Financial Aid Information Booklet
2013-2014 Academic Year
It is the responsibility of the Financial Aid Office to assist you in applying for aid to further your education, and it is our desire to keep this as our main purpose. Students and parents must realize, however, that participation in the various Federal and state financial aid programs carries a serious responsibility for the institution. Students and their parents going through the financial aid process don't see the complexity behind the various federal, state, private, and institutional student aid programs administered by institutions. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators published an Electronic Encyclopedia of Student Financial Aid containing regulations and explanations of federal programs that, if printed out, would comprise about 2,100 pages and weigh 24 pounds. The government makes numerous changes to its regulations for the federal student aid programs annually, and wholesale changes are made by Congress every 5 to 7 years. It is the responsibility of the Financial Aid Office to make sure that these programs are administered according to these regulations. Failure to do so can result in real penalties to the institution and to individual aid administrators.
Unfortunately, the regulatory requirements don’t always mesh with the desires of the aid applicant. The Financial Aid Office will always try to do what is best for the applicant, within regulatory boundaries, but we often find ourselves in a situation in which we have little or no discretion in regard to the course of action we must take. You must accept our decisions; it is not appropriate for students and parents to argue with Financial Aid Office staff over these decisions. Please work with us as we try to do the best job we can for you.
Messiah College offers the Messiah College Grant. This is a form of institutional aid that is based on a combination of demonstrated financial need and academic merit.
Our general policy is that a student will receive the same, or approximately the same, amount from this fund each year unless the student’s financial need changes significantly or other forms of aid become available to the student. The Messiah College Grant is defined as a form of aid that is to go to students with unmet financial need, and we wish to distribute this aid in a way that will help the most students. Consequently, we reserve the right to adjust awards from year to year, or within a particular academic year, if a student’s circumstances change. For example, if a student has this form of aid and then receives a scholarship which causes the total aid to exceed the financial need, we will adjust the institutional aid to meet the financial need and redistribute the now uncommitted aid to another needy student, even if the student’s financial aid package does not contain Federal aid.
Budget constraints prohibit us from making significant increases to student financial aid packages from year to year. So, even in cases in which the student’s need increases significantly, while we will do our best to provide additional assistance, students should not expect increases in the amount of their institutional aid. This is a statement of our policy as it has always been. There is not now and never has been any guarantee that a student will receive the same amount of institutional need-based aid every year.
In some cases, applicants and their families have circumstances which affect their ability to pay for the education, but which are not accounted for in the Federal Methodology or in our normal processing procedures. In those cases, the institution reserves the right to award institutional need-based forms of aid using a different formula than the Federal Methodology or different criteria than that which we would normally collect and utilize in our awarding decisions.
Other Institutional Aid Issues
Limited to Amount of Tuition: Under no circumstances can the combined amount of the various forms of institutional financial aid that a student receives exceed the amount of the student's tuition.
Full-time Enrollment Required: Almost all forms of institutional aid offered by Messiah College require that the student be enrolled full-time. The only exceptions are the Mature Student Discount and the High School Discount. The Mature Student Discount cannot be received in conjunction with the Messiah College Grant.
Scholarship Requirements Must be Met: Various merit scholarships require that the recipient achieve a G.P.A. higher than the minimum required under the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy, or that the student meet other criteria in order to continue to receive that scholarship. There might be situations in which the Financial Aid Office will send a Financial Aid Award notice to a student, listing the scholarship, before it has been determined that the student has met the other criteria for continuation of the scholarship. The student must still meet these other criteria and the fact that the scholarship appeared on the award notice should not be construed to mean that the student is guaranteed to receive the scholarship regardless of whether or not the student meets the criteria for continuation.
Institutional Aid Limited to Eight Semesters: Messiah College institutional financial aid programs are available for a maximum of eight semesters and are not available to students who have already received a bachelors degree from any institution.
Institutional Aid Only for Enrolled Students: If you receive any form of institutional financial aid, including a merit scholarship, the aid will be available during semesters you actually attend Messiah College or one of our off-campus programs which is approved for use of institutional financial aid. The aid will not be available for semesters when you are not in attendance. For example, if you graduate a semester early, you will not receive extra money in your last semester. In other words, there is no guaranteed aggregate financial aid amount or number of semesters that you will receive.
Two Semester Limit on Institutional Aid for Approved Off-Campus Programs: Messiah College students are permitted to use up to two semesters of institutional financial aid at a set of approved off campus programs. A list of these programs is available from the Intercultural Office. A student who has used two semesters of institutional financial aid for off-campus programs can attend additional semesters of these programs, but the only financial aid available for those additional semesters would be from state, federal and other external sources.
