S. Department of Education and allows you to electronically sign your FAFSA application. It also allows you to go in and make changes, request a Student Aid Report (SAR) or fill out a renewal application in subsequent years. This number has replaced a physical signature and makes processing much quicker.

Once I’ve completed the FAFSA process, do I ever have to do it again?

Yes! The FAFSA must be filled out every year. Many changes can occur within a year that may affect your financial situation. For example, you may have another sibling who enrolls in college, or a drastic change in household income, or you may get married — all of these changes affect your financial situation and your eligibility and should be included on your FAFSA each year.

What is an SAR?

SAR is an acronym for Student Aid Report. Once you have completed the FAFSA and the U.S. Department of Education has processed it, they will send you a report to confirm all of the information on your FAFSA. You can make corrections on your SAR and return it to the federal processor if you find mistakes, or you can make your corrections online. If the Student Aid Report is accurate, file it — you may need it later. Usually, the report is printed in a color that coordinates with the color of the actual FAFSA form — to identify the academic year it was filed.

I have been chosen for verification. Why was I chosen, and what does that mean?

Each year the U.S. Department of Education selects a group of applications for verification. The applicants selected must submit certain documents to the financial aid office at CSU. These documents may include, but are not limited to, a copy of your (and your parents’) federal tax returns, W-2 forms and the verification worksheet, which will be provided to you by our financial aid office. These documents are used to ensure that the information on your FAFSA is accurate and that you are getting the aid for which you are eligible. If there are discrepancies between your verification documents and your FAFSA, the CSU Financial Aid Office will make the corrections. THIS CAN CHANGE YOUR FINANCIAL AID PACKAGE. Important points to remember about verification:

  • Provide honest and accurate information to prevent becoming ineligible for any financial aid.
  • Submit your verification documents immediately—until you complete this process, you will not receive any financial aid!

When will I receive an award letter?

Once you have filed your FAFSA and the U.S. Department of Education has processed it, they will send us your FAFSA information electronically. If you fill out the paper FAFSA, this could take up to six weeks. However, if you complete the FAFSA on the web, it could be processed in two weeks or less. Once we have received your information from the Department of Education, we then create a financial aid package for you, and within a few days, an award letter will be sent to you. When you get this letter, unless you choose to decline any aid awarded, please file it in a safe place. If there are any changes made to your financial aid package at any time, i.e., a new scholarship is added, or a loan is cancelled — a new award letter will be sent to you.

What is need-based aid?

Need-based aid requires that you have some amount of financial need. Examples of need-based aid are Federal Pell Grants, Federal Work-Study, Subsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and South Carolina Tuition Grants.

What determines my dependency status?

If you are considered a dependent student, you must include your parents’ income and asset information on your FAFSA. If you are an independent student, you are only required to report your income and asset information (and also your spouse’s if you are married). You are an independent student only if one or several of the following criteria apply to you:

  • You were born before 1980
  • You are married
  • You are enrolled in a Master’s or Doctoral Degree Program
  • You have children AND you provide over half of their support
  • You are an orphan or ward of the court
  • You are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces

How does the Federal Work-Study Program work?

FWSP is a program that allows students to work on-campus to help pay for their education. If your EFC is low enough, giving you a higher need, you could qualify for federal work-study. You will be sent a list of positions available on campus and then given the opportunity to interview for the position of your choice. If hired, you will be responsible for working 10-14 hours each week, and your paychecks will be applied toward your tuition and room & board charges. Please be aware that work-study runs out, so if you are interested, fill out your FAFSA early.

Does CSU offer academic Scholarships?

Yes! CSU rewards students academically by giving them grants/scholarships that are renewable each year, as long as they continue to meet residency and academic requirements. Our merit-based aid is determined by the student’s grade point average, SAT/ACT score and residency status. Eligible students can receive up to $13,000 in merit-based aid! Also, different departments at CSU offer their own scholarships based on performance—for example, athletic scholarships, music scholarships, band stipends and AFROTC scholarships.

Do other non-CSU scholarships affect CSU financial aid?

