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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

What to Expect from Financial Aid

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Read the Student Aid Report (SAR)

Students should read through the Student Aid Report (SAR) that is generated after submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and double check the information.  If there are any corrections to be made, the student should make the corrections online at

Students will also begin to receive information from the financial aid office of the institutions they plan to attend (those listed on the FAFSA application).  Many financial aid offices require additional information from students.  Some of the information requested comes from directives the financial aid office receives from the Federal Processor and some information requests come from institutional policies.  Be sure to keep copies of all information you send to the financial aid office for your own records.

Examples of the types of information a financial aid office may request:


The Federal Processor approximately selects 30% of all applicants for a process called Verification.  Some institutions may require more students (some institutions require all students) be verified.  The process of Verification requires that students and parents of dependent students submit to the financial aid office a Verification Worksheet provided by Student Financial Services and copies of their Federal Tax Return and W-2 Forms.  The financial aid office takes that information and compares it to the FAFSA information provided by the Federal Processor and makes any changes and/or corrections necessary.

Additional documentation

Citizenship, Social Security Number, Selective Service, Loan Default, Residency and Veteran’s Benefits are all questions that may require additional documentation from the student before their application may be completed.  Student Financial Services will inform you what documentation is needed.

Response to Notice of Eligibility

Once the financial aid office has obtained all of the necessary data from the Federal Processor and the student, the student’s aid eligibility may be determined.  A Notice of Eligibility letter will be sent to the student indicating the institution’s Cost of Attendance, the student’s Expected Family Contribution, the student’s NEED and the Student Financial Aid Programs with amounts for which the student is eligible.  There should be other paperwork associated with the Notice of Eligibility Letter the student receives.  Generally these forms require a student response in a timely manner.  The forms and paperwork will vary from institution to institution.

How a financial aid office determines eligibility

There are several factors a financial aid office must consider when determining a student’s eligibility. The three most basic factors are the institutions Cost of Attendance (COA), the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the student’s NEED.

Cost of Attendance (COA)

Every financial aid office across the country determines the Cost of Attendance for their institution.  This COA may differ from the cost of attendance referred to by the institution's Admissions Office.  The reason is simple.  Generally Admissions Offices look at the Cost of Attendance at their institution as the cost of paying for tuition, fees, books & supplies (some include room and board).  These are considered direct educational costs.  Most financial aid offices include not only the direct educational costs in the COA, but also indirect costs such as room and board, transportation, clothing, medical, and other types of expenses that students have to assist them with their basic living expenses while attending school.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is determined by the Federal Formula which uses the FAFSA information.  The EFC is the amount of money the Federal Formula determines a family can contribute to their student’s educational expenses.  The EFC also determines basic Federal Pell Grant eligibility.

It is the philosophy of the Federal Government that it is ultimately the responsibility of the family to finance their student’s college education.  Federal and State Financial Aid programs were designed to provide access to higher education to all students regardless of economic status.  The process of determining an Expected Family Contribution was designed as a vehicle to provide the most equitable way of determining student financial aid eligibility.  A student’s EFC may not be the amount of money a family can actually contribute to there student’s education, however, it is still the guide a financial aid office must use in determining eligibility for different types of student financial aid funding.


NEED is defined in student financial aid terms as the portion of a student’s COA that can be funded by NEED-based programs such as grants, scholarships, work-study and NEED-based low-interest educational loans.  NEED is determined by subtracting the EFC from the COA.  (COA - EFC = NEED).