Amounts of scholarship or grant aid (not loans or work) that exceed amounts used for payment of tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment are considered taxable, and it is the student’s responsibility to report these amounts on the income tax return. Remember that the costs and financial aid amounts are for the tax year, so a student would have to combine costs and aid from the spring, summer, and fall semesters that are a part of the tax year (even though they might not be part of the same academic year) in order to determine whether or not any amount must be reported. To learn more about this provision of Federal tax law, review IRS Publication 970. You can find this on the IRS web page at: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf
Messiah College does not offer institutional financial aid for regular summer classes. Because the cost of a credit during the summer is only about 40% of the cost of a credit during the regular academic year, a student’s institutional financial aid for summer classes comes in the form of this greatly reduced cost.
All of our application materials emphasize our April 1st priority deadline. Some documents mention a March 1 recommended filing date, which should allow filers to easily meet the April 1 priority deadline.
This deadline applies to forms of aid for which the recipients are actually chosen by Messiah College. Among others, these include the Messiah College Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Work-Study and Institutional Work programs. The deadline does not apply to forms of aid for which we do not choose the recipients, although these programs might have their own deadlines. Examples are state grant programs, the Federal Pell Grant and the Federal Stafford Loan Program. (You can apply for a Federal Pell Grant or Federal Stafford Loan until close to the
end of the academic year.)
This deadline is a receipt deadline; your FAFSA results must be received in our office by April 1. Therefore, we recommend that you submit your FAFSA by March 1 so that it has time to go through the process and be received in our office by April 1. If you cannot have your FAFSA completed with accurate information in time to mail or electronically submit it by March 1, YOU SHOULD SUBMIT AN ESTIMATED APPLICATION AND THEN SUBMIT CORRECTIONS WHEN ACTUAL DATA IS AVAILABLE. We realize that your estimate might not be completely accurate, but it is more important that you meet the deadline. Submitting an estimate is completely acceptable and there is no reason that an estimate cannot be done.
We receive Free Application for Federal Student Aid results electronically from the Federal Central Processor. The date this electronic data is received at Messiah College will be the date which is used to determine whether or not the deadline has been met.
Each year a number of financial aid applicants request that we revise their financial aid eligibility because of special circumstances that have occurred. This is an accepted part of the financial aid process, and we are happy to help in any way we can. Many of these circumstances don’t occur until a late date, and we certainly understand that it is not possible for the applicant to make us aware of such a circumstance until it has occurred. Unfortunately, these situations sometimes occur much earlier, but some people don’t decide to make us aware of their circumstances until after they receive their financial aid award notice and decide that it is not sufficient. At such a late date, it is highly unlikely that there will be any additional financial aid available, and we would view such late requests with some skepticism since the applicant didn’t think that the circumstance was important enough to bring to our attention until after the award notice was received. If you encounter special circumstances, please let us know as soon as is reasonably possible.
Applicants should also keep in mind that the financial aid budget is not unlimited. At some point, we will expend all of our funds and, regardless of how deserving an applicant might be, it will not be possible to make adjustments to the amount of the aid package after that point.
Here are comments on some specific types of adjustments that we often encounter:
- Each year we receive a number of requests for adjustments to the
results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid based on private elementary or secondary school tuition that was paid by the family. We do not normally make such adjustments for several reasons.
- First, Federal regulations require that this type of adjustment be made on a case by case basis. The regulations do not allow schools to make adjustments for an entire class of students (e.g. All students who attended a private high school). Since it is normally a family’s personal decision to choose private high school or elementary education, we cannot make an adjustment simply because of personal choice since this would constitute making an adjustment for a class of students. For situations in which there are medical or other reasons outside of the control of the family which require the private education, we will consider the adjustment.
- Second, many families of Messiah students choose private school options and we receive many of these requests each year, but our budget simply doesn’t allow us to make adjustments for all of these people.
- Third, many institutions use a more stringent formula (one that assesses a higher contribution from the family) when determining eligibility for their need-based institutional forms of aid, causing a reduction of the amount of aid they offer to a student. Messiah College uses the straight Federal Methodology to determine a student’s eligibility for all types of need-based aid, including our need-based institutional forms of aid. The Federal Methodology ignores many items that other formulas consider (e.g. home value, retirement savings) and, on average, assesses the smallest family contribution of any formula of which we are aware; we have limited discretion to adjust this formula since it is codified in Federal law. Because we are not using a more stringent formula for our institutional aid, we feel that it is reasonable to ask that applicants accept the results of the Federal Methodology and not ask us to make further adjustments.