Outside scholarships and grants can affect the amount of your institutional aid. CSU has an institutional policy called the Maximum Free Aid Policy, which limits the amount of free aid a student gets to the cost of attendance + books. If you have enough free aid to cover tuition, room & board and books, the amount of your institutional aid will be decreased. For example, Max Free Aid for the 2009-2010 year was $27,832 for an on-campus student. If a student was awarded a University Scholar Award for $11,000 and had the following package, the CSU scholarship would be decreased.

Federal Pell Grant $5,350 Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant $1,000 South Carolina Tuition Grant $3,150 LIFE Scholarship $5,000 ACG: $750 Local Church Scholarship $3,000 University Scholar Award $9582 Total $27,832

If tuition, room & board and books are covered with the free aid that you have in your financial aid package, any additional aid added to the package must be in the form of low-interest loans. This is to ensure that all scholarship and grant funds are spent toward educational costs.

Will my financial aid package change from year to year?

Your financial aid package may vary from year to year. Each year, your loan eligibility increases — for example, as a freshman you qualify for $5,500, and as a sophomore you qualify for $6,500. Also, if your EFC varies, then your financial need will change — this will cause your Pell grant amount (if you qualify for it) to vary over the course of your education. Depending on what types of scholarship and grants you have, you may have to maintain a certain GPA to renew them each year. To qualify for financial aid each year, you must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP. All of these situations may affect your financial aid package each year.

What is SAP?

SAP is an acronym for Satisfactory Academic Progress. It is our goal that all of our students graduate in a timely manner. In order to do this, we have to make sure that each year you are progressing toward graduation by earning the minimum number of academic hours and GPA. Each student enrolled full time must earn a minimum of 24 hours each year. Part-time students must earn the number of hours that they attempt. You must also earn the GPA necessary for the cumulative amount of hours you have earned:

Year in School          Earned Hours         Minimum GPA

Freshmen                  0-30                         1.40

Sophomores              31-60                       1.60

Juniors                      61-90                       1.80

Seniors                      91+                           2.00

If you do not earn the necessary hours or GPA, you will have to complete an appeal form explaining why you did not meet academic progress. Your appeal will then be considered by the financial aid office — if it is approved, you will get financial aid for the next semester, but it will be probationary. You will have to meet academic progress during your probationary period in order to receive financial aid for the whole year. If your appeal is denied, you will be required to earn a minimum of 12 hours and the appropriate GPA, without the assistance of financial aid.

What is the Bridge Program, and how does it affect my financial aid?

The Bridge Program is a comprehensive developmental program designed for students who are not yet prepared to enroll in freshman Algebra and English courses. These students are required to master basic-level skills before enrolling in the freshman courses. Students enrolled in Bridge courses may receive financial aid during the academic year. However, Bridge courses count as attempted hours, not earned hours. Therefore, these students must pay close attention to the SAP requirements stipulated above.

What if I decide to go to school only part time?

Part-time students do not qualify for institutional scholarships or state funding. If eligible, part-time students may receive a prorated Federal Pell Grant. You may also use loans to pay for your education. Part-time students must also meet Satisfactory Academic Progress. As a part-time student, you must earn every hour that you attempt and make the necessary GPA, or you will have to go through the appeal process to receive aid the next year.

What if my family’s financial status changes after the award year begins?

If your family financial situation changes, for example, a parent loses a job or is hospitalized and cannot work, your financial aid package may change. Your parents should submit a letter of unusual circumstances explaining how the change has impacted your financial situation. The letter should include specific changes in income — numeric estimations of what the income was before the change and what it will be for the rest of the academic year. These changes may or may not positively affect your EFC. We will let you know of any adjustments by sending out a revised award letter.

What is the difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loan?

Both of these loans are federal loans and are only awarded to students who meet the federal requirements. The subsidized loan is a need-based loan that the federal government pays the interest on while the student is enrolled at least half-time in an eligible degree program. The unsubsidized loan is not need-based, and it begins to accrue interest when the loan is disbursed. A dependent student cannot get an additional unsubsidized loan unless the parent PLUS loan is denied by the lender. All federally eligible students qualify for student loans — whether they will get a sub or an unsub depends on their financial need. Both of these loans go into repayment six months after graduation, after a student drops to below half-time status, or after the student withdraws from an academic program.

