Financial Information - Undergraduate Programs

Financial Need/Overaward Policy: 2016-17

(Please note: If you are reviewing your 2017-2018 award notice, the costs for that year have not yet been released, so we have sent you to the 2016-2017 Financial Need/Overaward Policy page.  These examples are based on the most recently available cost information and should serve to illustrate these concepts.  When costs for the 2017-2018 year are finalized, this link will be updated.)

Financial need is determined by the Federal Methodology (FM), which is the formula that application data goes through when a student files a FAFSA. This formula must be used if the student wants to apply for Federal student aid, and the Financial Aid Office cannot change the results unless the student can document truly unusual circumstances that warrant adjustment. The FM calculates an EFC, which is then subtracted from the student budget to arrive at the individual student's financial need. For a hypothetical family with an EFC of $5,500, the determination of financial need would look like this:

Cost of attendance $46,590
- EFC 5,500
= Financial Need $41,090

If the student's financial aid package contains any of the following forms of Federal financial aid or need-based institutional aid, then the total amount of these forms of aid in the aid package (including aid from Federal, state, institutional and private sources) cannot exceed the financial need:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Perkins Loan
  • Federal Work-Study
  • Messiah College Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
  • subsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan

Some forms of aid can exceed financial need. These include:

  • Unsubsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan
  • TEACH Grant
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loan
  • Other state sponsored or private education loans
  • Institutional Work Programs

In no case can the total aid package exceed the total student cost of attendance budget.


The purpose of this policy is to explain what an overaward is and to describe the steps the Financial Aid Office will take to correct an overaward.

An overaward exists when a student who has received Federal student financial aid or need-based institutional aid has a total aid package which exceeds the student's financial need. A $300 tolerance applies if the student's package contains Campus-Based Aid (Federal Work-Study, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or Federal Perkins Loan).  Otherwise, no tolerance applies. The following examples demonstrate overaward situations:

  Student A Student B Student C
Total Cost of Attendance $46,590 $46,590 $46,590

    - Total Family Contribution

12,094 5,394 25,994
    = Financial Need 34,496 41,196 20,596
     - Financial Aid 34,686 42,196 24,936
    = Unmet Need $(190) $(1,000) $1660


Student A's financial aid package contains $19,936 of institutional grants and scholarships, a $2,250 Federal Work-Study assignment, a $3,500 Federal Stafford Loan, and a $9,000 scholarship from his father's employer (received after his initial package). There is a $190 overaward but no action is necessary because the overaward does not exceed the $300 tolerance.

Student B's financial aid package contains $25,296 in grants and scholarships from the institution, $7,850 in scholarships from private sources, a $1,300 Pell Grant, a $2250 Federal Work Study assignment and a $5,500 Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan. There is an overaward of $1,000 and it will be corrected by switching $1000 of the Subsidized Stafford Loan to an Unsubsidized Stafford Loan.

Student C's financial aid package contains $13,186 in grants and scholarships from the institution, a $2,250 Federal Work-Study assignment, a $3,500 Federal Stafford Loan and a $6,000 Federal PLUS Loan. Even though the student's total aid exceeds the financial need, no action is necessary because the scholarship, work assignment and Federal Stafford Loan do not exceed the financial need. The student still has $1660 of unmet need since the Federal PLUS Loan can exceed the financial need as long as the total aid doesn't exceed the total cost of attendance budget.

Overawards are usually the result of the student receiving aid that the Financial Aid Office was not aware of when it completed the student's financial aid package and/or processed a loan application for the student. It is the student's responsibility to report additional resources to the Financial Aid Office and this should be done as soon as the student becomes aware that he or she will receive the aid. We must account for all sources of aid, even if they are not processed directly through the Financial Aid Office. You can use our Non-Institutional Scholarship Form to report these forms of aid to us.

Overawards can also result from application errors by the student or the Financial Aid Office. Regardless of the reason for the overaward, the Financial Aid Office is bound by Federal regulation to correct the overaward. Exceptions cannot be made for anyone.

Here are the steps the Financial Aid Office will take to correct an overaward:

a) We will determine whether or not the student has increased financial need that was not anticipated at the time of the award and/or loan application. If so, and the student's total aid no longer exceeds the student's need by more than $300 (see note), no further action is necessary.

b) If no increased need is demonstrated, or the student's total aid still exceeds his or her need by more than $300 (see note), we will adjust or eliminate any undisbursed loan or return loan funds to the lender if the disbursement has already been made. In cases of extreme gift aid, the institution reserves the right to adjust institutional or Campus-Based Aid within the boundaries of Federal regulations.

c) If the student has no loans or the student's aid still exceeds the student's need by more than $300 (see note) after all loans have been cancelled, we will reduce institutional grant and/or scholarship aid.

NOTE: The $300 tolerance applies only if the student's financial aid package contains a form of Campus-Based Aid (Federal Work-Study, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Supplemental Educational Assistance Grant). The $300 tolerance does not apply if the student's only form of Federal financial aid is a Federal Direct Stafford Loan.