- Adjustments for medical expenses are also a request that we receive
frequently. We will make such adjustments under the following conditions:
– We must receive documentation of the expense in the form of
bills/statements/receipts related to the payment.
– We must have documentation that the expenses were not
reimbursed by insurance.
– The un-reimbursed expenses must be greater than 7.5% of the
adjusted gross income in the year that the expenses were incurred.
- If, at any time during the year, there is a change to any of the data
that you included on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or other financial aid application forms, it is your responsibility to notify the Financial Aid Office of the change(s).
Each year, a number of students ask us to consider them as independent for financial aid purposes, even though they do not meet the Federal definition of an independent student. These cases often involve delicate family situations, which we review individually to determine the merits of the case.
The student will sometimes state that the parents have simply decided that they no longer have a responsibility to support the student. A basic premise of all financial aid programs is that the parents are responsible for assisting the student with educational costs. This responsibility does not end at age 18 or 21. Currently, for Federal programs, a student must be 24 years of age before he can be considered independent based on age alone, and the institution still has the option of requiring parents’ data for use in determining eligibility for institutional aid. The United States Department of Education has informed us that a parent’s declaration of non-support is, by itself, not sufficient reason to declare a student independent. Consequently, Messiah College will not consider a student independent unless he or she meets one of the standard definitions or has extenuating circumstances beyond the parents’ declaration of non-support.
Students who get married during enrollment: Another common situation we encounter is the student couple who decide to get married during the period of their enrollment. Frequently, one or both of the couple will state that their parents will no longer be assisting them with educational expenses and they want the institution to award them institutional aid to replace the parent contribution. As stated previously, a student’s need-based institutional aid will stay about the same during their enrollment and the parents are responsible for assisting with college expenses. Students who decide to get married are making a personal decision and need to take responsibility for the consequences of that decision. The unmet financial need of the aid applicants at Messiah College is already far greater than the amount of money that we have to make awards. We do not feel that it is fair for students to ask us to fund their decision to get married when this does not change their parent’s ability to contribute, but would result in another needy student receiving a reduced award. For this reason, we will continue to ask for parent’s data on the financial aid applications of these students and use this data in determining eligibility for need-based institutional aid. As long as the student meets the federal definition of an independent student, the parent’s data will not be a factor in determining eligibility for federal aid.
A basic premise of financial aid is that, first and foremost, it is the responsibility of the student and parents to fund the education. Financial aid exists as a resource to help pay the educational costs, but you should not expect that it is the responsibility of someone else (including Messiah College) to pay for your education.
A limited number of off-campus, Community Service positions are available under the Federal Work-Study program. Most of these jobs are available through the internship program administered by the Internship Center and through the Agape Center.
Due to the post 9/11 GI Bill, veterans are now eligible for more significant benefits than in the past. According to federal regulations, beginning with the 2009-10 academic year, federal military benefits are no longer included as estimated financial assistance (a resource) when calculating eligibility for federal forms of financial aid. However, due to the significant amount of benefits some student veterans are receiving, Messiah College will include any benefits of which we are aware when awarding and adjusting institutional grants and scholarships (including all institutional merit-based scholarships).
Military Benefits and the Messiah College Grant
When a student who is the recipient of a Messiah College Grant has received total gift aid, including military benefits, that exceed the student’s calculated financial need, the Messiah College Grant will be reduced until the total amount of gift aid equals the student’s financial need, or until the Messiah College Grant has been eliminated from the student’s financial aid package.
Military Benefits and Total Gift Aid
Students who receive military benefits in combination with non-need-based forms of institutional gift aid will be allowed to keep institutional gift aid up to the point at which the total amount of gift aid equals the student’s total cost of attendance budget.
When the institutional gift aid, in combination with the military benefits, exceeds the student’s total cost of attendance budget, institutional gift aid, including merit-based scholarships, will be adjusted so that the student’s total gift aid equals the student’s total cost of attendance budget.
It is within this policy to have a student’s total gift aid exceed the student’s calculated financial need when military benefits are included if the only type of institutional aid is a non-need-based form.
Other Forms of Aid
Because military benefits are not to be included as estimated financial assistance in the aid package for federal aid, the amount of other forms of need-based aid (including but not necessarily limited to subsidized Stafford and/or Perkins Loans, or Federal Work Study) may exceed need when totaling a student’s need-based aid. However, these forms of aid may be adjusted to preserve the student’s eligibility for need-based institutional aid. Nothing in this policy should be interpreted to mean that adjustments to other forms of aid will not be necessary to resolve overawards in these situations.