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Frequently Asked Questions

What does FAFSA stand for?

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.


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What is a FAFSA application?

The FAFSA application is the first step necessary to apply for financial aid, which includes federal and state grants, student loans, work-study and consideration for some need-based scholarships.  Go to the FAFSA website to begin your application.


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When and how often do I need to complete a FAFSA?

You can complete a FAFSA online as early as October 1, prior to the academic year you plan to attend UW-Eau Claire.  To be considered for as much financial aid as possible, file no later than April 15, prior the year you plan to attend.  Although you can still file after that point, some funding options may not be available to later applicants. 

The FAFSA application has to be renewed each school year. A renewal application will be located on their web site and will be partially completed for you; so that you only have to update the information that has changed from the previous year.

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When is a student considered independent for purposes of applying for financial aid?

Independent and dependent student status is defined by federal law. It does not matter how a student is claimed for tax purposes or whether a student receives any help from his or her parents. Rather, independent status is determined by a series of questions listed on the FAFSA. To be considered independent for financial aid purposes, the student must be able to answer “yes” to at least one of the following questions:

  • Are you 24 years of age or older?
  • Are you working toward a master’s degree or in a doctorate program?
  • As of today, are you married? (Marital status may not be projected)
  • Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
  • Do you have dependents (other than children or a spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you?
  • At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
  • Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?
  • Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?
  • Are you or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
  • Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2012, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2012, did the director of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?
  • At any time on or after July 1, 2012, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

You may contact the UW-Eau Claire financial aid office to schedule an appointment if you wish to discuss your particular circumstances with a financial aid counselor.

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How long does the FAFSA take to process and when does the student receive his or her financial aid?

Once submitted to the Federal Processor, the FAFSA may take as long as two to five weeks to process. Filing the FAFSA on-line is generally the fastest and most efficient way to apply. At the time of processing, eligibility information is sent to the schools listed on the FAFSA, and the student also receives a Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizing the information provided on the FAFSA. The SAR, which can be used to make changes or corrections to the FAFSA information, will be sent to the student either by e-mail (if an email address is provided on the FAFSA) or postal mail.

Approximately one in three students who apply for financial aid is selected by the Federal Processor for verification. This will require additional paperwork including copies of the federal tax returns. Since verification may cause a delay in your financial aid, it is recommended that you use figures from the tax return when completing the FAFSA rather than estimating.

Financial Aid is not available until the first week of each semester. At this time it is directly applied to the student’s bill. If the financial aid that the student receives is more than what is owed to the university, the UW-Eau Claire Business Office will disburse the refunds based on two options.

Delays to your financial aid will result if there is missing paperwork. First time Ford Loan borrowers must complete on-line Entrance Counseling and a master promissory note. Also, the student must be enrolled for the number of credits that his or her financial aid is based on. Please contact the financial aid office or check your financial aid status on MyBlugold Camps if you have questions regarding your application.

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How is financial aid eligibility determined? (I do not understand “need based aid”?)

The financial aid office establishes a budget or average educational costs that a student will incur for a 9 month academic year. The budget includes not only tuition, but room and board, additional school supplies, an allowance for personal items and transportation costs. The federal processor then calculates an EFC (Expected Family Contribution) using a federal formula and the information the student and parent report on the FAFSA. By subtracting the EFC from the budget, the financial aid office determines the student’s financial need or financial aid eligibility.

For Example: If the budget for the academic year is $13,240 minus an EFC of $2800, the student has a financial need of $10,440. He or she is eligible for need based aid up to $10,440, which will be in the form of grants, interest free loans, federal work study, scholarships or other types of educational benefits. If the EFC is greater than the budget, the student does not have financial need and is not eligible for need based aid. We would then provide the student with information regarding other borrowing options such as unsubsidized or interest bearing education loans.

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How does federal work study work? What is the federal work-study program?

Students who have financial need may be awarded a federal work-study allocation. This allocation represents an amount that is the student’s potential, maximum earnings through on-campus work study employment opportunities and select off-campus positions. Federal work study is earned, and the money earned does not have to be repaid. The student is responsible for seeking out and applying for his or her own position. Job openings are posted on Handshake .

Work-study does not reduce the student’s semester bill. Rather the student will be paid directly for the hours that are worked. However, these earnings are deducted from the work-study allocation, and if a student wants to continue his or her employment after earning the entire award, arrangements for alternative funding need to be established with the employer and/or Blugold Cental.

The answers to many of the questions you may have regarding the federal work-study program can be found in the Federal Work Study Frequently Asked Questions Section of the UW-Eau Claire website.

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What is the difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized Ford loan?

The William D. Ford/Stafford loan program is either subsidized, which is need-based, or unsubsidized, which is not based on financial need.  Both types of loan also have a six month grace period that begins after the last day of enrollment. Students are not required to begin paying back their loans until the end of the grace period.

Subsidized Ford loans do not accrue interest while the student is in school.  Unsubsidized Ford accrue interest even while the student is in school. During the time they are in school, students who borrow an unsubsidized Ford loan will receive a notice every six months that will indicate the amount of interest that has accumulated and include instructions for payment. The student may choose to pay the interest at this point or let it accrue. Although students are not required to pay the accumulating interest while they are in school, we suggest that they try to make this payment if at all possible. Once the 6 month grace period ends, any unpaid interest that has accumulated is capitalized, that is the unpaid interest is added to the principal of the loan.

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Are there other borrowing options?

To help with educational costs not met through need based financial aid, there are a number of borrowing options. Parents may be interested in a PLUS loan. Students who are residents of Minnesota may wish to consider the SELF loan. Students may also consider applying for one of a number of alternative, education loans available through private lenders.

Because these loans are not based on financial need, all of the loans mentioned accrue interest during the time the student is in school. Before applying for an alternative loan, we strongly urge students and families to discuss their options with a financial aid counselor.

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I don’t think the FAFSA is taking into consideration my current ability to pay for school since it uses information from the prior year?

If significant changes to your or your family’s financial status have occurred, you may wish to file an appeal. The first step would be to send a letter or the on-line appeal form to the Financial Aid office, describing the changes that have occurred. Any correspondence should also include the student’s name, last 4 numbers of his or her social security number, and student ID number (if known).

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I am considering living off campus. How will this affect my financial aid??

The financial aid budget and aid eligibility is the same whether you are living off campus or in the dorms. However, if you are living at home with your parents, your financial aid budget and aid will be less.

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Can I receive financial aid to study abroad?

The Study Abroad office notifies Blugold Central of the students who have been accepted to study abroad through UW-Eau Claire, and provides us with an estimate of the additional costs for each program. The student’s budget and financial aid is then adjusted to take into consideration these extra costs. 

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