Year            Loan Amount   Additional if PLUS denied      Total

Freshmen       $5,500             $4,000                                $9,500

Sophomore     $6,500             $4,000                                $10,500

Junior              $7,500             $5,000                                $12,500

Senior             $7,500             $5,000                                 $7,500

All independent students can receive the total amount of both loans without going through the parent loan application process if they request it. The federal government has limited the amount of loans that students can borrow as undergraduates. Dependent students are restricted to $31,000, and independent students are limited to $54,000 total. These amounts cannot be exceeded.

Why don’t I qualify for a subsidized Stafford loan?

Subsidized Stafford loans are need-based loans. If you have a very high EFC and therefore do not have any need, you will not qualify for a sub Stafford loan. You will still qualify for the same amount — that amount will be awarded to you in the form of an unsubsidized loan. It is possible to have your loan amount split between sub and unsub depending on your financial need.

What happens if I don’t have enough money to pay for school?

If you are still short after your grants, scholarships, work-study and student loans have been applied, your parents may apply for a PLUS loan. The PLUS loan allows a parent with a good credit history to help pay for his/her dependent’s college education by taking out a loan in the parent’s name. The PLUS loan has a variable interest rate, and it goes into repayment 60 days after disbursement. Remember, if the PLUS loan is denied, the dependent qualifies for additional unsubsidized funds. In addition to the PLUS loan, students can apply for alternative loans to help cover their educational costs. These are private loans that are approved or denied based on credit and work history. Upperclassmen can apply for alternative loans at any point as long as they are enrolled in a degree-seeking program. Freshmen can also apply for these loans, but they must have a co-signer. An alternative loan may replace a PLUS loan if a parent prefers to co-sign for a student and wants a later repayment period. Most alternative loans go into repayment six months after graduation or after a student withdraws from school.

Where can I go to find out more information about financial aid and outside scholarships?

These are just a few of the scholarship sources that are available. It would also be advantageous to contact local churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations—they have scholarship programs too!

What if I have questions? Who can I contact?

Assisting you in your career at CSU is our highest priority. The Enrollment Services Office is located in the Hunter Center. The office hours are 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Friday. Our phone numbers are 843-863-7050 or 800-947-7474. Fax number is 843-863-7070. In addition, you may contact us anytime online.

Helpful terms:

Grants and Scholarships - Aid that does not have to be repaid and is usually determined on academic merit or athletic ability. There are also some need-based grants and scholarships.

Loans - Aid that does have to be repaid usually after graduation or by working off the debt in the case of cancellation provisions. Most of these low-interest loans are in the student’s name. However, there are also low-interest parent loans available for assistance.

Work-Study - CSU offers the Federal College Work-Study Program. It is designed to help the student earn a portion of the funds to cover cost.

Financial Need - Cost of Attendance less Expected Family Contribution equals Financial Need. Need will be different at each college since the Cost of Attendance (COA) varies with each college.

Cost of Attendance - Combination of tuition/fees, room/board, books/supplies, personal/miscellaneous allowance and transportation allowance.

Expected Family Contribution - The EFC is determined by the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.) Once your EFC is determined, the same contribution would then be used for each college to calculate your need.

Full-time Enrollment - At Charleston Southern University, full time is defined as 12 hours per major semester (fall or spring) for financial aid. In order to be considered for the maximum aid possible, students must be enrolled full time or a minimum of 12 hours per semester.

Three quarter-time Enrollment – Students enrolled for 9 – 11 hours are considered in the three quarter-time status for financial aid purposes. Aid is usually limited to a prorated Pell Grant (if eligible) and student loans.

Half-time Enrollment - Students enrolled for 6 – 8 hours are considered in half-time status for financial aid. Aid is usually limited to prorated Pell Grant (if applicable) and student loans.

Less Than Half-time Enrollment - Pell Grant recipients who are enrolled for less than six hours may qualify for a prorated Pell Grant. No other type of aid is available for less than half-time enrollment.

Satisfactory Academic Progress - Is defined as successful completion of a minimum of 24 hours per academic year with the appropriate grade point average (GPA) depending on the cumulative hours attempted for students who are full time. Part-time students must complete the hours attempted during the fall and spring. Students have through the end of the second summer session to earn their needed hours or GPA.